Gatland happy the calls went B&I Lions' way
REACTION: British and Irish Lions coach Warren Gatland has said that he is “pleased with the officials” after the tourists secured victory over South Africa in Cape Town.
Dan Biggar’s boot proved the difference as the Lions came from behind to beat world champion Springboks 22-17 in an attritional first Test on Saturday.
Biggar kicked four penalties and a conversion for a 14-point personal tally to take the Lions to victory after they were 3-12 down at half-time, but came back strongly in the second half.
The two teams meet again on the next two Saturdays – July 31 and August 7 – also at the Cape Town Stadium.
Gatland, who in the build-up to the series opener had questioned the appointment of Marius Jonker as TMO, said he thought the officials had a good game.
However, he still had a dig at them, suggesting that the Springbok try – by scrumhalf Francois de Klerk – shouldn’t have been allowed.
De Klerk put the finishing touches on the 50th-minute effort, after there was a suspicion of a knock-on from Pieter-Steph du Toit in the build-up.
The entire build-up to the try was reviewed, but it was ruled to be a legal score.
“We’ve seen an angle on the try they’ve scored where it’s hit Du Toit’s hand, but sometimes you have to live with those decisions,” the B&I Lions coach said.
“Nic Berry refereed really well, he was clear in his instructions with the TMO and I was pleased with the officials.”
Gatland did not offer a view on another contentious incident – when the tourists escaped with only a penalty only, after a second-half tip-tackle by replacement Hamish Watson on fullback Willie le Roux, who later had to leave the field with an injury.
South African coach Jacques Nienaber also opted for the ‘diplomatic’ response when questioned about the perceived lack of consistency by match officials.
The Bok mentor said he had ‘full faith’ in the match officials, despite some close TMO calls.
“I completely trust the officials,” Nienaber said, adding: “That is their jobs, they are the professionals in that field.
“They are in a better position and have many angles to look at.
“Sometimes these calls go against you, as we found out.
“In the second half we had three try scoring opportunities, twice we were called back.
“Those is the small margins in this game.”
* Meanwhile Gatland said a change of tactics helped his team beat the Springboks.
Gatland said that at half-time they knew they were still in the “arm-wrestle” and could win the game.
“I just told the players, let’s be patient and keep our composure, the opportunities will come,” he said.
Crucially, he advised them only to kick at goal from a penalty if it was “an easy three points”.
Otherwise, he said, “Kick for touch and put them under pressure in their 22”.
It was precisely that which led to the Lions’ only try four minutes after the break, with hooker Luke Cowan-Dickie going over after a drive from a line-out.
“The try from the maul was pretty important, then the scrums started to stabilise and we got a bit of dominance there,” said Gatland.
“Once we started to take it through some phases, particularly when we got on the front foot, they conceded a number of penalties.”
Gatland acknowledged that “It was a really tough, tight Test match. The bounce of the ball and a couple of tight calls might have affected the result.”
But he thought the Lions were the better team in the second half. “We got stronger and stronger,” he said. “I thought the last few minutes were excellent.”
Sources: RugbyPass, AFP & AAP