THE RFU's disciplinary procedures were called into question after appeals by three players attached to North-East clubs were upheld.

* Tabua Cacacaka, sent off two minutes after taking the field as a replacement for Darlington Mowden Park, had his ban reduced from 32 weeks to seven.

* Blaydon lock Dave Whitehead, sent off for two yellow card offences, had one of them rescinded, which meant his red card was also wiped out.

* Billingham No 8 Cruz Kawa-Kameni had his 12-week ban for butting against Horden reduced to six weeks.

The three clubs had to send representatives to the Leeds/Brighouse Holiday Inn and Blaydon secretary Jim Huxley said: "It costs about £50 to lodge the appeal, plus the cost of sending our Director of Rugby to the hearing.

"Whitehead's dismissal might also have cost us the match at Hull. The video clearly showed that he wasn't guilty of the offence for which he received his first yellow card."

Blaydon led the match against Hull Ionians 16-15 at half-time, then had two tries disallowed before they fell behind and growing frustration saw Whitehead handed his second yellow card for dissent.

Hull's reputation for upsetting opponents was reinforced when another match at their ground resulted in Preston Grasshoppers' Stuart Wilson being banned for four weeks for abuse of the referee.

Blaydon observed that their match at Preston last Saturday was played in an excellent spirit, far removed from what they had experienced at Hull.

Mowden also incurred considerable expense in having Cacacaka's sentence greatly reduced, even though they are unlikely to see him again as he was a temporary signing from Gateshead Thunder.

He asked for their support in fighting the excessive suspension and they agreed to help.

The 32-week ban was based on a touch judge's assertion that he had butted someone, but opponents Macclesfield supported the general view of observers at the match that he had thrown a punch.

l Mowden Park have given much of the credit for their derby win at Darlington on Saturday to the coaching of their forwards by Jason Smithson.

The No 8 made his comeback after injury in a young Newcastle Development XV's 27-17 defeat by Sale at Penrith on Monday.

The side also included Mowden's Ross Batty at prop and he featured in a length-of-the-field try finished off by centre Jack Harrison.

Mathew Tait's brother, Alex, went on off the bench, as did Darlington's Phil Dawson and flanker Ed Williamson, returning after injury.

The Development XV are to play Scotland Under 21s at Percy Park on Monday, January 16 (7pm).

l The winners of the Sunderland v Scarborough fifth round tie, postponed last Saturday, will face a trek to Worcestershire in the last 16 of the Powergen Junior Vase to play Cleobury Mortimer on January 14.

l Manchester United have been warned to watch their backs by Sale chief executive Niels de Vos, who believes fans are becoming disenchanted with football and turning to rugby union as a genuine alternative.

Sale have sold out their Boxing Day Guinness Premiership clash with Northampton in record time and De Vos is convinced that Manchester can no longer be considered just a football city now the rugby revolution at Edgeley Park is gathering pace.

The Sharks yesterday agreed new contracts with Scotland captain Jason White and French hooker Sebastian Bruno