Rugby Union: Quins pack too big a punch

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The Independent Online
Harlequins . . . . .23

West Hartlepool. . .15

SMOOTH southern class finally triumphed over rough northern grit. High-pedigree Harlequins did beat the underdogs from Teesside in the fifth round of the Cup yesterday, but only by fighting tooth-and-nail.

The more basic skills of the Second Division leaders were not in the end enough to overcome those of the First Division's aristocrats. West Hartlepool tore into Harlequins ferociously, knocking them repeatedly out of their stride. Quins, in turn, soaked up the pressure, established control up front and took what few chances were offered.

It was a method that paid off in points if not spectacle as the London side steadily built a solid lead through unglamorous tries. The big second row Simon Dear barged over; the flanker Mark Russell then emulated him after a messy melee on the line, while the third try was barely more graceful, the winger Jeff Alexander charging down a kick and dribbling over.

Ironically, the only semblance of a flowing movement in the match came as the gloom descended and the West Hartlepool centre and captain Paul Hodder jinked through. But by then the lone northern voice in the crowd shouting, 'Scrummage, you southern softies,' had long since given it up as a bad job. The flanker Mick Watson got the second West Hartlepool try, barging over, but he did it with the final whistle all but blown and Harlequins established in the quarter-finals.

There is a discipline at the Stoop that makes it very difficult to win there. As Wasps found the week before, not many mistakes are made in a pattern built on the big forwards and the rolling maul. Behind, the backs are solid, relying on big kicks for the forwards. Perhaps ominously for England, Will Carling showed no more flair yesterday than he had the Saturday before.

More ominously for Harlequins, they lacked a kicker yesterday. Neither their full-back, Kent Bray, nor their outside-half, Paul Challinor, was sure- footed. Still, they are not an easy draw for anyone, not even Bath or Leicester.

Harlequins: Tries Dear, Russell, Alexander; Conversion Challinor; Penalties Challinor 2. West Hartlepool: Tries Hodder, Watson; Conversion Oliphant; Penalty Oliphant.

Harlequins: K Bray; D O'Leary, W Carling, G Thompson, J Alexander; P Challinor, C Luxton (R Glenister, 78); J Leonard, B Moore, A Mullins (capt), A Snow, S Dear, M Russell, B Richardson, T Croker.

West Hartlepool: K Oliphant; O Evans, C Lee, P Hodder (capt), D Cooke; J Stabler, J Wrigley (S Cook, h/t; M Sengelow, 69); P Lancaster, S Mitchell, P Whitelock (D Mitchell, 31), J Dixon, K Westgarth, P Evans, A Brown, M Watson.

Referee: M Bayliss (Gloucester).