Bath's victory over Saracens yesterday might have stopped Leicester running away with the Allied Dunbar title, but the Tigers are already planning to strengthen their ranks for next season.
One victory away from clinching the title, Dean Richards expects to announce that the former Welsh captain Rob Howley will cross the Severn Bridge and meet Matt Dawson head on in the battle for the British Lions' scrum-half berth next summer. The Cardiff chairman, Peter Thomas, met with Howley on Friday to launch a late bid to keep the player at the Arms Park, but not even an improved three-year package worth £100,000 a year seems likely to halt Howley's move.
Meanwhile, once again the European Shield, a poor relation to the Heineken Cup, will be contested by two French clubs.
British interest was finally killed off last night when Bristol were overcome 51-27 at Pau, who booked a final meeting with Castres, conquerors of London Irish in Friday night's first semi-final.
On the domestic front, Gloucester's scrum-half Elton Moncrieff turned the game against Bedford into a personal triumph with a four-try haul in the 60-16 win. Moncrieff's speed round the scrum was too much for the visitors and he made them pay for slack marking with two scores in each half as Gloucester ran in eight tries. The outside- half, Simon Mannix, kicked seven conversions and two penalties while Mike McLean went over for two tries for Bedford.
The Exeter full-back, Sam Howard, broke the club's points record in spectacular fashion in the 81-0 crushing of relegated West Hartlepool in their Premiership Two game. The 26-year-old bagged a try, 10 conversions and two penalties for 31 points to add to the 281 he has already chalked up this season. He easily overtook the previous record of 301 points as Exeter completely overwhelmed the side from the North-east. The No 8, Andy Beattie, was one of the stars of the day as he plunged over for a hat-trick of tries. Another score came from the full-back, Craig Townsend, brother of the Scotland international Gregor. It was a humiliating defeat for West Hartlepool who have now been relegated in two successive seasons.
Rugby's 32-28 home win over London Welsh was not enough to stop the Midlanders being relegated with Waterloo escaping the drop with a 17-13 victory at Orrell. Kevin Dunn, Robin Morrow and Paul Shadbolt went over for Rugby with Martin Davies hitting a conversion and five penalties. London Welsh's tries came from Alan Jones, Luke Jones and Scott Roskill, with Andy Lee chipping in with two conversions and four penalties.
Dunvant, despite leading 18-17 halfway through the second half, eventually tired against the champions Cardiff, going down 36-23 in the Welsh/Scottish Premier Division. The Swansea suburb club fared immeasurably better than they had done five weeks ago when losing 116-0 to Cardiff. If Caerphilly lose their last game at Pontypridd, Dunvant will need to beat or draw with Newport next week to avoid relegation.
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