Does Mark Lawrence have a case to answer after his officiating of the game between England and Ireland at Twickenham?
I’m not a big fan of blaming the referee and think that the odd dodgy decision is part of the game, but Lawrence has attracted some criticism and even Martin Johnson has voiced his displeasure.
This appeared to be something of a lottery all afternoon, and from where I was sitting, it was never quite clear which way the decision would go. I cannot claim an objective standpoint (who can?), but it seemed as if Ireland were favoured slightly in this department.
The Care / O’Leary shenanigans
I’m not defending the actions of Danny Care who made more of a situation than he needed to, but this episode really was just handbags. The penalty had been awarded, and O’Leary wouldn’t yield the ball to his opposite number. Granted, Care shouldn’t have slammed him on his back, but if anything, the reaction of Stephen Ferris who came steaming in was worse.
The penalty was reversed harshly, and Ireland put themselves in a position to score, and duly obliged.
That Driving Maul
This was the most bizarre decision. With a couple of minutes to go, England won a lineout and set up a driving maul that steamed towards Ireland’s line. It was pulled down a couple of times, and England did well to get it going again.
Five metres short, it was pulled down again and the ball was irretrievably stuck at the bottom. The referee’s decision: scrum to Ireland. Lawrence must have thought that the maul had stopped and the ball had been held up by Ireland, but that seems a very strange conclusion to reach after such a long drive and two or three penalty offences by Ireland.
As I said, this isn’t an invitation for referee abuse, and generally, I think Lawrence is an excellent referee. But these were crucial moments in a close match, and it’s difficult to argue that they had no bearing on the result.