Rugby Union: Referees show signs of strain

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Referees may be incorruptible but yesterday they were far from indestructible. The Scottish Tennents Premiership match between Boroughmuir and Heriot's FP witnessed the demise of not one but two referees before it was abandoned with 12 minutes left because the only remaining whistle-blower on site, Jim Fleming, was a member of the host club and could not take charge.

Eddie Murray, the original official, limped off after half an hour with a calf strain. His stand-in, Ken MacCarney, lasted a further 38 minutes before succumbing to a similar injury. Then, with Boroughmuir leading 13-5 and Heriot's happy to carry on under a "home" referee, came the appeal to Fleming. But justice must be seen to be blind and Test rugby's second most "capped" referee was forced to decline the offer.

Another referee in the wars was Gary Walsh, who retired with a hamstring injury after 77 minutes of the Cheltenham & Gloucester Cup at Orrell. His replacement, the England panelist Stuart Piercy, then awarded an injury-time penalty which Stuart Moffat slotted to secure a 24-22 victory for visitors Rotherham.

Also in the C&G Cup, Bristol lost at Sale for the second time this month but yesterday's defeat, 23-16, was a tad more respectable than the 76- 0 drubbing of three weeks ago. Bedford swept aside London Scottish 52- 26 and Blackheath got the better of Cambridge University 39-34. Cumbria began their defence of the Tetley's Bitter County Championship with a 25-16 victory over Notts, Lincs and Derbys at Penrith and London Welsh went top of Jewson National League One with a 10-try, 60-7 mauling of Morley.