Rugby union round-up: Carling returns in triumph

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THE England captain, Will Carling, played his first game since the historic defeat of the All Blacks when he reappeared in a Harlequins shirt for a 33-7 victory over London Irish in Sunbury. Irish have not beaten their local rivals since 1985, but the scoreline did not do them justice because for nearly an hour they stayed within reach of the visitors. Two early penalties from Kent Bray gave Quins an initial advantage but the Exiles flew straight back, pressed on by their captain, Paul Collins. After 18 minutes, Aiden Higgins won a line-out close to the Harlequins line and handed on to the flanker Rory Jenkins, who set up the Fijian international Sam Domoni to score.

The flanker Mark Russell put Quins back in front just before the half-hour, and Irish suffered a double blow within five minutes of the restart. First Collins and then Domoni had to leave the field with injuries and Harlequins exploited the disarray. In the 55th minute a solo effort from the scrum-half Rob Glenister took them beyond the Exiles' reach. Two tries from Darren O'Leary gave the scoreline a distorted look.

West Hartlepool retained their lead at the top of National League Two with a convincing victory at Waterloo. Despite the postponement notices in some newspapers, the game was able to go ahead after the coastal ground thawed early. West revelled in the conditions: Mick Watson, Jonathon Wrigley and Owen Evans ran in tries, while Kevan Oliphant supplied two conversions and a penalty. Steve Swindells restored some respectability for Waterloo with five penalties.

At the other end of League Two Nottingham pulled off a surprise victory 18-12 at Otley. The match was dominated by Nottingham's forwards, superbly organised by the former international Gary Rees. Otley scored the first try but Nottingham soon took control. Andy Furley and Mark Bradley touched down, but it was Guy Gregory, with a conversion, a drop-goal and a 40-metre penalty, who sewed the game up.

Scott Hastings damaged an Achilles tendon playing for Watsonians at Boroughmuir. He is unlikely to be named today in the Scotland squad to play Wales on Saturday.