Premiership refs in the firing line after big Saturday
WRAP: Retired England international Ugo Monye has slammed the standard of big-decision officiating in the Premiership after London Irish were robbed of victory at the death at Harlequins on Saturday.
The bottom-of-the-table Exiles were leading 24-21 when a controversial decision near the halfway line denied them the penalty that would have enabled them to see out the victory.
With time slipping away in a 14-a-side match after each team has shipped a red card, a Harlequins attack from their 22 resulted in Andre Esterhuizen throwing the ball over his head in desperation just when it looked like he was about to be tackled into touch.
Benhard Janse van Rensburg jumped and gathered the ball only for Harlequins’ Charlie Matthews to collide with his opponent in the air, an incident that resulted in the London Irish midfielder landing awkwardly and smacking his head off the ground.
Play on was the immediate verdict from the referee Craig Maxwell-Keys and with Harlequins regaining possession, TMO Claire Hodnett told the official that it had been a fair contest as both players were in the air.
This left the television commentators incredulous that a penalty hadn’t been given to London Irish. Instead, play continued until an intervention by an assistant referee halted the action so that the bloodied van Rensburg, who had rejoined the ongoing play after receiving some brief treatment, could be removed for a HIA.
That meant the game would restart with a Harlequins scrum and after they won a penalty, they elected to kick to the corner rather than go for a game-levelling three points off the tee. That decision worked in their favour as they mauled their way over for the win-clinching try but this outcome upset Moyne, who reviewed the van Rensburg incident in the company of presenter Craig Doyle following an interview with Harlequins boss Tabai Matson.
“Oh gosh, I haven’t seen the video yet,” said Matson, whose team had scored all its 26 points in the second half after trailing 0-14 at the interval.
“We knew it was going to be close. We knew that some of the calls were going to be contentious.
“We watch each other with admiration and they [London Irish] will be gutted that they let that go but ultimately we have got a couple of calls at the end there that gave us an opportunity and we are just so happy we took it in desperation.”
With the camera now going back on Doyle, the presenter said: “The big sigh from Tabai Matson there, he knows they got away it there. Ugo, should Irish have won that game? He [Matson] is never going to answer that one clearly, but it had to be a penalty. How was that not a penalty?”
“I genuinely don’t know, I haven’t got a clue,” shrugged a disbelieving Monye, a 2012 Premiership title winner with Harlequins. “The explanation was that both players had their hands on the ball. Charlie Matthews was nowhere near it. I’m sorry, but if I was London Irish I’d be fuming. You have got van Rensburg who, in my opinion, is in control of the ball. Charlie Matthews doesn’t touch the ball and he tackled van Rensburg, who hits the deck and then had to go off for a HIA.
“When you have multiple angles – and this by the way is not just about this (incident): I don’t want to exaggerate but in big games, you need to get the big decisions right. Harlequins were on the receiving end of a bad decision at Sandy Park with the forward pass which lost them the game, so maybe everything has balanced out.
“But big decisions in the most competitive league where everyone is beating everyone, you have to get them right and I have got to say it’s not just Maxwell-Keys in the middle but as a team of four (match officials), they have got that wrong. London Irish should have won,” added Monye before Doyle then asked: “Why has the TMO not called that in?”
“The TMO has called it in and said it is a fair competition and it is play on,” replied Monye. “Play on? The lad’s gone off for a HIA. Sometimes that can happen and just be a rugby incident. People might call me biased and all the rest of it but I’m saying this as a former Harlequins player, London Irish should have won today!”
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Craig Maxwell-Keys, yikes. No penalty apparently. pic.twitter.com/3a47RBwI62
— Ben Coles (@bencoles_) October 29, 2022
All Saturday’s scores and scorers
Harlequins 26-24 London Irish
Tries: Allan 2, Dombrandt, Head
Cons: Allan 3
For London Irish
Tries: Fa’aso’o, Donnell, Hassell-Collins
Cons: Jackson 3
Harlequins: 15 Nick David, 14 Joe Marchant, 13 Lennox Anyanwu, 12 Andre Esterhuizen, 11 Josh Bassett, 10 Tommy Allan, 9 Danny Care, 8 Alex Dombrandt, 7 Will Evans, 6 Jack Kenningham, 5 Irne Herbst, 4 George Hammond, 3 Wilco Louw, 2 Jack Musk, 1 Joe Marler.
Replacements: 16 George Head, 17 Fin Baxter, 18 Simon Kerrod, 19 Charlie Matthews, 20 Archie White, 21 Lewis Gjaltema, 22 Will Edwards, 23 Oscar Beard.
London Irish: 15 Tom Parton, 14 Ben Loader, 13 Luca Morisi, 12 Benhard van Rensburg, 11 Ollie Hassell-Collins, 10 Paddy Jackson (captain), 9 Caolan Englefield, 8 So’otala Fa’aso’o, 7 Ben Donnell, 6 Josh Basham, 5 Rob Simmons, 4 Chunya Munga, 3 Lovejoy Chawatama, 2 Mike Willemse, 1 Will Goodrick-Clarke.
Replacements: 16 Agustin Creevy, 17 Facundo Gigena, 18 Oliver Hoskins, 19 Api Ratuniyarawa, 20 Juan Martin Gonzalez, 21 Joe Powell, 22 Lucio Cinti, 23 James Stokes.
Referee: Craig Maxwell-Keys
Assistant referees: Matthew Carley, James Clarke
TMO: Claire Hodnett
Northampton Saints 45-31 Bristol Bears
For Northampton Saints
Tries: Mitchell 2, Sleightholme, Salakaia-Loto, Proctor, Grayson
Cons: Smith 5, Grayson
For Bristol Bears
Tries: Thacker 2, Sheedy 2, MacGinty
Cons: Sheedy 2, MacGinty
Northampton: 15 George Hendy, 14 Matt Proctor, 13 Fraser Dingwall (cAPTAIN), 12 Rory Hutchinson, 11 Ollie Sleightholme, 10 Fin Smith, 9 Alex Mitchell, 8 Juarno Augustus, 7 Aaron Hinkley, 6 Sam Graham, 5 Alex Moon, 4 Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, 3 Paul Hill, 2 Mike Haywood, 1 Emmanuel Iyogun.
Replacements: 16 Sam Matavesi, 17 Ethan Waller, 18 Alfie Petch, 19 Brandon Nansen, 20 Angus Scott-Young, 21 Tom James, 22 James Grayson, 23 Tom Collins.
Bristol: 15 Charles Piutau, 14 Luke Morahan, 13 Piers O’Conor, 12 Sam Bedlow, 11 Henry Purdy, 10 Callum Sheedy, 9 Andy Uren, 8 Fitz Harding, 7 Sam Lewis, 6 Magnus Bradbury, 5 Joe Joyce (captain), 4 Joe Batley, 3 Max Lahiff, 2 Harry Thacker, 1 Jake Woolmore.
Replacements: 16 Will Capon, 17 Yann Thomas, 18 Jay Tyack, 19 Chris Vui, 20 Jake Heenan, 21 Will Porter, 22 AJ MacGinty, 23 Jack Bates.
Referee: Hamish Smales
Assistant referees: Greg Macdonald, Phil Watters
TMO: David Rose