It may not be the greatest comeback in sporting history but a Dunedin rugby team are chuffed they played a much closer game yesterday after losing by a huge 137-0 last week.

Last Saturday's sorry match was canned with 10 minutes left on the clock as Zingari Richmond floundered desperately against University A.

Conceding the equivalent of more than 19 converted tries without as much as a single- point response, the referee apparently felt sorry for Zingari Richmond and wanted to put them out of their misery.

Blowing the final whistle after just 70 minutes, the man in charge couldn't watch any more and sent the red-faced group off for an early bath.


Zingari Richmond played Alhambra-Union yesterday and lost by just nine points, with the final score at 41-32.

Zingari club captain Stephen Baughan said there was a good number of supporters and good atmosphere at yesterday's match.

"We've had a lot of players off injured so it's been quite hard but today was a close game," he said afterwards.

"There was not a lot in it. We played a strong game. Alhambra also played really well and in the end they won."

The club wasn't too discouraged by last week's loss, and even had a function last night with a couple of hundred people in attendance.

Mr Baughan said it would be great when more injured players were able to get out on the field again.

Former top test referee, Bob Francis, who two years ago was given a distinguished service gong by rugby's world governing body, said last week's scoreline was extraordinary.

And, he said, it appeared the match officials might have chucked the rule book out the window.

"I suspect that's a first in world rugby," Francis said. "A mercy law definitely doesn't exist. The referee has gone well outside the rule book there."

World Rugby's laws of the game do not say anything about a so-called mercy rule or ending a match in sympathy.

Likewise, expert rugby commentator Keith Quinn couldn't recall a scoreline like it in club rugby either, and neither was he aware of a "mercy rule".

"I don't think it exists in the law book," Quinn said.

"Human nature being what it is, it might have happened before when a referee is sympathetic to a team getting a hiding."

Zingari Richmond has a rich rugby history.

All Blacks who have hailed from the club include Joe McDonnell, Duncan Robertson, Keith Murdoch, Red Conway, Norm Wilson, Rex Orr, Albert Procter, James Baird and Alex Paterson.

Other former notable players include former All Black selector Gordon Hunter, and former Otago Rugby Football Union chief executive John Hornbrook.

Its former coaches include Eric Watson -- a former All Black coach -- and Glenn Moore, current Blues assistant coach and former Highlanders and North Otago coach.