Rugby Union: Coach slams `inept' officials

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THE VEXED issue of rebel referees taking charge of Anglo-Welsh friendlies has blown up again after Richmond's physical encounter with Cardiff left the England back row forward Ben Clarke with severe facial injuries. The Richmond coach, John Kingston, claimed they could leave him out of action for "weeks, if not months".

Richmond's 35-28 win will be no consolation to Kingston if he is left without Clarke for the more important league battles. He accused Cardiff of deliberately spoiling the game, but saved his real anger for the Newport referee, Peter Bolland. "If that's what refereeing at these matches is all about then we have a major problem," he said. "The guy refereed Cardiff one way and Richmond another. It was beyond belief and a very sad indictment of these games. We had a weak, inept and inefficient set of officials who seemed content to let foul play happen. It was a great game soured and shame on the referee."

Kingston will view the match video before commenting on specific issues, but Clarke's injury was serious enough to take him to hospital for treatment. Kingston accused Cardiff of "turning to violence when they were a beaten side". That riled his opposite number Terry Holmes, who said: "I am disappointed with Mr Kingston's comments. It was a very physical game, but it certainly was not malicious."

The former Australian international David Knox was sent off for dissent as Bristol went down 20-9 in their Premiership Two match at Worcester yesterday. The 35-year-old stand-off was warned by the referee, Graham Hughes, after a late tackle on the Worcester captain, Bruce Fenley, sparked an off-the-ball fracas. Knox was then shown the red card after verbally abusing the referee.