Monday 23 April 2018

They were borderline, but TMO got the big calls right

Rob Kearney challenges Anthony Watson just before Ireland’s first try. Photo: Sportsfile
Rob Kearney challenges Anthony Watson just before Ireland’s first try. Photo: Sportsfile

Jonathan Kaplan

There were three close calls in the first half at Twickenham on Saturday and all of them went in Ireland's favour.

On the face of it you might think that would give England reason to be upset, but having analysed each of them I don't think referee Angus Gardner and TMO Ben Skeen got any of the big decisions wrong.

Referee Angus Gardner speaks to Bundee Aki. Photo: Sportsfile
Referee Angus Gardner speaks to Bundee Aki. Photo: Sportsfile

Possibly the most contentious was the first, when Garry Ringrose touched down after the ball bounced free following an aerial challenge between Anthony Watson and Rob Kearney. England thought the latter had knocked on before his team-mate scored, but Skeen discounted that before correctly ruling the grounding was fine.

I must say I thought Skeen - who I rate as the best TMO in the world - did so a little too quickly, and I would certainly have checked more angles before proceeding to the grounding. However, I have watched it back a dozen times and I cannot say with any certainty there was a knock-on.

To rule out the try there must have been a clear and obvious infringement and I do not believe there was, so the try was right to stand.

There was certainly an infringement when Bundee Aki conceded a penalty for his challenge on Elliot Daly. The Ireland centre tucked his elbow into his ribs as he went in for the tackle, meaning he led with his shoulder. That is something World Rugby are trying to stamp out and another referee may have given Aki a yellow card.

Jacob Stockdale lunges across the line for his try. Photo: Sportsfile
Jacob Stockdale lunges across the line for his try. Photo: Sportsfile

Gardner decided it was just under that threshold, however, ruling it not to be dangerous enough to warrant 10 minutes in the sin-bin.

It is debatable, but as the on-field referee, with a feel for the intensity of what was a huge game, I would not say that was a clear error.

The last of those three big calls was Jacob Stockdale's try, when the ball may have brushed against his hand before hitting his knee and bouncing towards the dead ball line, where he grounded it in the field of play.

This was probably the easiest of the three as there was no obvious evidence that if the ball had hit him it deviated or changed direction. There was no reason to disallow the try, and it was right to let it stand.

So while England may feel hard done-by, I do not believe Gardner got any of those big decisions incorrect. His was not a faultless performance and I would like to think he at least considered awarding England a penalty try when he sin-binned Peter O'Mahony for cynically bringing down a driving maul, but I was impressed overall.

Gardner maybe doesn't have the natural skill-set to be a top-class referee, but through sheer graft and hard work has gone on to be Australia's premier official, and I expect him to take charge of big games at the World Cup.

© Daily Telegraph, London

  • Jonathan Kaplan is a former international referee

Telegraph.co.uk

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