Rugby union: No punches are pulled in friendly

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IF THIS was a pre-season friendly God help them when the real stuff starts. Zinzan Brooke, the Harlequins player-coach, and Chad Eagle, the Bristol forward, went at it yesterday like a couple of heavyweight prize-fighters who could not be separated by the bell.

In fact, they could not be separated by anything. Neither the referee's whistle, nor the intervention of the touch judges could prise the two players apart at the end of a match which almost degenerated into open warfare. Finally, in what looked like an act of desperation, the referee, Tim Miller, signalled the end of the game, although there were four minutes left on the clock, with Brooke and Eagle still at each others' throats.

"A few of the West Country Boys had lined Zinnie up and he'd obviously had enough by the end," John Gallager, the Quins director of rugby, said.

Naturally Bristol did not see it that way. They claim that Brooke, the former All Blacks No 8 who was playing his first game for Quins, had stamped on Eagle, also a New Zealander. Eagle threw a couple of right-handers and Brooke responded. When they were torn apart, Eagle had blood streaming from a wound near his right eye.

A few minutes earlier, Brooke and Kevin Dunn, the Bristol hooker, had been lectured by the referee following a punch-up. "I told them I wasn't going to put up with any silly nonsense," Miller said. Dunn said: "Brooke took a couple of cheap shots off the ball so I responded. The referee told us that if we were sent off he'd have to report us to the RFU." As it is no report will be filed. The referee had already had cause to talk to Keith Wood, Quins' Irish Test hooker.

For the record Quins won 36-8 on a foul day, in more ways than one, at the ground of the junior club Centaurs in Osterley, West London. "We wanted to play a certain style but the weather put paid to that," Gallager said. "I didn't see the incident at the end other than that Zinnie and Chad were cuddling each other on the ground for half an hour. Bristol were very spirited. They obviously wanted to impress Bob."

Bob Dwyer, Bristol's new director of rugby, got sufficiently animated on occasion to voice his opinions from the touchline. "Considering we've only been together for one week it wasn't too bad at all. With a bit of luck we could have got three or four tries."

Bristol, relegated from the Premiership last season and an understudy yesterday for Quins' original opponents, Pontypridd, led 8-7 shortly after half-time through a try from scrum-half Dean Dewdney following a Paul Hull penalty.

Quins, who lost the flanker Steve White-Cooper with a leg injury after a couple of minutes, were on a roll. Brooke, put in a clever kick to create a try for Dan Luger. Further tries came from Chris Wright, Nick Walshe, Jamie Williams, and Vaughan Going, the nephew of the former All Blacks scrum-half Sid Going. Walshe kicked four conversions and Going added a penalty.