Rugby Union: Whetstone batters Bedford

BEN WHETSTONE made a happy return to Bedford, the club he left during the summer, to help his new side, London Irish, to a thoroughly predictable 27-8 victory and second place in Allied Dunbar Premiership One. The 29-year-old centre helped himself to two tries while Kieran Campbell supplied the Exiles' other touchdown and Jarrod Cunningham kicked four penalties.

Afterwards, Bedford's bleak horizon was brightened when their spokesman Philip August said they would be staying at Goldington Road at least until the end of the season, thus halting speculation that the owner, John Gurney, was prepared to uproot the club mid-season.

Rob Andrew, the Newcastle director of rugby who retired as a player last week, will be up against his one-time lieutenant and team-mate Dean Ryan when the former England No 8 captains Bristol at Kingston Park this afternoon. Newcastle have again received clearance to field a Scotland World Cup player - the back-row forward Peter Walton - following Doddie Weir's appearance in the defeat at Gloucester two weeks ago. Today's other Premiership One match sees Gloucester visiting Wasps, who lost 16-8 at Sale in their opening fixture.

Another Bedford old boy, Tony Yapp, contributed 16 points as Worcester beat Rotherham 21-10 to open up a two-point lead in Premiership Two. Steve Gough kicked 15 points in a 30-3 thrashing of London Welsh to put Coventry second while Moseley, 19-12 winners at Orrell, are third and Exeter fourth after a 35-25 defeat of Wakefield in which the boot of Sam Howard provided 20 points. Lyndon Griffiths was another kicker on heat with 22 points in Waterloo's 32-10 win over Rugby.

Unbeaten Pontypridd are still top of the Welsh/Scottish Premier Division despite being held 20-20 at home by Neath. But even though their fly-half Lee Jarvis kicked 15 points to bring his tally to 83 in four games, he still missed five kicks within his normal range. Lenny Woodard ran in Ponty's try while Richard Johnson and Shane Williams went over for the visitors with Cerith Rees kicking the remaining points.

Ebbw Vale are second after a 65-25 romp against the bottom club Dunvant. The Williamses, Jonathan and Gareth, crossed twice each while Jason Strange accumulated 18 points and Nickly Lloyd ran in a hat-trick of tries for the visitors. Llanelli later moved level with Ebbw Vale on points with a nine-try, 60-18 demolition of Cardiff at Stradey Park. Byron Hayward, surplus to Wales's World Cup requirements, weighed in with two of them and a total of 25 points. Meanwhile, both sides scored five tries as Caerphilly overturned a 13-point half-time deficit to win a 34-33 thriller away to Bridgend.