Now I know that you shouldn’t look back in anger but anyone watching yesterday’s Gloucester v Saints Aviva Premiership match will understand why I might be glancing over my shoulder with a grimace!
If you don’t want to find out the score: SPOILER ALERT!
This is my 60th blog post and I just so happen to be writing it in none other than the BT Sport studio – live! Yes you read correctly. The show is going on around me as I type.
I’ll have to apologise before I go much further; I’m unlikely to be at my most unbiased during this post. It was a hum dinger of a match and I’ll struggle to hold my figurative tongue!
Short background, Gloucester were bottom of the Aviva Premiership two losses from two and Saints were flying high two wins from two. Nigel Davies’ guys not wanting to continue their worst start in over a decade, Jim Mallinder’s wanting to keep up their sterling performances.
As it turned out, Gloucester stole their first win of the season in spectacular style. A last minute penalty, kicked by Billy Twelvetrees, took the cherry and whites to victory 26-24. The controversy surrounding the match is rife and as a Saints fan, I’ve got to say that I was raging as the final whistle blew. How could the game have turned out as it did?
Why the controversy?
It was closely fought throughout, but the dying moments of the match took the limelight from an otherwise great game. Saints had come back, in (what we thought was) the last minute of the game. It was 23-17 when George North received a fantastic kick and wove his way between a series of failed tackles. An offload from Ben Foden bounced to Callum Clark (although as quick as the play was, it looked at though he had dropped it) who handed the precious cargo (yeh I’m getting all artistic) to winger Jamie Elliot. With a bit of space Elliot trotted between the posts placing the ball over the white wash. Elation for Saints fans across the country. Stephen Myler continued fantastic form with his third successful conversion of the game. 23-24 to Saints… I’m pretty sure that our neighbours thought that someone was being murdered, the amount of screaming going on!
But then it got confusing. From the restart there were at least two Gloucester players way off side – obviously in front of the kicker and right in front of referee Martin Fox! So where you’d expect this to go in Saints’ favour… apparently not and a Gloucester scrum was awarded. On the side line Saints forwards’ coach Dorian West looked like he might just implode. But what was more notable was director of rugby, Jim Mallinder’s reaction. Usually you’ll struggle to get a smile/frown but he was obviously agitated calling for full time.
Back to the scrum, the ball popped out, Lee Dickson acted accordingly going after the loose ball. As it was dragged back into the scrum, Saints’ hearts were broken as referee Fox awarded a penalty to Gloucester. As a rugby fan, I couldn’t believe it. I thought that time would be called at any minute, before Twelvetrees had opportunity to kick the winning points. But it didn’t.
He kicked it perfectly and as an extra three points were added to the home side’s score, the whistle blew and my chin fell to the floor. Both the Smelly Boy and I were indignant and I still can’t quite believe what happened.
The big injustice is that it had been a really great game of rugby, in my opinion reminiscent of old school rugby with plenty of the signature moves that make rugby a game we know and love. Saints’ performance could have undoubtedly been improved, especially discipline in the first half but it seems to have been ruined by the referee’s poor decisions. I know that rugby doesn’t often question the ref but I’m not sure if there’s another way to describe it.
Television Match Officials (TMO) are now at every game which I think is a really positive thing. Refereeing is difficult and often things are missed. There’s a trial to give TMOs more powers. They can bring foul play to the attention of the ref but could their power be extended to include any decision where the referee hasn’t picked up on a key issue?
I know there’s a fine line between ensuring that the correct decision is made and respecting the ref but when the outcome of games is being completely changed due to poor officiating, surely something needs to happen?
Live from BT Sport,