Connacht boss Pat Lam fury at referee's call for decisive try in defeat to Leinster
Connacht coach Pat Lam was fuming at the decision to award Leinster's winning try in their 13-0 defeat at the RDS last night as his side completed a miserable festive campaign with a second successive defeat.
Referee George Clancy slipped as Josh van der Flier was reaching for the line in the 60th minute, with his side leading just 3-0 but playing into the teeth of a gale, and although it seemed he had viewed the grounding of the ball, he referred the decision to TMO Marshall Kilgore.
In doing so, he posed the question, "Is there any reason I cannot award the try?" rather than the less ambiguous "try or no try".
Lam felt, not for the first time in the RDS, that his side were hard done by the officials.
"There's two questions to ask - 'try or no try', or 'any reason not to give the try', and the latter is when they're pretty sure they've seen a try. My boys are adamant it was held up," said Lam, whose side slip to third after their fourth loss in five games.
"There were some courageous defence from the team, and a big call, a big call made. We've to live with that, but at 10-0 it's an uphill battle. Definitely it is a harsh decision because what that is saying is that he clearly saw the grounding and if you go back and look at the video he is sliding along the ground.
"So if you clearly see a grounding then that is the protocol, you are just going back to see if there was something beforehand. If the question was 'try or no try?' then that's a different question for the TMO.
"Our players were obviously frustrated because they felt he was short and that they had hands under the ball. That's what we have to live with, but it certainly wasn't conclusive that it was grounded. That's game done there and we have to move on."
Leinster boss Leo Cullen, whose side leapfrog wobbling Connacht to move into second in the Guinness Pro12 standings, naturally had less of an issue with the decisive score of a match played in gusts of howling rain throughout.
"It was definitely a try in my eyes," he smiled, tongue embedded in cheek. "From my vantage point, I thought, 'It's a try!'"
Connacht had won the toss and elected to field, and a 3-0 lead at tea hinted that their decision might have been prudent until regular indiscipline and Leinster's more direct play bested their efforts.
"To turn around 3-0 was a good effort," said Lam.
"Then in the second half obviously we needed to get some field position and we did that, but being able to keep the pressure on is always difficult, particularly when one of the things is you have got to have discipline."
Cullen said his side had a "mountain to climb" in the second half, after emerging with only that slim margin despite a slew of early lineout drives close in.
"It's a lot of grinding, one-out balls and winning collisions," was Cullen's view of his side's second-half resolve. "It wasn't pretty at times but we managed it well."
Eoin Reddan was man of the match after replacing Luke McGrath (foot) late in the day, to complete his second game against former employers in five days and Leinster's control of the half-back positions was key.
Jonathan Sexton shipped a heavy knock but will report to Carton House for tomorrow's Ireland camp in fine fettle, so too the Connacht quartet, led by flanker Ultan Dillane, and including Nathan White, Robbie Henshaw and Kieran Marmion.