Tuesday 27 September 2016

David Wallace: Why is Nigel Owens only refereeing one of the 15 Six Nations games?

Ospreys loss leaves Foley's men looking over shoulders in race for top four

David Wallace

Published 19/02/2016 | 02:30

Referee Nigel Owens
Referee Nigel Owens

It was a disappointing weekend for Ireland and Munster, and it doesn't get any easier for the Reds away to reigning Pro12 champions Glasgow tonight.

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With a few of the Scottish internationals back in their side, Glasgow are an altogether different proposition, and they weren't that far away with a depleted squad against Ulster in Round 14.

Munster have a lot of work to put in if they want to bounce back from a game they feel they should have won against Ospreys.

It's still difficult to figure out how Ireland managed to lose that game against France last weekend. With all of the chances they had, and the amount of ball they had in the green-zone areas, they should have put France away.

Aggrieved

Ireland definitely have a right to feel aggrieved over the refereeing. Jaco Peyper just wasn't up to the standard on the day, and there were numerous instances that he got things wrong, not just one or two.

It makes you wonder why one of the best referees in the world - Nigel Owens - is only refereeing one of the 15 games of the Six Nations.

The two mistakes that were most highlighted were the terrible tackle on Dave Kearney and cynical late hit on Johnny Sexton. I was absolutely amazed to see both go unpunished during the game.

Joe Schmidt is certainly not the type of coach to make excuses after a game. So when you hear him coming out against the officials, it was obvious Ireland had been wronged.

But the referee didn't cost Ireland the game, they did that to themselves. They needed to be more clinical in the green zone, and you would have to question them not taking points when they were on offer, especially in difficult conditions.

With Ireland 9-3 up at half-time they needed to get a try after the break, but their failings came back to haunt them and they couldn't cross the whitewash.

That's just a single try, against Wales, in their first two games of the championship and Ireland can't expect to be winning more Six Nations titles with that sort of record.

It's hard to understand why they can't convert in the green-zone at the moment, because they have talent. They can turn it on again; they might just be lacking that bit of confidence.

England will be a big test at Twickenham but Ireland have enough in their armoury to win that one. Hopefully they won't have any more injuries, and will be welcoming a few back.

Munster will have lost a bit of confidence after that defeat last weekend too, but similarly they can turn it on. They just need that spark, and unfortunately it never really came against Ospreys.

Instead I thought Ospreys out-half Sam Davies was brilliant again. He can't be too far off a call-up to the Welsh squad, and he showed a great maturity to bring Ospreys back into the game. He converted the type of opportunities that Munster were missing.

When you have an incisive player like that at out-half, and then a returning international in scrum-half Rhys Webb, you can always do damage.

And Glasgow will pose a similar threat tonight.

Munster beat Glasgow 23-21 at Thomond Park earlier in the season but the Scots were able to do damage at the breakdown. I'm sure Anthony Foley will have focused attention on that area this week.

Bunching

Munster need to start racking up the wins now as the season goes into that business ends were defeats are so costly, and the teams are bunching up towards the summit of the Pro12.

That loss last weekend created a bit of gap between Munster and the top four - Munster are seven points behind fourth-placed Scarlets, but have a game in hand. However, a defeat in Glasgow could see the two teams behind them take over sixth spot in the weeks to come.

It's no time for panic, but at the same time Glasgow have a game in hand and are only seven points behind. Ospreys are just three points in arrears. A win would do wonders for confidence, but not only that, it would help to ease the tension a little.

Irish Independent

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