Unsportsmanlike? Eastern Counties RFU investigate Haverhill claims that Bury St Edmunds RUFC fielded national league players

FEELING AGGRIEVED: Haverhills players were left feeling hard done by after facing Bury's third string
FEELING AGGRIEVED: Haverhills players were left feeling hard done by after facing Bury's third string

Eastern Counties Rugby Union is investigating the circumstances of Haverhill & District RFC’s 79-0 defeat to Bury St Edmunds III (Wolves) at the weekend.

The basement side in the Eastern Counties Division One West have accused Bury’s third team of fielding players from their National League second team, after the latter’s fixture in the Zoo Sports Shield Division Two was postponed.

The league’s governing body has confirmed it is investigating, although it is not clear if Bury have breached any competition rules. But Haverhill head coach Steve Bowak has said Bury are guilty of ‘unsportsmanlike’ behaviour if they have made use of better club resources.

He said: “I heard rumours on the day and was told by a number of people that they had second team players on.

“And, if that’s the case, then it’s very poor and unsportsmanlike from them.

“We’re having a tough season but it won’t get easier if any chance of victory is stolen.

“We have developed so much from when we first played — October 7, Haverhill lost 74-9 to Bury St Edmunds — and we were looking forward to showing it, but they completely outclassed us.

“Some of their players were just so much better and the overall scoreline could end up costing us on points difference down the line.

“I’ve also got a number of players who are making a decision about whether or not to carry on, and this isn’t going to help. They have been getting more despondent and a 79-0 score after our hard work could cost us more than a result.”

But Terry Sands, performance director of Bury St Edmunds RUFC, refuted the claims and said the team’s average age on the day was just 19.

“They are quite wrong,” he said. “Some of our junior players were playing that day; some for their first taste of senior rugby.

“That’s what we use the Wolves for, transitioning the youngsters. So it is what it is; we’ve done nothing wrong and we will have to see what Eastern Counties say.”

An Eastern Counties spokesman said: “We can confirm that a complaint has been received.

“The league secretary is currently gathering all the facts of the case, and will not reach a conclusion until all the information has been gathered and all points of view have been heard.”

He explained that Division One, unlike Two and Three, is directly regulated by the England Rugby, rather than the league. But Eastern Counties leagues “require that teams fielded by clubs should be of an appropriate strength.

“Eastern Counties Rugby Union expects that all clubs should operate within the context of the core values of rugby union (teamwork, respect, enjoyment, discipline, sportsmanship).

“We expect all clubs under our jurisdiction to abide by the spirit as well as the letter of the regulations.”

Meanwhile, Bowak confirmed that Haverhill II had been withdrawn from Division 3W by the league, after failing to fulfil the minimum number of fixtures.