Happy hour for Horan

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The last match Tim Horan had played in this country was as an influential member of Australia's World Cup winning team against France in the final in Cardiff 12 months ago. From immortality to here seems to have taken an eternity.

The last match Tim Horan had played in this country was as an influential member of Australia's World Cup winning team against France in the final in Cardiff 12 months ago. From immortality to here seems to have taken an eternity.

The Tetley's Bitter Cup does not have quite the same sheen as the Webb Ellis Trophy and Goldington Road is not quite as grand a stage as the Millennium Stadium, but Horan was not complaining. Since the World Cup, the great Wallaby centre featured briefly in the Tri-Nations, damaged a foot and, prior to yesterday, has been kicking his heels ever since, although not too aggressively.

Injured and/or ineligible for the Heinenken Cup, in which Saracens are precariously placed after two defeats by Cardiff, any cup will now do for the London club, and the same goes for Horan.

"Five months is a long time to be off and I'm pretty happy with the result," Horan said. "I wasn't trying to do anything special, just get the feel for the game again. If we miss out in Europe we will have to target this competition. My foot is a little bit sore and it probably will be for another couple of months. I only started running in the last two weeks."

After half an hour or so of this fourth-round tie, Horan must have been wondering whether this was the right place or time for a comeback.

The match also marked, albeit briefly, a return to the limelight for Bedford and they began in the most sensational fashion with as smart a try as you could wish to see - and Horan had a hand in it.

Saracens kicked off, Harley Crane, 10 yards from his own line, moved it left to Ben Whetstone whose clearance kick was half charged down by Horan. The ball rebounded into no man's land where the Bedford full-back, Ben Hinshelwood, took a favourable bounce at pace, brilliantly drew the defence and released the left-wing, James Hinkins, with a brilliant pass. Hinkins sprinted in from about 70 yards and the try was timed at 19 seconds.

It got even more embarrassing for Saracens when, in the 12th minute, Bedford kicked to touch and drove over from the line-out, with the prop, John Brooks, gaining the touchdown.

The Blues were 10-0 up and a crowd of 3,000 were going hoarse. It was just like the good old days which, on reflection, were not so good and not so old. It was only at the end of last season that Bedford, one of England's oldest clubs, were beaten by Rotherham and demoted following a two-leg play-off between the bottom club in the Premiership and the champions of the Second Division.

Since then Bedford have undergone a transformation of chameleon-like proportions. The only survivor from last season is Scott Stewart and he was absent yesterday, playing for Canada. He is one of only three full-time professionals at a club that was very nearly sold to Coventry. "We've been to hell and back" said Colin Jackson, the coach, from Dunedin, who has rebuilt the team in four months with a budget of £300,000.

"Some people are missing the visit of household names but we are now in control of our club" David Ledsom, the chairman, said. "We are looking for steady growth rather than last year's frenetic tail chasing of trying to make ends meet. Our long-term aim is to get back in the First Division and anything other than one automatic promotion place would be unfair."

With his second touch of the ball Horan was grounded five yards short but from the subsequent penalty Tony Diprose, the Saracens captain, was driven over for the first of his side's eight tries. However, Bedford sprang another surprise after 22 minutes when Chris Bajk intercepted to score under the posts and for a few glorious minutes Bedford led 17-5.

By half-time Saracens had begun to banish the Blues, surging into the lead with 21 points in eight minutes. Horan got on the score sheet with a simple try in the 51st minute before being replaced seven minutes later, by which time it was mission accomplished for both club and player.

Bedford: B Hinshelwood; C Bajak (J Rudd, 51), B Whetstone (capt), J Shanahan, J Hinkins; M Wallwork, H Crane (R Jackson, 58); J Brooks (T Otte, 62), A Davis, M Skillecorn (P Hennessy, 62), P Clarke (A Sox, 40), R Ward, J Summers, L White (H Whitford, 47; N Sharp, 64), D Browne.

Saracens: B Sparg; D O'Mahony (R Houghton, 75), T Horan (B Johnson, 58), K Sorrell, G Arasa; D McRae, N Walshe (B Hampson, 71); D Flatman (P Wallace, 58), M Cairns, J White, B Davison (S Hooper, 71), D Grewcock, K Chesney (K Roche, 58), T Diprose (capt), T Roques.

Referee: J Barnard (Yorkshire)