Rugby Union: Wasps always look second best

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The Independent Online
WHO CARES who comes second? Well, for a long time at Sudbury yesterday Wasps gave the distinct impression that they were not particularly bothered one way or the other. Indeed, there was always the danger that they would finish second to Bristol here let alone overall in the league.

They should know better because in 1990 they were handed the title on a plate when Gloucester blew it at Nottingham. This time, though, they were struggling to get their act together, despite the presence of a duplicate Courage trophy. Then, with 10 minutes remaining, came word that Saracens had squeezed ahead of Bath and Wasps, leading 7-6, redoubled their efforts to stay ahead.

Bristol's points came via two Mark Tainton penalties while Wasps scored the game's only try through Phil Hopley with Rob Andrew supplying the winning touchline conversion. Their coach, Rob Smith, summed it up when he said: 'It was a pretty awful game.'

Newcastle Gosforth were unable to celebrate their promotion to the First Division in the style they would have liked at Moseley, who deservedly triumphed 19-16 and so avoided relegation, thanks to a late try by their wing Dave Spiller.

Ian Hunter confirmed his British Lions tour place in New Zealand by coming through Northampton's game at London Scottish unscathed. The 24-year-old England wing, who has had knee problems all season, lasted the whole match under the scrutiny of the Lions' manager Geoff Cooke and assistant coach Dick Best.

Hunter, indeed, scored the last of Northampton's five tries as his side finished their season with a flourishing 34-21 victory.

West Hartlepool, like London Scottish already relegated, departed the first division with a five-try, 39-15 demolition of Orrell.

Next Saturday's Pilkington Cup finalists had contrasting fortunes. Leicester won 28-5 at relegated Rugby with first-half tries coming from the brothers Underwood, Rory and Tony. But there were injuries to lock Matt Poole and prop Derek Jelley. As a consequence, the Leicester captain and blind- side flanker, John Wells, did not have the ideal preparation for Twickenham, spending most of the match in the front row.

Harlequins, minus many leading players, lost 25-5 at Gloucester, one of whose tries came from their outstanding No 8 Bobby Fowke. Quins performed best in the first 30 minutes, narrowly missing drop goal and penalty shots before their exciting young wing Mike Wedderburn scored a superb corner try.

Gloucester led 7-5 at half-time after a try by centre Simon Morris which Tim Smith converted. But they took control in the second half with Fowke's try and a conversion and two penalties from Smith in the first 15 minutes. But Smith's try in the last minute gave the score an misleadingly one-sided look.