Loss to rivals ruins Exiles' One dream

WITH the pitch cleared of snow thanks to an army of volunteers, London Scottish woke up this morning and wondered why they bothered. The club's promotion bid suffered a major blow yesterday afternoon after losing at home to their nearest rivals Esher who remain top of National One with a game in hand. Having lost to Esher both home and away, the Scots' chances now rely upon other teams beating the league leaders.

The Exiles were well beaten, losing 38-15 in a game that they really needed to win although a late, late try gave the score a lop-sided look. They had hoped to clinch the one automatic promotion place into the Championship, the fully-professional league directly below the Guinness Premiership.

That dream is now in tatters after yesterday's result. The Scots have lost three matches, Esher just one and their rivals also boast a better points' difference. It could have been a different story had the SRU acted earlier to help the Scots gain promotion rather than sitting on their hands.

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The London Scots' best chance of promotion may now lie in the financial misfortune of others. Several of the current Championship clubs are struggling to support fully professional squads with the likes of London Welsh and Coventry having well-publicised money problems. Should any or all of these clubs go to the wall, the RFU may decide to push more than one team up a division, provided the promoted clubs are financially viable.

The Exiles picked a bad day to have an off day because yesterday's loss was witnessed by Scotland's new high performance director Graham Lowe. The Kiwi was on a scouting mission to judge whether the Exiles are worthy of SRU support in their bid for Championship status.

If he was impressed by the standard of rugby he saw at Richmond's Athletic Park, Lowe could authorise Scottish professionals down to London to help the Scots' promotion push in the next few weeks. The move had been suggested at least a year ago but the SRU dragged their heels.

The idea is that the SRU would continue to pay the players' wages while the club had to find them accommodation in the capital. It's a win/win situation with London Scottish getting a valuable boost to their playing resources with just under half the league season still to play. Meantime several under-utilised players will get some much-needed game time although everything hinges on Lowe's assessment of the standard of play, and player care, that London Scottish offer.

One club insider pointed out that if the Scots ever needed help it was against yesterday's opponents, their main rivals for promotion, and the words "horse" and "bolted" sprang to mind. Furthermore this exile insisted that he would be "amazed" if anything happened this season. However other sources appear convinced that, if Lowe gives the thumbs up, players could move south within months if not weeks.

Any bodies not needed by Edinburgh and Glasgow could bolster the Exiles but the name of flanker Simon Cross is one that regularly crops up as a player/coach. The Edinburgh flanker has had numerous injury problems over the years but he is said to be close to playing again and he also has coaching credentials.

With the SRU reacting at the pace of a glacier, it might be too late for the Exiles to gain promotion this season, following yesterday's disappointment.