Rugby Union: Zinzan's prayer heededby Rees

Harlequins 11 Bedford 10
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The Independent Online
THERE IS either something in the west London air, or Gareth Rees misinterpreted Zinzan Brooke's pre-match dressing-room talk of scoring three points as the championship reverted to normal, because within 30 seconds of starting his full Harlequins debut he attempted a drop goal.

Alas for a sparse home crowd, he lacked Jannie de Beer's accuracy. But with two minutes of normal time left, he replaced Rob Liley as penalty kicker and secured the win with a 38-yard goal, seconds after Bedford took the lead with a Scott Stewart penalty.

Then the officials took control as nine minutes of stoppage time were played, ending with a penalty to Bedford 35 yards out and definitely kickable. With a much-needed victory within their grasp, they were thwarted by the touch judge who instigated the reversal of the penalty for stamping in a previous ruck.

John Gallagher, Quins' director of rugby and main beneficiary from today's refereeing, reflected: "I sent a video of Mr Hughes to the RFU after our game at Gloucester and I will do it again. It's the only way he can improve. He should not be refereeing first-division rugby."

In the ninth minute a penalty to the left corner was beautifully caught and driven, leaving Pat Sanderson to touch down. But for all Quins' early supremacy, they failed to capitalise and would have been confused that the last kick of the first half could have given Bedford the lead, 10- 8. The first 20 minutes had been spent in Bedford's half, resembling a training exercise of attack against defence.

Bedford's refusal to capitulate should not surprise. If they lack the firepower of most teams, they snipe and scavenge to such effect that if the marketing men demanded a snappier nickname than the "Blues", the "Hyenas" would aptly reflect their fantastic ability to live off scraps.

So when a Will Carling pass went astray in Bedford's half on 33 minutes it was fly-hacked by Ryan O'Neal, picked up by Paul Sackey and returned to O'Neal for a free run to the line. Ultim-ately it was not enough as Rees completed a fairy-tale debut.

Harlequins: R Liley; J Keyter, P Mensah (C Wright, 60), W Carling (capt)(B Gollings, 40; C Ridgway, 66), D O'Leary; G Rees, P Richards (H Harries, 48); J Leonard, T Murphy, P Graham (K Nepia, 43), G Morgan, G Llewellyn, P Sanderson, A Leach, C Sheasby (Z Brooke, 78).

Bedford: R O'Neal; P Sackey, D Harris, R Eriksson, G Truelove; S Stewart, A Gomarsall (capt); A Black, M Kwisiuk, A Olver, C Eagle, R Winters, D Edwards, P Hewitt (F Rossig-neux, 47), R Banks.

Referee: G Hughes.