Wasps sensationally refused to play against Sale Sharks at Edgeley Park last night as they claimed the ground was too wet to play – even though both the referee and Sale were more than happy for the game to go ahead.
It is a quirk of rugby's rules that dictates a referee does not become responsible for either side's welfare until the kick-off. That anomaly allowed Wasps to legally take one long look at the sodden but by no means inundated playing field in Stockport and head for the hills.
And an indicator of how much Wasps did not want to play this match can be drawn from the fact six pizzas were delivered to their team bus before the match was actually officially called off at 7.59pm.
It summed up a night of high-farce and left Sale rightfully fuming at the conduct of their opponents – and not for the first time.
Wasps called off a match at Bath in January because of frozen conditions and pulled the same ace from the same sleeve to also do it to sale in February last year.
Referee David Rose confirmed that he has no jurisdiction to make Wasps play the match if they felt conditions were dangerous.
"Wasps did not want to play and at that point my opinion does not count for anything," the official said. I cannot make a team take the field of play.
"If it starts the safety then becomes my concern but before the start I cannot influence either side."
Rose deserves marks for his diplomacy. Sale's winger Mark Cueto does not. "It's an absolute shambles and a total joke," he said. "It's not even that bad, it is a little bit wet but it is a rugby field at the end of the day.
"The referees told us that they called it off because they were not happy with the game but I think it is really bad that a team can just call it off. If one team can do it then what is stopping every team coming up here and saying they don't fancy it. It is a multi-million pound business, and the Guinness Premiership so it is a joke."
"We've come out, we don't think the field's fit to play, and safety is our main concern," Wasps coach Tony Hanks said. "And we don't believe, especially when it comes to scrummaging, that the surface was safe."
*In last night's Premiership games that did survive the conditions, Derrick Hougaard saved Saracens from the embarrassment of a first league defeat of the season against Worcester in another try-less contest at Sixways. The South African fly-half kicked three penalties in nine second half minutes just when Saracens appeared to be heading for a surprise defeat. Elsewhere Northampton defeated Newcastle 28-8, Chris Ashton the star man with three tries for the Saints.Reuse content