Rugby Union: Sharp is the word but Moncrieff is a winner

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The Independent Online
South of Scotland. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .8

Scottish Exiles. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .6

THE effect of Mark Moncrieff's match-winning try at Hawick in the third minute of injury time may be felt well into next year. By crossing after his fellow wing Iwan Tukalo had diligently made the overlap, Moncrieff kept South on course to capture the district title and claim the fixture against next season's All Blacks that is on offer only to the eventual champions.

Priority now for South is to defeat Edinburgh on Saturday, which would mean they could only be pipped on the number of tries scored by the Exiles, who must win two remaining matches. The timing of Moncrieff's score was a killer blow, but since Exiles dominated the first half and South the remainder of the match suggestions of a steal are invalid.

Doddie Weir, Derek Turnbull and Carl Hogg played as though determined to guarantee international futures; Ian Corcoran continues to put pressure on hooker Kenny Milne; and Gary Armstrong gave Dave Millard an exceedingly rough passage.

If the very real controversy existed over the finish it surely lay in the amount of stoppage time added on, but even then account has to be taken of the laborious preparation adopted by Nick Grecian, the Exiles' goalkicker, perhaps the only player capable of making the methods of New Zealand's Grant Fox seem frenzied by comparison.

The Exiles were simply unable to use better quality possession laid back by a pack in which Damian Cronan, Andy Reed, Dale McIntosh and, perhaps to the discomfort of the Scottish selectors, Alan Sharp, enjoyed rare moments.

Sharp may be suitably qualified through a grandmother from Brechin. What sets this loose-head prop with a build like a miniature Buddha apart from others of dubious origin is the fact that he has already been tried by England B and discarded. If ability were the only criteria, Sharp may well be the ideal choice to succeed David Sole - even if his current portly silhouette is not in keeping with the athletic image Scotland are cultivating. Politics may, however, dictate.

South: Try Moncrieff; Penalty Aitchison. Scottish Exiles: Penalties Grecian 2.

SOUTH OF SCOTLAND: G Aitchison (Kelso); M Moncrieff, G Townsend (Gala), G Sheil (Melrose), I Tukalo (Selkirk); C Chalmers (Melrose), G Armstrong (Jed-Forest); G Isaac, I Corcoran (capt), H Hunter (Gala), R Brown, G Weir (Melrose), D Turnbull (Hawick), C Hogg (Melrose), J Amos (Gala).

SCOTTISH EXILES: M Appleson, N Grecian, F Harrold, M Sly (London Scottish), D Caskie (Gloucester); R Cramb (capt), D Millard (London Scottish); A Sharp (Bristol), L Mair, P Burnell, D Cronin (London Scottish), A Reed (Bath), N Provan (London Scottish), D McIntosh (Pontypridd), I Morrison (London Scottish),

Referee: J Fleming (Edinburgh).

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