Connacht coach calls for referees’ manager after controversial try
As Joey Carbery lined up his conversion, the evidence against the try flashed up on the big screen.
Referee Chris Busby was unmoved, neither of his assistants thought it worthy of a mention and Television Match Official Brian MacNeice kept his counsel.
Earlier, they had deliberated at length before ruling out Mack Hansen’s effort for Connacht; watching repeated replays to ensure they reached the right decision on Tiernan O’Halloran’s marginally forward final pass.
Yet here was a try for the home side that was waved through with little fuss. Andy Friend tried to keep a lid on things for fear of sanction, but the Australian said just enough to suggest at the rage within.
His side were already down to 14 men because of a tough yellow card to Sammy Arnold when Andrew Conway slid in and won the ball on the deck for Munster.
Joey Carbery moved the ball to Rory Scannell who had a huge overlap outside him and decided the best way to exploit it was to dink a left-footed chip in behind the Connacht line. Tadhg Beirne raced on to it and controlled the ball brilliantly with his foot for Chris Cloete to score.
Even in real-time, Beirne’s position looked suspicious. Replays showed he was clearly in front of Scannell when he kicked the ball. The try should not have stood.
Friend couldn’t help but express his frustration, raising the idea that his side do not get close calls from referees.
“I’ve got to be careful, I’ve been here three and a bit years, mate, if it’s a 50-50 I rarely see it going our way,” he said.
“I know that, but listen we’ve got to keep pushing our limits and making sure that we’re trying to be as squeaky clean as we can with things. I’m just . . . to me, that try and the missed offside there – that’s inexcusable.
“Whether it’s Connacht or somebody else, I don’t know, it’s just inexcusable.”
The standard of refereeing has long been an issue for a competition that is able to reinvent itself every couple of years without fixing its nuts and bolts issues. The South African sides have been left baffled by some of the calls made in their games and their coaches have expressed frustration at the lack of communication channels.
It may have a shiny new logo and a brand new format, but the United Rugby Championship (URC) does not have a referees’ manager and so Friend has nowhere to take his complaints this week ahead of his side’s meeting with Ulster on Saturday night.
“It’s a great question, I don’t have the answer,” he said when asked how he could follow up on the issue.
“We don’t have a referees’ manager, so I’m assuming that URC will be looking at that and hopefully something happens to the TMO that missed it. But it doesn’t help us, mate.”
Of course, when he gathers his players in their Sportsground base this morning the Australian won’t allow them write the whole thing off to the officials. Despite that pre-half-time hammer blow, the men from the west went into the last 10 minutes five points ahead thanks to Jack Carty’s opportunistic try. The out-half enjoyed a fine night at Thomond Park, backing up his pre-match comments about his international ambitions with a display that suggested he’s deserving of a recall from Andy Farrell.
He charged down Carbery’s clearing kick, scored and converted but he’ll rue his earlier missed conversion to Paul Boyle’s try. For the forwards, there will be deep regret about the restarts that followed those scores. Ultan Dillane let the first slip through his hands, with Mack Hansen knocking on, while Shane Delahunt got held up by Beirne for the second.
Connacht will work hard to learn their lessons and improve, whereas the frustration amongst the professionals in the teams across the division is that for the officials there is little accountability and less improvement.
“We are getting better as a team, you never stop learning and developing,” Friend said. “It’s never going to be a perfect performance, we know that.
“It’s easy to focus on those little moments that turned it and we will have a look at those with individuals no doubt, but we’ll also zone in on a lot of the good stuff we did, the pressure we caused on the lineout. Some of our strike-plays, some of our kicking was outstanding tonight, some of our defence was brilliant.”
Over on the other side of the house, a relieved Johann van Graan was reaching for the positives after his side’s fourth win of the campaign.
For Carbery, there was a sense of redemption at the death.
Behind a pack that was barely breaking even, the Ireland out-half gave a middling performance and that lax moment in his own ‘22 could have cost his side dear.
Instead, he can reflect on a positive finish in which he held his nerve to kick the winning conversion after Munster’s impressive replacement hooker Diarmuid Barron had powered over from close range. His performance summed up the home side’s night.
“Joey is a world-class player,” Van Graan said. “He’s made one or two errors and has had some big moments. He’s one of our four 10s and we are rotating heavily.
“Last week, we had Ben Healy and Jack (Crowley), and this week we had Joey Carbery and Jake Flannery and we are going to continue to give everybody game-time, specifically in this block.
“The positive thing is he kicked that conversion, not only for him but for the team.”
MUNSTER – M Haley; A Conway, K Earls, R Scannell (D Goggin 57 HIA), S Zebo; J Carbery, C Casey; D Kilcoyne (J Loughman 55), N Scannell (D Barron 55), J Ryan (S Archer 55); J KIeyn (F Wycherley 60), T Beirne; P O’Mahony (capt), C Cloete (J O’Donoghue 68), G Coombes.
CONNACHT – T O’Halloran; J Porch, S Arnold, B Aki, M Hansen; J Carty (capt), C Blade (K Marmion 61); M Burke (G McGrath 74), D Heffernan (S Delahunt 59), F Bealham (J Aungier 64); N Murray, U Dillane (E Masterson 74); C Prendergast (J Butler 47), C Oliver, P Boyle (A Papali’I 59).
REF – C Busby (IRFU)