The Offload: Castres stung by Harlequins controversy

Déjà vu as Connacht are mugged again; Leinster rack up the numbers at The Rec


Castres stung by Harlequins controversy

A controversial ending to Harlequins injury time 36-33 victory over Castres Olympique in the Champions Cup has focused the spotlight squarely on the officiating and in particular referee Mike Adamson along with television match official (TMO), Ireland’s Brian MacNeice.

Castres suffered what in polite circles might be described ‘as the rough edge of the officiating’ especially in the last 10 minutes that included several calls that went against them. But it was a couple of minutes in injury time with the English club trailing 33-29 that will rightfully rankle.

Harlequins were awarded a penalty at a ruck. It should have gone to Castres. Centre Adrea Cocagi legally got his two hands on the ball and lifted before being pulled and falling onto the other side of the ruck; game over. Bizarrely, Adamson awarded a penalty to ‘Quins.

Number eight Alex Dombrandt tapped and barged his way to the line where he appeared to be short in trying to ground the ball and lose control. The on-field decision was ‘no try.’ Adamson went to MacNeice for clarification. Based on the BT Sport pictures the on field decision seemed certain to stand.

The following conversation ensued.

Brian MacNeice (BMcN): “Mike I have a decision for you. So, on that freeze frame you can see that the ball does reach the line. So......”

Mike Adamson (MA): “The ball clearly reaches the line.”

BMcN: “Yes.”

MA: “There is no clear separation because he is carrying it so we see that as a try. He has made the line and there is no clear separation.”

The Scottish official then explains his decision to the Castres captain confirming the try. MacNeice must have had other pictures/angles because based on those offered by BT Sport there was no conclusive proof that a try had been scored and therefore the on-field decision could not be overturned.

It’s a pity that players, coaches, spectators and viewers could not see what MacNeice clearly could to overrule the on-field decision.

Number of the week

1,671 - The number of ‘carry metres’ that Leinster amassed at the Rec, eclipsing the 1,313 metres that they accumulated in attack against Montpellier the previous weekend. Two of the other attacking metrics between the two matches are pretty similar 48 ‘defenders beaten’ (Bath) to 40 (Montpellier) while making 18 ‘initial breaks’ against Bath and 19 against their French opponents the previous weekend.

Quote of the week

“We came into this game really wanting to put a spotlight on what we’ve been talking about over the last few months of being brave in being able to move the ball. And the whole idea of being brave was really important when they were down to 14 men. The fact that we did that was very pleasing.” Ulster coach Dan McFarland talking about attacking intent following the win over Clermont Auvergne.

Déjà vu as Connacht are mugged again

England’s Wayne Barnes presided over a wonderfully entertaining game between Stade Francais and Connacht in Paris. Unfortunately for the Irish province they were mugged for the second time in a week.

Having watched a big lead disappear against the Leicester Tigers en route to a heartbreaking defeat, they succumbed to a case of déjà vu in Paris on Sunday. Connacht led 31-20 with 20-minutes to play, a man up after Stade hooker Tolu Latu got his marching orders, only to lose 37-31.

The Tongan born Australian international was sent off for two yellow card offences, the first a dangerous shoulder into the ribcage of a prone Shane Delahunt. The Connacht hooker never really recovered from the dunt and whatever punishment Latu eventually receives the outcome of his actions at that ruck should be factored in.

It resulted in a try being chalked off too, so his teammates wouldn’t have been pleased if the game had a different outcome.

The second yellow card was for swearing twice while looking at referee Barnes, who had penalised the hooker a ruck, the second bit of invective from the player was “I got the f*cking ball.” It was a petulant reaction and drew the sanction it deserved.

Ben Healy’s kicking masterclass

For those who enjoy a tight spiral when it comes to line-kicking Munster outhalf Ben Healy offered a master-class of pure ball striking at Thomond Park. The modern day preference is for the end over end trajectory but the spiral is making a bit of a comeback.

It wasn’t the only aspect of Healy’s game that was top class, his general play was very good while the chip kick for Simon Zebo’s record breaking 24th try - the wing was Munster’s joint top try scorer in Europe with the late, great Anthony Foley on 23 - was beautifully judged. Zebo scored his 25th late on.

It wasn’t the only try scoring milestone as Jimmy O’Brien became the first Leinster player to score four tries in a match. The 25-year-old left wing’s performance drew praise from his head coach Leo Cullen and it wasn’t just for the try scoring exploits. “Jimmy scored four tries but some of his defensive work too, especially down in the corner here, was phenomenal,” before adding that the wing has taken his game “to the next level.”

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