Rugby Union: Bedford lap up success

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The Independent Online
BEDFORD's players did a lap of honour after yesterday's 36-10 home win over Wakefield - even though their confirmation as the Allied Dunbar Premiership Two champions could be delayed a week as they might be docked two points for fielding an ineligible player, the Australian centre Alistair Murdoch, against Fylde in January. Bedford's 17th straight victory of the campaign was no classic, but the former Wales full-back Mike Rayer landed five kicks to pass 300 points for the second successive season.

The distant battle for the other promotion spot is a five-way affair following Coventry's 37-10 victory over second-placed London Scottish, in which Anthony Dawson and Andrew Smallwood each ran in a brace of tries. A 40-10 thrashing of Blackheath put Rotherham up to third with Greg Austin touching down twice. West Hartlepool stayed in touch with a 34-8 win at Fylde, but Orrell lost ground after a 17-14 setback at Exeter and Moseley shaded Waterloo 23-22 at The Reddings - a cruel blow for the visiting fly-half Lyndon Griffiths who supplied all his side's points.

The Premiership One leaders Saracens, buoyed by Newcastle's defeat, face a tough test today away to Gloucester, who have never lost at home to the north London side. Saracens are minus their England pair Kyran Bracken and Richard Hill, but welcome back Ireland's Paddy Johns, Paul Wallace and Richard Wallace. The England captain, Lawrence Dallaglio, is set to return after injury as Wasps entertain London Irish who have not won away in the league for 11 months.

Allan Bateman is doubtful for Wales's match against Ireland in Dublin on Saturday after missing Richmond's victory over Newcastle with a shin injury.

Cardiff and Pontypridd will contest the Welsh Challenge Trophy final having beaten Llanelli and Neath respectively. Newport are 10 points adrift in the Premier Division and look a certainty for the relegation place after losing 24-13 at Bridgend, for whom Gwilym Wilkins claimed two tries. Caerphilly are 11 points clear in Division One after a 35-26 home win over Abertillery.

Keith Robertson resigned last night as the coach of Melrose, the reigning Tennents Premiership champions, after his side's 36-16 loss away to West of Scotland.

Garryowen took over at the top of the AIB Irish League by defeating Terenure 37-26, but Shannon, champions for the last three seasons, could overhaul them today if they beat Young Munster.

In the Super 12, Natal ended ACT's two-year unbeaten home run with a 41-23 win in Canberra. Queensland scored four second-half tries to swamp Canterbury 35-9 in Brisbane, but Northern Transvaal prop up the table after losing 35-18 to Western Province in Cape Town - their third consecutive defeat.

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