Saturday, March 18, 2006

Celtic Referees and Mr Angry

Firstly, a disclaimer. I am writing this post in an exceptionally pissed off mood, and there may be more than the usual amount of ranting here. That's the last apology, though.

Celtic referees and touch judges may be perfectly good rugby union officials. When they are involved in a match that pits England against one of the other home nations, however, I get the feeling that they have an inherent bias against England. This is not universal, by any means - indeed, if you cast your mind back a little, England used to say they would rather have Clive Norling referee a match between England and Wales than a neutral ref. I doubt the same would be said of the officials in today's England-Ireland match.

Firstly, Ireland's first try was never a try. Shane Horgan kicked the ball after it had bounced on the line - therefore in touch, lineout to England. What makes the decision even worse is that the touch judge raised his flag before instantly pulling it down again. Had he done that at my home club, there would have been a near-riot, and justifiably so. He was in the right position to make the call, reacted to make the call, and then bottled the decision.

The referee, Nigel Whitehouse, meanwhile, made a succession of bad decisions. He was right to sin-bin Simon Shaw on one count (he clearly tripped Stringer); but play should never have got that far. At the ruck, the Irish number 6 clearly joined from the England side of the ball to prevent England from winning it; in the moves before that point, there were two forward passes.

Then we get to the second Ireland try. England's lineout was shoddy in the extreme (although I'd question how far the try was legitimate in the first place - to me it looked like Leamy was stretching for the ball first and foremost to prevent Lewis Moody catching it, which isn't allowed under the rules even if you catch up with the ball thereafter). But again, that situation shouldn't have occurred; Ben Cohen's quick lineout was perfectly legitimate.

Throughout the match, the balance of the decisions seemed to work in Ireland's favour. It's a pattern I've noticed across a number of years - that where Celtic refs are involved, the refereeing is more against England than if Southern hemisphere officials are involved (with the notable exception of prize idiot Jonathan Kaplan). And in matches like todays, it stopped England winning the match when, by and large, they deserved to.