Best of the Weekend: Late controversy as England hold on to beat South Africa

RG Snyman

Eddie Jones’ England has gone through two grand-slam deciders yet this opening Autumn Internationals test was probably the most significant of the Aussie’s career. The heat was on for him and in a very tense match, England held on for victory.

The game was not without controversy as Owen Farrell, who had been tremendous up to that point, made a shoulder-charge type tackle on Springbok replacement André Esterhuizen with the clock in the red. The TMO decreed that Farrell had attempted to wrap the arm and the referee blew for full-time. While the men in white had failed to score any tries, they certainly did show signs of attacking intent and England’s depleted pack (especially the backrow) definitely stood up. This leaves Jones with a sigh of relief and England co-captain Farrell even more so.

In the other November Internationals, the All Blacks convincingly beat Japan 31-69 with the hosts offering plenty of attacking potential but at the end of the day were never going to beat the World Champions. Dane Coles made a try-scoring return to international rugby and powerhouse Ngani Laumape got a barnstorming hat-trick. Japan showed a lot of spirit from the off with a powerful response to the All Blacks Haka and scored some great tries, and they are not to be taken lightly.

Wales showed promising signs according to head coach Warren Gatland as they beat Scotland 21-10 in the inaugural Doddie Weir Cup. Scotland were inconsistent in defence and winger George North was close to his very best as he scored a try and was rampant across the field.

In a day of three international test matches (two men, one female) at Soldier Field in Chicago the Black Ferns obliterated a very inexperienced US Women side. An experimental Ireland team, who enjoy considerable support in the Irish descended population in Chicago, smashed Italy 54-7 with Jordan Larmour irresistibly good with his hat-trick performance.

The Maori All Blacks convincingly beat the USA in Chicago 59-22, the Eagles missing key men like Paul Lasike, Joe Taufete’e and Captain Blaine Scully because the match was played outside the test window and key flyhalf AJ MacGinty is out for the season. The game was entertaining but it was rife with indiscipline from the Maori with three players sin-binned.

Meanwhile in the Pro14…
Glasgow pulled off a bonus point away victory in Swansea with a hatrick from early-replacement Nikola Matawalu and Edinburgh upset the bookies and the online predictors as they beat Scarlets at Murrayfield with a bonus point, Number 8 Viliame Mata further reinforcing his claim to be world class with another two tries to his name and a powerhouse performance from the Olympic Gold Medalist.

Ulster beat Benetton Treviso 10-15 away in Italy in a game that was certainly an eyesore. Connacht have continued their reasonable Pro14 season with a bonus point win over the Dragons, the Welsh province again looking woeful and an embarrassment to Welsh Rugby.

In another high-scoring affair at Port Elizabeth in the Nelson Mandela Stadium, Leinster beat Southern Kings 31-38 in a match with 11 tries. Despite being ousted, the hosts get another two bonus points but on the whole the Kings still have far to go if they are going to seriously challenge in the Pro14 next year. In the other fixture taking place in South Africa, a late Mike Haley try stole the game for Munster over the Cheetahs as the Irishmen won 26-30.

Welsh rugby and World Rugby legend Gethin Jenkins got the perfect send-off he deserved as Cardiff Blues smash Zebre 37-0. Kiwi Number 8 Nick Williams was once again to the fore, the fact that he hasn’t been an international for either Ireland, Wales or New Zealand is simply incomprehensible. However, the game will be remembered as a Welsh Great’s last, a man who revolutionised the role of a prop, he was a loosehead who didn’t just scrummage he was an awesome at the jackal and scored some memorable tries in his career. Thank you Gethin!

What happened elsewhere?

In the Premiership Rugby Cup, Bristol beat Gloucester to increase their impressive home record from all competitions this season, Saracens drew away at Sale with Joel Kpoku once again impressing. A strong Worcester outift unsurprisingly smashed a developmental Leicester side at Welford Road, 2016/17 champions are already out of contention for the play-offs with zero points from the last two weeks. Exeter beat Bath to claim top spot in their pool, Northampton Saints won a close affair 14-15 at the Ricoh Arena and Demetri Catrakilis missed a match-winning penalty meaning the Falcons won 21-23 over Harlequins at the Twickenham Stoop.

In the Pro14, Toulon returned to winning ways with victory over Perpignan, Racing got a big away win over Montpellier and Toulouse smash Bordeaux to close the gap on leaders Clermont who drew away at Grenoble.

