Writing on the wall has a message for Carling

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THE BILLBOARDS may have shouted "damned" and "royal" at him, but that was as far as it went, writes Andy Beckett. It is easy to imagine what a soccer crowd would have made of Will Carling's present predicament - he is separated from his wife, Julia, after alleged "trysts" with the Princess of Wales - but Rugby Union supporters are far too genteel for such ribaldry.

Instead, the 4,000-strong crowd at the Stoop Memorial ground in Twickenham yesterday gave Carling a standing ovation when he took a low pass and charged through two tackles to score a 30th-minute try for Harlequins. His team beat West Hartlepool 34-18 to maintain its 100 per cent league record.

Earlier, press photographers waited in the car park. But Carling went in at the other gate, witnessed only by ITN's back-up crew. "We got duped," said a TV journalist into his mobile phone. "We didn't even get the running of the media gauntlet."

For the first half-hour of the match, Carling swaggered, hands on hips, at a distance from the action, as if his involvement might be embarrassing. After his try, he retired to the fringes of the action once more, until a tackle brought him a thigh injury. But he recovered after treatment. At the end, a policeman patted him on the back and the crowd in the main stand roared "Speech!" At this rare teasing, Carling grinned.

After the match, the press was foiled again. Carling emerged as if to get into a waiting police van, dashed back into the club house, and then came out at the other end, to board a second police van. Both vans left, sirens wailing and blue lights flashing.

Match report, back page

Picture by DAVID ROSE