Rugby Union: Skinner emphasises exiles' predicament: On the day after England's finest hour an old warhorse sets out on another rampage

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Blackheath . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .21

London Welsh. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .9

HOW are the high and mighty fallen. With the heady days of the sixties and seventies far behind them, London Welsh have been reduced these days to scuffling around in the lower reaches.

Fortune has shunned the club which boasted seven members of the 1971 Lions from their triumphant tour of New Zealand, including their captain, John Dawes.

But from being associated with the likes of London Irish and London Scottish they now hover perilously close, in Courage League Five South, to the likes of London Cornish and, London French.

Eight years ago London Welsh contested the final of the Rugby Football Union's knock- out competition, known then as the John Player Cup. They lost to Bath in front of 32,000 at Twickenham. The contrast with yesterday was stark.

They headed east to Rectory Field, where Blackheath ended their hopes in a third round Pilkington Cup tie played in front of a few hundred spectators.

The only thing the side of the 1990s has in common with that of its predecessors is the familiar scarlet shirt. What flashes of imagination and flair there were from the exiles' backs were either quickly snuffed out by the former England flanker, Micky Skinner, and his men, or foundered as numbed hands fumbled crucial passes.

Skinner, captain for the day, had earlier presented a pounds 5,000 cheque to the Royal Marsden Hospital, but he showed no charity on the pitch, leading from the front to help Blackheath to a couple of tries and a place in tomorrow's fourth round draw.

There have been changes at Old Deer Park, culminating earlier this month in the sacking of Dawes as director of coaching and the firing of the first team coach, Bill Calcraft; Bruce Bradley and Nigel Rees, both former players, have taken over. Theirs is an unenviable task, because right now London Welsh are down and out.

Blackheath: Tries Samson, Douglas; Conversion Mycroft; Penalties Mycroft 3. London Welsh: Penalties Shufflebotham 3.

Blackheath: P Mycroft; M Griffiths, D Neil- Dwyer, S Burns, S Douglas; S Howard, T Springhall; J Taylor, C Ridgeway, N Cousins, J Samson, D Hursey, M Skinner (capt), T Booth, M Harris.

London Welsh: R Phillips; J Hancock, J Tolcher, G Leleu, P Walters; D Shufflebotham, L Tanner (A Thomas, 45); S Davies, A Tucker, M Herbert, J Fletcher, D Harries, R Westlake (O Davies, 7), C Charvis, G Peacock (capt).

Referee: T Ashworth (Bracknell).

(Photograph omitted)