Wasps facing blast from Waterloo past

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The Independent Online
Discovering a rugby club in a leafy English suburb is hardly a novel experience. Finding one in the provinces with legitimate First Division aspirations is something entirely different, however.

Many in similar circumstances have either merged, sold, or are preparing to sell, to supermarket and high street DIY groups in order to relocate and thus improve themselves.

At Waterloo, nestling between bustling Bootle and middle-class Crosby, the only chains are made from daisies by the children of prosperous families in spacious detached properties along St Anthony's Road. There are no retail hypermarkets in this quiet corner of Liverpool. There is barely any evidence of a corner shop.

Yet two seasons ago, Waterloo - one of the most corinthian clubs in the land if not the most - bundled Bath out of the Pilkington Cup in a 9-8 third-round triumph that did not just tear a page or two out of the form book, but consigned it to the incinerator. On Saturday, they will try to repeat history when they entertain Wasps in the fourth round.

When they beat Bath, Waterloo were, as now, in the Second Division and were pipped for promotion by Newcastle Gosforth, who claimed the solitary place on points difference. After the Bath shock, Waterloo went on to defeat Orrell 8-3. But in the quarter-finals, in front of 6,000 squeezed into Blundellsands, Harlequins prevailed 21-14 and progressed to the final. A Lancashire Cup win was scant consolation.

So far, Waterloo have resisted the temptation to follow other clubs and leave their traditional home, or embrace the aggressive, undisguised ambition of their neighbours, Orrell, who lured away the England wing Nigel Heslop, the No 8 Shaun Gallagher and the England Under-21 back Austin Healey. Orrell's attitudes rest uneasily at Blundellsands, where they still believe a route to the top can be plotted by relying on many of the virtues culled from another era.

But is it an illusion? Can Waterloo who, for the better part of a century have given the appearance of a Victorian gentleman's club, where they played rugby in accordance with the game's patrician values of the time, climb the money-greased pole to the summit?

Waterloo have probably left themselves too much to do in the league to overhaul Saracens, which just leaves the game with Wasps, nine-try demolishers of Newcastle Gosforth in the last round.

The former England flanker and captain, Dick Greenwood, is the coach at Waterloo and he is excited by the possibility of another upset. "It's a happy day out for us," Greenwood said. "We can't lose. Wasps are a league above us and, like Bath and Orrell two years ago, they are expected to win, though I think we can set them some problems. We've got a fairly hard-edged pack at Waterloo, most of whom shared in the previous triumphs. They won't be overawed.

"Wasps play very attractive rugby and it's not easy to defend against their unusual style. But they may just be susceptible on our share of the ball. Someone least expecting it will come unstuck in this round of the Cup. It could be here in Lancashire."

Peter Buckton, Waterloo's Yorkshire-born captain and back-row playmaker, is similarly optimistic. "I think a lot of folk in this part of the world would tip Orrell to do what we did, and beat Bath," he said. "But we've got a good tradition of doing well in the Cup. We're confident, our packs have a decent pedigree and we should win plenty of ball. If it's all square with 10 minutes to go, our sheer persistence will see us through."

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