Rugby Union: Referee criticised by Pienaar

London Scottish 20 Saracens 58
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The Independent Online
FRANCOIS PIENAAR, who until he returns to fitness is the non-playing player-coach of Saracens, was so moved by this match he had a word with the referee. Not to congratulate him but to ask for an explanation as to why Saracens were blown off the pitch in the second half.

The English cup holders led 46-10 at half-time and statisticians began thumbing through the record books. However, in the second half, the referee, Chris Rees, awarded London Scottish a stream of penalties and they managed to stem the Saracens onslaught.

"We didn't see the ball in the second half," Pienaar complained, "And that's because the referee gave London Scottish 16 penalties. There was no consistency. Our ambition is to play fast, attractive rugby. That is what the crowd pays money for but we were prevented from doing so."

While the referee certainly gave the impression of stepping in to save the exiles from further punishment, there was another reason for the transformation in the second half during which the teams scored two tries a piece. London Scottish, seemingly transfixed by the glare from the Saracens limousine, scored a cracking try just before the interval through Jan Bonney and it gave them the confidence to compete.

"It took us a long time to realise that they only had two arms and two legs," said the Scottish lock Eddie Jones, the Maori who stood out not least because he has died his hair a shocking "poppy red."

The Scots have a fatal weakness in the line-out and John Steele, the director of rugby, said he is in the market to buy players. "It may seem a strange thing to say," Steele said, "But I took a lot of encouragement from that defeat. If we can score three tries against Saracens we can score against anybody."

By moving to The Stoop - next Saturday they play their co-tenants Harlequins in what is a home match for both clubs - London Scottish's main problem is in marketing and the attendances so far have been poor. "The message we wish to send out is that you don't need to be a kilt-wearing, whisky- drinking, bagpipe-playing individual to support London Scottish," Kirsten Baker, the club's press officer said.

As if to emphasise the point, London Scottish are in negotiations to sign the Orange Free State stand-off Janie de Beer and the Western Province coach, Alan Zondagh.

London Scottish: Tries Milligan 2, Bonney; Conversion McAusland; Penalty McAusland. Saracens: Tries Johnson 2, Daniel 2, Chuter, Constable, Singer, Wallace; Conversions Johnson 6; Penalties Johnson 2.

London Scottish: I McAusland; K Milligan, R Davies, J Bonney, C Sharman; J Cameron (S. Binns, 63), G Easterby; P Johnstone, P Robertson (J McLennan, 51), P Burnell, G Manson-Bishop, M Watson (E Jones, 51), R Hunter (T Davies, 51), C Tarbuck, S Holmes (capt).

Saracens: G Johnson; B Daniel, R Constable (K Chesney, 40), J Thomson (S Ravenscroft, 10), M Singer; A Penaud, K Bracken; R Grau, G Chuter, P Wallace, C Yandell, D Grewcock, T Coker (B Cole, 40) A Diprose (capt), R Hill.

Referee: C Rees (London).