Rugby Union: Orrell are united in hope

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The Independent Online
Orrell. . . . .21

Harlequins. . .20

TRY telling Orrell folk the title race is over and you are likely to get pretty short shrift. After a compelling second-half fightback, which almost brought Harlequins their first win in six visits to Edge Hall Road, your views will not go down too well with them either.

With little more than a third of the Courage league programme completed, the fatigue factor, which will count once clubs are riven by Five Nations' Championship calls, is sure to have an unsettling effect on those providing the bulk of England's squad.

Harlequins are as likely to be victims of the grindingly hard season, as are the others still within sight of the champions. The exceptions are Orrell - who have only Dewi Morris on international call - and Wasps, who will lose Rob Andrew and perhaps Damian Hopley.

If Harlequins can do themselves and the other pursuers a favour, by beating Bath at The Stoop on Saturday week, then Orrell are handily placed to capitalise. After an indifferent start, when they were widely touted as relegation candidates, Orrell have determinedly pulled themselves together. With Morris their only star, they draw heavily on the solid virtues of teamwork, unit skills and fierce regional pride, as Gloucester once used to.

These qualities were enough for Orrell to prevail against Quins, who themselves have added a steel to their league performances. For this, Harlequins have to thank Jamie Salmon and Bob Templeton, whose combined influence is beginning to have the desired effect.

With Will Carling giving a sore shoulder some rest, Quins could have done with his midfield punch and were marginally unable to overcome an 18-10 half-time deficit. They came perilously close, however, when, with seven minutes remaining, Daren O'Leary scored a stunning try from 50 metres out to foretoken some serious nailbiting.

Orrell: Tries Cleary, Morris; Conversion Ainscough; Penalties Ainscough 3. Harlequins: Tries Challinor, O'Leary; Conversion Bray 2; Penalties Bray 2.

Orrell: S Taberner (capt); J Naylor, M Farr, P Johnson, P Hamer; G Ainscough, D Morris; M Hynes, G French, D Southern, C Brierley, C Cusani, P Manley, N Ashurst, D Cleary.

Harlequins: K Bray; C Madderson, J Alexander, G Thompson, D O'Leary; P Challinor, R Glenister; J Leonard, B Moore, A Mullins (capt), A Snow (M Hobley, 37), D Dix, M Russell, C Sheasby, R Langhorn (D Thresher, 23).

Referee: M Bayliss (Gloucester).