Rugby Union: Wilkinson in control

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Newcastle 47 Richmond 14

JONNY WILKINSON furthered his education at outside-half as he guided Newcastle to a seven-try demolition of Richmond at Kingston Park last night.

Although Wilkinson has always worn the No 10 shirt, Rob Andrew has played in the pivot position. With Andrew out for the rest of the season with a serious shoulder injury, Wilkinson has to shoulder the principal decision-making responsibility in keeping Newcastle on track for a place in the European Cup.

With three home games left, Newcastle are still in a position to manage that with qualification restricted to the top six finishers in the Premiership, but Richmond's hopes are almost certainly gone.

With a brilliant solo try to get the second-half under way, Wilkinson was always in the thick of it. He kicked beautifully out of hand and set up the position for the second of Gary Armstrong's three tries, as Newcastle bludgeoned Richmond into submission with another monster performance from their pack.

Richmond actually made the first half running to forge an interval lead. Rich Butland stroked over the first two chances he was offered, before the Newcastle pack pounded upfield. Four rucks later and they were in a position to launch Gary Armstrong on a sniping run for one of the scrum- half's trademark tries. Stuart Legg, taking over the goal-kicking duties from Wilkinson, who is still nursing an ankle injury, slotted the conversion.

Their lead lasted just three minutes. Time enough for Richmond to get close enough to drive Barry Williams over for a try. Butland missed the conversion, but banged over a third penalty for Richmond, who reached the break 14-7 ahead. But that was the end of them as Wilkinson set Newcastle buzzing and Ross Beattie, George Graham, James Naylor and Armstrong completed the job.

NEWCASTLE: Tries Armstrong 3, Wilkinson, Graham, Beattie, Naylor. Conversions Legg 6. RICHMOND: Try Williams. Penalties Butland 3.

NEWCASTLE: S Legg; J Naylor, V Tuigamala (P Massey, 63), M Shaw, M Wood; J Wilkinson, G Armstrong (capt); G Graham, R Nesdale, M Hurter, G Archer, D Weir, P Walton (S O'Neil, 63), R Arnold, R Beattie (H Vyvyan, 70).

RICHMOND: M Pini; N Walne, A Bateman (T Whitford, 78), M Dixon, S Brown (M Deane, 66); R Butland, A Moore; D McFarland, B Williams, D Crompton, B Cusack, C Gillies, D Quinn (M Swift, h-t), J Barfoot, B Clarke (capt).

REFEREE: N. Yates (Bowdon, Cheshire).