Yellow or red
Jamison Gibson-Park's 'tackle' on Kieran Marmion during Leinster's victory over Connacht at the Sportsground once again brought into sharp focus the arbitrary nature of officiating.
Referee Karl Dickson deemed a yellow card sufficient, BT Analyst Ben Kay and commentator Ryle Nugent thought it should have been a red while Brian O'Driscoll suggested that another referee might have opted for the latter colour.
Dickson’s two assistant referees didn’t look overly convinced when he initially adjudicated that it should be a yellow card and following a prolonged debate the English official decided that Gibson-Park had ‘received the contact’ rather than stepping forward and orchestrating the collision.
The undisputed facts of the incident are that the Gibson-Park's shoulder contacted Marmion's face and as a result the Connacht scrumhalf ended up with a damaged/broken nose. Marmion dips a smidgeon as he rides the tackle from Ed Byrne, but Gibson-Park is standing upright when he makes contact.
If there is to be more uniformity in terms officiating this part of the game then a recommendation that any tackler who makes contact with the head/face/neck area of an opponent while upright, even if deemed accidental, loses any right to mitigation. Coaches and players must change the behaviour when it comes to tackle technique if the stated ambition of protecting players is to be upheld.
If there are a few more offloads in the game, then so be it as it will be a reasonable compromise to protect the wellbeing of players.
In the red
It was a case of what might have been for the Ireland Men's team at the Singapore Sevens as they came within a whisker of qualifying for the Cup final. With the clock in the red at the end of the semi-final match, they led New Zealand 19-17, but their opponents won a crucial re-start and created an opportunity which Akuila Rokolisoa finished.
Ireland faced Australia in the third and fourth place playoff but were pipped once again, this time 21-19 with Hugo Lennox, Gavin Mullin and Andrew Smith scoring tries. Earlier in the tournament Ireland enjoyed a victory over Fiji in the pool stages, a first ever for the national side against the double Olympic champions. Terry Kennedy's match winning try was a brilliant solo effort.
It proved a superb tournament for James Topping's new look Ireland squad. Jordan Conroy swapped his dancing shoes for rugby boots with the jet heeled wing crossing for six tries. Conroy, captain Billy Dardis, Harry McNulty and Gavin Mullin also returned having missed two tournaments in Spain to provide quality and experience while there were also some newer faces.
Ireland Under-20 Grand Slam winner Chay Mullins made his debut as did the 24-year-old Matt McDonald. Mullins scored two tries in the pool victory over Japan while another relative newcomer, the six-foot six-inch wing and former Kilkenny schoolboy Tamilore Awonusi also crossed for a brace. Steven Kilgallen is another young player who excelled.
The squad is next in action over the Easter weekend in Vancouver, while the women line out in Langford, Canada, at the end of April.
Ireland squad: Tamilore Awonusi (IQ Rugby), Jordan Conroy (Buccaneers), Billy Dardis (Terenure College, capt), Jack Kelly (Dublin University), Terry Kennedy (St. Mary's College), Steven Kilgallen (UCD), Hugo Lennox (Skerries), Matt McDonald (IQ Rugby), Harry McNulty (UCD), Gavin Mullin (UCD), Chay Mullins (IQ Rugby), Mark Roche (Lansdowne), Andrew Smith (Clontarf/Leinster)
Word of Mouth
“It’s been a long time for me to be back on the series. It’s been a lot of firsts, there’ve been some debutants, our first time in Singapore, first time beating Fiji.” Ireland Sevens player Harry McNulty on his return to the group after a playing sabbatical in the USA.
By the numbers
10,307: The number of supporters that turned up to watch the Exeter Chiefs beat Munster 13-8 at Sandy Park including a typically vociferous cohort from the red army.
Six Nations festival
The inaugural Under-18 Women's Six Nations festival kicked off in Edinburgh on Saturday with Ireland taking on England and France in two 35-minute games. Under the baton of former senior international Katie Fitzhenry, now the IRFU women's performance pathway coach, the Irish side lost 17-12 to the English and 28-0 to a strong French side.
Fitzhenry said: “In general, it has been pretty positive. Like there were obviously exceptional moments that we were really good and had really good clarity in our systems and shape. Then, I think the physicality of the French probably put a bit of fear in us a little, but I think we learnt a lot from that and still kept going so overall it was a good day.”
The Irish team's final game of the festival is a full 70-minute clash with Wales on Wednesday (kick-off 12.0) which can be seen live on the Six Nations YouTube channel, with a streaming link also available on irishrugby.ie.
The Ireland Men's Under-18 Schools team were also in action as part of their Six Nations festival and they lost out narrowly 28-23 to the home side, France at Marcoussis. Ireland led 13-0 at one point through a couple of penalties and a conversion from Jack Murphy and a try from number eight Brian Gleeson but the French took control in the second half and not even a late try from Jacob Sheahan could deny them.