Rugby Union: Schuster emerges as only winner

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Harlequins 32

Richmond 32

UNLIKE A certain recent boxing match, this draw was a fair result, although it did little for either club's newly reconfirmed European Cup aspirations.

We were led to believe there was no love lost between these sides after Richmond's postponement of their meeting at Reading during the World Cup qualifiers last November. Richmond were docked two points for that and have the chance to go double or quits when the match is finally played on 3 May.

This supposed enmity was hardly borne out by an almost laughable number of turnovers in a slapdash contest. The first glaring example was a stray Richmond line-out throw after seven minutes which led directly to the opening try for Harlequins by Thierry Lacroix. Two more tries from line- outs followed before half-time. The Quins prop Gary Halpin was at the bottom of the heap when his pack drove through from Gareth Llewellyn's catch. And, after a penalty goal by Earl Va'a got Richmond on the scoreboard, their flanker Robbie Hutton scored, somewhat fortuitously, from a pat down by Craig Quinnell.

The bald-headed Welsh lock reverted here to blind-side flanker, the position he occupied before his move from Llanelli, as Richmond's depleted squad adjust to life after the purge.

With Will Carling making his first Premiership start for 15 months it seemed a suitable time to recall that the former England captain and fellow agitators such as Brian Moore - whose last two clubs these were - had only ever been calling for proper remuneration for the top players in the run-up to the move to the open era four years ago. A fully professional club game was not on their agenda - or it wasn't until the entrepreneurs moved in.

Nevertheless Europe is back on the horizon although without, as yet, confirmation of English participation in the second-tier Shield competition. If the cup winners qualify, Richmond may take that route but both they and Quins have failed to stamp a mark on the league this season.

Despite the always intelligent contributions in loose play of Richmond's Ben Clarke, there were too many errors and soft tries. Clarke himself got one of them midway through the second half when Spencer Brown was allowed to make far too much headway. Previously Va'a and Lacroix, with his second, had scored tries and when John Schuster kicked a penalty after 68 minutes scores were tied at 25 all.

If there was no final victor to cheer, there was at least a remarkable record for Schuster. The former All Black scored a try, aided by the ever- capable link play of Chris Sheasby, to pass Gareth Rees' league record of 291 points for a season. Schuster also converted to pitch the new mark at 296, with seven Premiership matches still to come, but centre Matt Dixon's try converted by Va'a ensured parity otherwise.

Harlequins: D O'Leary; P Mensah (J Williams, 46), W Carling, J Schuster, D Luger; T Lacroix, H Harries (N Walshe, 61); J Leonard, K Wood (capt), G Halpin, G Llewellyn, T Collier, C Sheasby, A Leach, R Jenkins (Z Brooke, 65).

Richmond: M Pini; N Walne (L Best, 74), J Wright, M Dixon, S Brown; E Va'a, A Pichot; D McFarland, A Cuthbert, D Crompton, A Sheridan (B Cusack, 59), C Gillies, C Quinnell (J Barfoot, 79), B Clarke (capt), R Hutton,.

Referee: B Campsall (Yorkshire)

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