Key Talking Points:
– Was Farrell’s “tackle” a penalty to South Africa?
– Can England topple the All Blacks next Saturday?
– Should Pari Pari Parkinson have been red carded for his body slam tackle on Shaun Davies?
– Should the rules be changed for the Premiership Rugby Cup to prevent teams from fielding first teams?

By Jacob Bassford (add me on Twitter @jacob_bassford and subscribe to my Youtube channel @FlyingG_Sports)

16 thoughts on “Best of the Weekend: Late controversy as England hold on to beat South Africa

  1. If I were setting the laws, I would deem that tackle to be fair, however given the laws are set as they are and given precedent we have seen, I think England got away with one there.

    The speed and size of that collision made it almost impossible to wrap the arms and it wasn’t as if Farrell had his arms down by his side, but I think most other refs or other games would have seen that penalised. Certainly don’t believe a card should have been involved, but it does highlight the inconsistencies we see on a regular basis a the top level of officiating.

    That one tackle aside – I was quite pessimistic going in to the Autumn with regard to our chances against the big SH 3, so am delighted we got one over the line. Once again our ill discipline reared its head, and we can be thankful SA (Marx in particular) let us off the hook with some sloppy play.

    In terms of positives though, thought Shields had a solid game (that spill in the corner aside) as well as Wilson of course, plus Kruis looked back to his best, as going in to this I thought he looked off. Farrell was class again, although I was concerned at the effect losing Brown in the back 3 seemed to have in terms of composure – interesting to see if Jones sticks to his guns or goes back to the more tried and tested formula. Think it’s easy to take for granted having a man who will catch almost all high balls sent his way.

    Looking forward to the NZ game – not sure we can judge them shipping 30 points to Japan given the overall score in the game, I imagine it’ll be a little tighter vs England. Can’t say I’ve seen enough to think we’ll push NZ too close, but it is Twickenham so I’m sure we’ll have our moments too.

    1. Ted, surprised you haven’t had more ‘thumbs ups’ for thoughtful balance & insights. Perhaps you didn’t ‘t come down on Farrell’s side enough. A bit like the position of his arms? Ha, ha. Also interesting to see that you’re almost the only 1 who hasn’t put the boot into Shields. Too early to judge him yet IMO. Never been quite as convinced as you or others about Farrell though. Still has touches of the head case? I’d have Cip @ fly1/2 any day. Farrell for goals @ 12. I’d also go with Brown @ the back, Daly, who had an ok game, @ 13 for creativity. Creativity is also where OF falls down for me. Anyway, I don’t see Jones changing back to MB again for nxt Sat. Wonder if EJ is also looking forward to the w/end? May need to get his picks right.

      1. He does have rushes to the head – but that includes a risky attempt to strip the ball with 1 minute to go and a huge hit that paid off in added time, so I think you have to take the good with the bad – and there’s definitely more good in my opinion!

        I do wonder if the Tuilagi injury could be preventative in the hope he could play this weekend, although that may be my wishful thinking.

        On Shields I was surprised to see some articles criticising him, but I guess everyone is entitled to their opinions! I think he put a lot of good work in and I’d keep the back row as it is for the next game.

        1. Well Ted, if Farrell bases his future game on such ‘huge hits’, good luck. Are you suggesting he goes in similarly v NZ? Do you think Hansen won’t have noted Farrell’s indiscipline & target his ‘rushes to the head’? Fingers xxed!? Dunno about Tui. I think it’ll be all the same to NZ. They may well target him too.. if he plays? I agree. I don’t think Jones will change his team much, if @ all. Injury permitting, he’ll likely field the same b/row. Although EJ may start with Moon up front?

  2. Big plusses from the game were the defence generally, which I was concerned about given it was a new system.

    Kruis, May, Youngs’ kicking game, Farrell, Wilson, Sinkler’s loose play all were big positives. Shields had a mixed bag but made a few big contributions forcing SA errors. Te’o looked off the pace in the first half but was much more solid in the second. No real opportunity for Slade to fire but expect the fluidity to improve as the series goes on.

    I really don’t think Daly is working that well at fullback – he doesn’t seem comfortable under the high ball at all. Has to be in the team though.

    The first half onslaught and inability to get into the other 22 was a big worry, and SA definitely helped us out with some big errors.

    When the game broke up, England looked much more dangerous.

