No ban for Pountney

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The Independent Online

The new Scotland captain, Budge Pountney, has escaped a Heineken Cup ban after the Northampton flanker's sending-off against Leinster in Dublin on Friday night was deemed "sufficient punishment" at an after-match disciplinary hearing.

The new Scotland captain, Budge Pountney, has escaped a Heineken Cup ban after the Northampton flanker's sending-off against Leinster in Dublin on Friday night was deemed "sufficient punishment" at an after-match disciplinary hearing.

It did little to ease the pain for the Cup holders, who now cannot retain their title after a 40-31 defeat. The Saints, after losing Pountney, managed to throw away an early lead as Leinster recovered from conceding 18 points inside the opening 19 minutes. The winger Gordon D'Arcy completed a hat-trick of tries while fly-half Eddie Hekenui landed two late penalty goals to secure victory.

The Leinster coach, Matt Williams, said: "Our guys played with tremendous conviction having made a very bad start. Admittedly Northampton's cause was not helped when Pountney was sent off early in the match.But it has come to the point where Irish teams are no longer overawed when up against English or French competition. This was an encouraging win for us, and I have every hope that the team will go on even further."

For the second weekend on the trot, Edinburgh Reivers were left to rue a disappointing first-half display as they crashed 35-27 at home to Biarritz on Friday. A week after giving the French side a half-time lead in the south of France, Reivers again gave themselves too much to do in the second period by going in at the break trailing 22-3.

Despite a spirited fightback, which twice saw them get within five points of Biarritz, Reivers were denied by the old head of Frano Botica. Theformer Wigan rugby league player landed two of his seven penalties in the last quarterto deny Reivers their thirdvictory.

Ulster allowed Toulouse to perform a miraculous escape act and steal both points in a thrilling tie at Ravenhill.

The visitors, though, deserved to exact revenge on the 1999 European champions after they staged the type of comeback which brought Ulster a share of the spoils in last week's 35-35 injury-time draw in France. This time it was Toulouse who kept going to the end, with two late tries securing a 29-25 victory.

Japan's rugby-playing prime minister, Yoshiro Mori, watched as Matthew Burke made an impressive return from injury yesterday, scoring two tries and seven conversions as Australia crushed a Japan President's XV 64-13 at the Prince Chichibu Memorial Rugby Ground in Tokyo.

Burke's haul of 24 points came in his first appearance for the Wallabies since the 1999 World Cup final. The 27-year-old, who has struggled with ankle problems all year, was named on the wing rather than in his normal position of full-back. Australia, leading 14-6 at half-time, ran in 10 tries, with Chris Latham, in the No 15 shirt, scoring three and Jeremy Paul two.

The Wallabies play tests in France, Scotland and England next month, and Australia's coach, Rod Macqueen, described the forthcoming trip as "arguably one of the hardest tours by an Australian side in recent times."

Macqueen said the Wallabies would be without nine members of the 1999 World Cup-winning team due to retirement or injury. "We have a team that we are looking to take us forward to the next World Cup," he added.

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