Rugby Union: Quins accept Saracens' charity

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The Independent Online
Harlequins 27 Saracens 0

Rugby's great philanthropists were in charitable mood again last night, gift-wrapping yet another pair of League points to scarcely deserving rivals and costing themselves a small fortune in potential revenue in the process. Not content with dishing out a Royal Mint of money to senior citizens from the southern hemisphere, Saracens are now in the habit of handing over matches as well. Their generosity knows no bounds.

Quite what Francois Pienaar, South Africa's World Cup- winning captain, made of his club's latest exercise in lavish largess at The Stoop was anyone's guess. Raised in a rugby environment in which benevolence is not only frowned upon but positively outlawed, the look of exasperation on his face deepened with every unforced Saracen error.

Not that the north Londoners were alone in their ineptitude. Harlequins were equally culpable contributors to a dispiriting contest and, apart from relatively golden spells at the beginning and end, they contrived to make even less headway than their visitors.

For all that, Quins managed the only try. Quick hands from Laurent Cabannes, Thierry Lacroix and Will Carling paved the way for Daren O'Leary's opener on six minutes and while the crowd had to wait until another 70 for the next strike, they welcomed Jim Staples' unchallenged run for the line, shortly followed by Peter Mensah's simple finish from a close-range line- out, with rare enthusiasm. Small mercies were at premium last night.

Thanks to muscular efforts from Adrian Olver, Paul Wallace and, in particular, Pienaar, Saracens shaded the forward confrontation for long periods. But just as it did at Gloucester last Saturday, their kicking game disappeared. If they did not know before, they must now realise that they will never reach the heights that might match their spending if they continue to fail with the boot.

True, they were missing the expertise of Michael Lynagh and Philippe Sella, but the harsh reality now is that Saracens will almost certainly miss out on next season's Heineken Cup extravaganza.

Harlequins: Tries Mensah, O'Leary, Staples. Conversions Lacroix 3. Penalties Lacroix 2. Harlequins: J Staples; D O'Leary (J Kayter, 79), P Mensah, W Carling, J Williams; T Lacroix, H Harries; L Benezech (A Mullins, 70), K Wood (T Billups, 64), J Leonard (capt), Gareth Llewellyn, L Goss, R Jenkins, B Davison( G Allison, 59), L Cabannes.

Saracens: A Tunningley; R Wallace, K Sorrell, S Ravenscroft, K Chesney; A Lee, K Bracken; A Olver (A Daly, 67), G Botterman (C Olney, 67), P Wallace, P Johns, A Copsey (C Yandell, 45), F Pienaar, A Diprose (capt), R Hill.

Referee: S Piercey (Yorkshire).