Rugby Union: Penguins waddle home

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The Independent Online
IT WAS somehow inevitable that the domestic season should meet with a chaotic conclusion here on Saturday. The good intentions of the Middlesex Charity Sevens, a great survivor in these changing times, were undone by a thunderstorm of biblical proportions which caused the unfortunate cancellation of the Plate final and temporarily threatened the completion of the main tournament.

The pounds 50,000 prize for the main event went to the Penguins, the globetrotting invitational side celebrating their 40th anniversary with a first appearance at HQ. They were not the only ones waddling around after the heavens opened with a ferocity that sent many of the 38,000 crowd awaiting the curtain- raiser Plate final dashing for cover.

The demands of live television - the terrestrial version, funnily enough - meant the final between the Penguins and Saracens had to go ahead on time. Meanwhile the plate contestants, London Welsh and Wasps, were left to kick their heels, albeit with an equal share of pounds 10,000 for their trouble.

On the pitch an outbreak of mass streaking proved that, when you've seen one nude rugby fan turning cartwheels on the centre spot, you've seen them all.

Outside, in the West Car Park, much of the chatter had been of drugs and Dallaglio until the deluge. Rain stopped gossip, if you like.

The other buzz topic was the future existence of the local area's leading clubs. There is a Bermuda Triangle centred on Twickenham, Richmond and Sunbury, where clubs seem to be mysteriously disappearing. The latest theory has London Irish merging with London Scottish after a failed attempt at including Richmond in the deal. The latter are believed to have made an 11th-hour approach to London Welsh, their neighbours across the Old Deer Park, with the English First Division Rugby "golden parachute" of pounds 500,000 to bring to the table.

It was a "golden goal" style try in sudden-death extra time by the outstanding Fijian Taniela Qauqau that enabled the Penguins to pick up the Russell Cargill Trophy.

Saracens had the Wallaby seven-a-side captain, Ryan Constable, in a handy squad and three times they led the Penguins by two scores only to be pegged back to 35-all at the end of normal time.

Elsewhere, poor Richmond succumbed to Harlow, the Essex junior club, in the plate. And Enrique Pichot, the brother of Argentina's scrum-half Agustin, was sent off for punching the Penguins' play-maker Waisale Serevi in the semi-final - not the first Argentinian to lose his rag at Twickenham.

Saracens: Tries Powell, Sorrell, Johnston, Singer 2; Conversions Singer 5. Penguins: Tries Qauqau 3, Seru, O'Mahony, W Serevi; Conversions W Serevi 5.

Saracens: K Sorrell, M Cairns, B Johnston, M Powell, A Penaud, R Constable (capt), B Daniel, J Rudd, S Ravenscroft, M Singer.

Penguins: C Newby (NZ), N Sailosi (Fiji), K Izatt (NZ), M Serevi (Fiji), J Forster (Bedford), W Serevi (Fiji, capt), N Humphries (Aus), T Qauqau (Fiji), T Seru (Aus), D O'Mahony (Bedford).

Referee: J Burtenshaw (London).