Anscombe criticises appointment of inexperienced John Lacey as referee

Ulster coach rues concession of 10 points in first seven minutes

Ulster coach Mark Anscombe: “They took the try well but two minutes into the game and we are seven points down.” Photograph: Inpho

Ulster coach Mark Anscombe: “They took the try well but two minutes into the game and we are seven points down.” Photograph: Inpho

Mon, May 27, 2013, 01:44

Mark Anscombe is asked to sum up his first season as Ulster coach. “Enjoyable. Long. Enjoyable. Cold. Wet.” He went on to give Leinster due respect, criticised the decision to appoint John Lacey as referee, praised poor old Robbie Diack and Paddy Jackson before deeming his team equal to the champions.

The only problem was the concession of those 10 points in the opening seven minutes.

After 55 seconds, Diack wrapped himself around Jonathan Sexton while Johann Muller also went to ground. Lacey, a former Munster player, blew for not releasing. Sexton sent a perfect kick down the touchline. The lineout maul was defended but Tom Court was penalised for “side entry”. Sexton kicked to touch again. Cullen took Richardt Strauss’s throw and Jennings was shunted over.

“Discipline, little things. A couple of lazy penalties by us and without playing any rugby they find themselves five minutes from our try-line. They took the try well but two minutes into the game and we are seven points down.”

Jackson didn’t quite banish the ghosts of Twickenham or Murrayfield but he did rip open Leinster’s defence, forcing Lacey to sin-bin Isa Nacewa for a high tackle. “He’s had a hard year, he’s had a tough year, particularly since Christmas. He was thrown into something [Ireland team v Scotland], not by choice, but you are not going to say no to it. We’ve got a lot of faith in Paddy.”

Diack had a terrible day. On 17 minutes he butchered a try before being sin-binned early in the second half. “We got a man in there who has had a great season for us who is hurting like hell. It didn’t cost us the game but he probably feels as though it has. It didn’t.”

Another key moment at 10-0 had Anscombe quietly fuming. John Afoa squeezed two penalties out of Cian Healy, but the third scrum led to a turnover when Isaac Boss grabbed Nick Williams without the ball. Lacey waved play on. “My understanding is when the ball is in the scrum the halfback is not allowed to touch anyone in the scrum. I think Isaac Boss had a pretty good free groping on Nick Williams today.

“I’m not bitching about John Lacey. He’s a promising referee. I just think the showcase of a tournament surely the most experienced referee available should do the job.”