My social media timelines in the last 48 hours have been awash with memes, GIFS, photos and video evidence that Owen Farrell should be strung up and stoned to within an inch of his life because it is his tackle that cost South Africa the match against England at Twickenham on Saturday.
Add to that, the vile abuse of Angus Gardner the referee, not only by angry fans but also ‘respected’ news outlets starting polls as to whether he should be thrown off the World Rugby elite referee list and it has now turned the match itself into a mere side show.
Let’s start by getting the Elephant out of the room. The tackle itself. For what it’s worth I thought it was a perfectly legal tackle and when you watch it back in real time you realise how quickly it happened and how the impact of the tackle bounced both men backwards. It was risky and if it had been another six inches higher then Farrell would have deservedly been sitting out this week’s blockbuster with New Zealand but it wasn’t, and that is exactly what the officials saw.
World Rugby’s citing commission have decided not to take any further action either so that should have been the end of that.
The problem with modern technology is that slow motion makes everything look worse and a still picture doesn’t give a fair representation as sometimes external factors have led to a player’s body deflecting into a position due to the impact.
The other issue is people can go through footage themselves and start ‘Twitter Wars.’ There is a clip doing the rounds of RG Snyman and Thomas du Toit making contact with George Kruis’ head in a tackle.
It’s not malicious and they aren’t leading with the shoulder as Kruis dips into a tackle but in slow motion it looks worse than it actually is and I haven’t seen one report of Kruis complaining about it and yet again, World Rugby have not deemed it dangerous.
Where will this over analysis of everything by everybody ever end?
World Rugby do need to take better care of players and the tackle area is something that they need to govern more precisely than others.
A few years back that Farrell tackle would have been applauded around the world. Jonny Wilkinson used to tackle like that on a regular basis. It was a way of turning attack into defence or forcing a turnover as Farrell did at Twickenham. As long as the head isn’t hit directly then tackling like this is perfectly safe. If you don’t like the physicality that rugby brings with it then you are probably in the wrong sport.
Rassie Erasmus’ sarcasm after the match was to me more of an indictment on the inconsistency that we see around the way the game is being refereed and interpreted at the moment.
He looked tired of talking about things like this if the truth be told. A look of a rugby man that would like to just talk rugby for a change.
He also knows that Gardner’s last-minute decision didn’t really affect the match as much as his own team’s profligacy with the ball and poor decision making did.
It’s clear that a lot of South African frustration is actually about their team not being out of sight by half-time as they probably should have been given the possession and territory that they had been afforded.
Malcolm Marx butchered two lineouts five metres from the try line when England were down to 14 men. The Springbok insistency of using the driving maul that close to the line has now become quite predictable and England defended the few successful throws very well up to that point by pushing the maul towards the touchline after it had been thrown to the first jumper. This is what will have caused Marx to change and try and fine his man deeper in the lineout.
When a man the size of Maro Itoje is in the sin-bin then a scrum is what you should be taking in that situation. They’d already stolen one against the English head and could have forced a penalty try in that situation.
The handling errors mounted up and slowly but surely England grabbed a foot hole in the game. They were by no means dangerous to the Boks in any way until late on in the game but indiscipline had crept into the South African psyche by this point.
Handre Pollard had also missed a penalty chance that was easier than the one he would have got had Farrell’s tackle been punished but we will never know now whether it would have altered the result.
What we do know is that the men in green should have won this game comfortably and shouldn’t have even needed an 80th minute shot at glory to paper over their cracks in attack.
In the cold light of day and when the replays have all been watched I think the Springbok management and players will see it that way as well.
For Gardner, he can probably sleep easy that the next test match he takes charge of will be Kenya v Germany in Marseille. Not really much chance of a high profile decision in that one I feel.
Do you agree with Andy’s view? Comment below.
Photo Credit: David Roberts via freeforcommercialuse.org