Rugby Union: Mass ban for indisciplined Spartans

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THE RUGBY badlands of the West Country will be just a little less perilous for the next fortnight or so, now that those mean sons-of- guns from Spartans have been rounded up by the local sheriff. The Gloucester club side have long been renowned for their, how shall we say, vigorous approach to Saturday afternoon exercise but when they collectively decided to let it rip in a South West Two league match with Cinderford last month, they rather overstepped the mark.

Phillip Ware, a poor, put-upon referee from Cornwall, had already dismissed two Spartan pugilists when he decided that the other 13 should join them in what is commonly termed the "early bath". The game was abandoned shortly before the interval - well, there were no Spartans left on the field - and on Wednesday night, the Gloucestershire disciplinary committee imposed a mass, two-week suspension on the miscreants.

Bobby Fowke, a hard-nut flanker who played top-flight rugby with Gloucester before returning to his local outfit, placed the blame squarely at the feet of Mr Ware. "The referee's report blamed us entirely, which does seem a little odd considering there were two sides on the field," protested Fowke, who was one of those originally dismissed for fighting.

"He gave 15 penalties against us in the opening 10 minutes, but would not allow us to ask why they had been awarded. People were getting more and more frustrated and, in the end, it boiled over."

Fowke was dealt with at a previous disciplinary hearing and although he was suspended for 35 days he is now available again - unlike his 14 club-mates.

"It's a problem," he agreed. "We're going to have to field reserve teams in our next two league games and, although we're in mid-table at the moment, a couple of defeats could put us in relegation trouble."

As they say in all the best Gloucestershire clubhouses, life can be a bitch.