    I wonder, with the pace of Ioane, whether the team will be:

    Moon; Hartley; Sinkler; Itoje; Kruis; Shields; Curry/Underhill; Wilson; Youngs; Farrell; May; Te’o; Slade; Daly; Brown

    Hepburn; George; Williams; Lawes; Mercer; Care; Ford; Nowell

  3. – Was Farrell’s “tackle” a penalty to South Africa?
    No. It has now been looked at by the ref, the TMO and the citing officer. So the only answer is that the tackle was legal.
    That doesn’t however help with the inconsistency in refereeing such situations
    – Can England topple the All Blacks next Saturday?
    No. But I hope we can at least see a close game
    – Should Pari Pari Parkinson have been red carded for his body slam tackle on Shaun Davies?
    No idea. Got a link so we can look
    – Should the rules be changed for the Premiership Rugby Cup to prevent teams from fielding first teams?
    Not as it is. If you want an A team competition then that’s a different thing.

    1. Only point on Farrell being cleared by the citing officer – as I understand it, they only cite for a red card offence, so Farrell not being cleared only means it didn’t warrant a red card (which i think most people are in agreement on). They can issue a ‘warning’ for offences missed are ‘just short’ of a red card offence (guessing that means yellow card), but doubt that includes penalty-only offences – which this was at worst. That said, and struggling to be objective on this, but I think he made enough effort to wrap his arms so right call in my myopic view…

      1. HK. Myopic view? If an AB tackles an England player similarly nxt Sat will you also be so inclined? It was a straight shoulder charge. Yr point about OF’s not being chargeable over a red was interesting though. nevertheless, supporters are trying to justify Farrell’s illegal ‘tackle’. The Oz ref, in collaboration with the TMO, bottled it. If it had been wartime, they’d have been shot! Talk about getting out of jail. Wonder if Farrell will try it again on Sat?

        1. Probably not Don, that’s why I said it was myopic and that I was struggling to be objective.
          This is certainly one where a fair few of us will have to agree to disagree!

          1. Just look @ the law Henry. And don’t interpret it like Pablito. Not a ? of agreeing to disagree. Just read the law about use of arms. Either it was legal, or it was not. The 2 leading rugby writers from the S Times deem it illegal, as per the law. Or you could agree to disagree with them too of course. Staggering sometimes how people can justify the unjustifiable. Ah well, human nature I guess.

            1. Christ Don. Either you are being deliberately obtuse to wind people up or you are just not reading anything that other people have written. Either way it’s bloody irritating.
              As has been pointed out several times to you, there is no law about ‘use of arms’. The law states that an ‘attempt to grasp’ is needed. Obviously what constitutes an ‘attempt’ is entirely subjective and open to interpretation. I, along with the ref, the TMO and many others believe that an ‘attempt’ was made and that subsequent pictures back that belief up.
              You do not believe this which is fine and you are welcome to believe it along with the Times writers (who, I’d point out, you normally disparage)
              What this is not is a black and white situation. If the law stated that the player actually *had* to grasp rather than attempt, you might have a point. As it stands though you do not.

              1. Panlito, but Farrell did NOT attempt to use his arms! You can attempt to justify it all you want, it was an illegal shoulder charge. Perhaps it’s you who haven’t read what I have stated. I don’t particularly rate Farrell as much as others & I believe he has a malicious streak which manifested itself in ‘that’ tackle. On another occasion he will NOT be so lucky. Maybe nxt Sat when NZ will have noted his rashness under pressure? I don’t have a particular axe to grind as it wasn’t my team on the receiving end. However, in the interests of common justice or something approaching fair play, I found Farrell’s action odious. That’s all. We’re not going to agree on this, but if a Kiwi perpetrates a similar tackle on, Heaven forbid, Farrell nxt Sat, what do you think yr reaction will be? The same as it is now? PS I will correct myself nxt time & not forget to disparage the 2 ST hacks! Hopefully with reason.

      2. I thought the same, how could one be cited for a yellow card offence – 10 minutes in the bin to start the game? I think the citing was unnecessary really, there was no question at the time if it was a red card offence.

        1. No contact with the head so no red card Jake. Therefore can’t be cited. No clear attempt to use arms to grasp therefore an illegal tackle. (An attempt being a purposeful effort to achieve an end, not a late afterthought to try and con a referee). Correct decision, clear England penalty. Ref chickened out, as did the TMO.


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