London Welsh, at serious risk of forfeiting their Premiership status for playing the scrum-half Tyson Keats under a false nationality registration, were left dangling on a perilously thin disciplinary thread last night when a Rugby Football Union panel ended a six-hour hearing into the case without reaching a decision.
The Exiles, who fear they will lose some of their hard-earned league points and be left on the brink of relegation, may have to wait until tomorrow to learn of their fate.
Keats, a New Zealander, is said to have played nine early-season games without being correctly registered. It was London Welsh themselves who alerted the governing body to the problem, following the departure from the club of the team manager Mike Scott, who faces a charge of "conduct prejudicial to the interests of the game" and will be dealt with at a separate hearing.
Club officials have stressed that Keats was in no way to blame for the problem that threatens to wreck their season.
Promoted in controversial circumstances last year – their bid was initially rejected by the RFU under minimum criteria rules framed by the Premiership clubs – the Exiles have made a better fist of top-flight rugby than anyone expected, given their huge disadvantages on the financial and recruitment fronts.
But after winning four games in a fine pre-Christmas run, they are now only three points off the bottom with just five matches still left to play. A heavy deduction would almost certainly send them down.