Rugby Union: Salmon's medicine

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The Independent Online
Newcastle Gosforth. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .3

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THE ENIGMA factor which bedevils Harlequins in their search for league success, is a little like the latest flu virus. Eventually they expect to get better, though for the time being no one can be sure which medication will bring the earliest improvement.

Harlequins' doctor-in-charge, Jamie Salmon, responded to last week's 20-15 home defeat to Bristol by dropping Lions hooker Brian Moore, in a shake-up which necessitated five other changes. Will Carling did play, though the England captain's availability was only confirmed at the eleventh hour.

We will see if Salmon has discovered the right prescription when Quins face Northampton at the Stoop on Saturday, for Saints will provide a much sterner examination than Newcastle were able to at Kingston Park. The fact is that in a little more than six seasons of league rugby, Quins have lost 24 of their 37 matches.

At least Salmon was able to draw some comfort from victory, though he will certainly not be deluded by it, for Newcastle were poor. The Northumbrians, for all their hopes of establishing themselves in the top flight, are now only a step away from the life-support ward.

'Our desire to win was there,' Salmon said. 'This was our first 80-minute performance of the season, and though we would have liked another try or two, at least we appear to be going in the right direction.'

By contrast, Newcastle lacked all tactical direction. For once, David Johnson, the country's leading marksman kicked poorly, their scrummage fell apart, and their line-out was a shambles in a curiously passionless display.

Unless Newcastle can get something out of this week's visit by second-placed Leicester, their rehabilitation will probably have to be undertaken in next season's Second Division.

Newcastle Gosforth: Penalty Johnson. Harlequins: Tries Snow, O'Leary; Penalties Bray 3, Challinor.

Newcastle Gosforth: D Bennett; T Penn, R Wilkinson, I Chandler, M White (J Merritt, 43); D Johnson, S Douglas; R Fuller, N Frankland (capt), P Zanvanfleit, J Fowler, G Archer, G Clark, J Nicholson, R Arnold.

Harlequins: K Bray; D O'Leary, G Thompson, W Carling, J Alexander; P Challinor, B Short; J Leonard, P Simmonds, A Mullins (capt), A Snow, D Dix, M Pepper, J Cassell, C Sheasby.

Referee: S Lander (Liverpool).

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