Rugby Union: Quins give Ring serious problem

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The Independent Online
PAUL STEPHENS

West Hartlepool 21 Harlequins 91

Were this an ordinary season, West Hartlepool would have been preparing for relegation well before they were consigned to the ignominy of a humbling defeat which pushes the League One record well beyond the extraordinary.

But this is no ordinary season, any more than this was, by any estimation, any ordinary match. To refer to it as a contest would take us far past the margins of reality.

With the top division almost certainly being extended to 12 clubs next September, West will hang on to their status. But their reputation, not to mention their self respect, now hangs by a thread after Harlequins easily passed Bath's target set at 76-0 when they humiliated Bedford in 1990.

Since Dick Best was appointed director of rugby at Harlequins, training sessions at The Stoop have required more effort than this. Tackles were broken with an alarming frequency, allowing Quins to display a profusion of running skills. By half-time, West were broken men; 51-6 down and an eternity before they could be granted the solace of their changing room.

It would be unkind to dwell too long on West's inadequacies. Three coaches in the space of a year has not helped. Whether the third - Mark Ring, who is still recovering from knee surgery - can make a better fist of it than Barry Taylor or Barry Forster remains to be seen.

Better, surely, to applaud Best's Harlequins for their determination to focus on expansive rugby, involving all 15 players, which is agreeable to play and enjoyable to watch. It also brings tries, 14 of them at Brierton Lane on Saturday.

It is a reflection on the effectiveness of Quins' teamwork that no one claimed a hat-trick. But six players each scored two tries - including the former West No 8 Mick Watson, who was also shown his third yellow card of the winter - while Paul Challinor's 26-point haul included a fine individual try.

West Hartlepool: Tries O Evans, Wood, Herbert; Penalties Parker 2. Harlequins: Tries Watson 2, Staples 2, O'Leary 2, Greenwood 2, Bromley 2, Allison 2, Challinor, Mullins; Conversions Challinor 9; Penalty Challinor.

West Hartlepool: K Oliphant; O Evans, A Blyth, C Lee, M Wood (S Cook, 79); A Parker, D Patterson; P Beal (P Lancaster, 53), T Herbert (capt), M Shelley, C Murphy, K Westgarth, J Whittaker, R Leach (A Elwine, 31), P Evans (D Lockey, 63).

Harlequins: J Staples; D O'Leary, W Greenwood, P Mensah (C Wright, 44), S Bromley; P Challinor, N Walshe; J Leonard (capt), S Mitchell, A Mullins, A Snow, M Watson, G Allison, R Jenkins, C Sheasby.

Referee: S Piercy (Goole, North Humberside).

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