The dubious decisions of referee Mark Lawrence

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.

The Breakdown

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.

14 thoughts on “The dubious decisions of referee Mark Lawrence

  1. @ John
    How about we look at the penalty against Heaslip then… Monye jumped, and while in the air, and in possession of the ball, was tackled by Heaslip. The Irish flanker clearly put his arms out and took Monye from the air. He didn’t attempt to play the ball. He had moved forwards to make the tackle. I don’t know how it could have been a clearer penalty. In fact it was more of a penalty than that ROG conceded in S.A to lose the tour!

    You don’t mention the pulling down claim Hutch makes? Because Ireland tries on more than one occasion to pull the maul down. And the referee simply let it go. This is obviously a contentious point as England were pushing for a score and possible win. There will always be contentious decisions… but the Irish cheating at this particular incident was blatant and the referees failure to see and penalise it directly denied England a scoring opportunity.

  2. With regard to the Care incident, Care came over to O’Leary and grabed him. O’Leary dropped the ball then, and Care proceeded to dump him on the ground. A bit of any over-reaction from Mr. Care which invited a penalty.

    If you want to look at poor calls, may I suggest looking at the two very odd penalties against Bowe and Heaslip for interfering with players in the air. If anyone can justify either penalty, then please do so.

    But my favourite is the penalty on Ferris for not retreating. Care taps and goes from the half-way line – exactly on the half-way line. Ferris then retreats back to the ten metre line and tackles him on the ten metre line. Lawrence gives England a penalty a two metres further inside the Irish half.

    Lawrence is a home town ref. England lost because they never looked like vaguely convincing in attack.

  3. All good points and agree with you on all of them. It should not be used as any kind of excuse for the result though. At the end of the day we just couldn’t take our opportunities and Ireland could. Still, much happier with the performance.

  4. I agree with the Care/O’Leary incident, but technically the driving maul came to a stop with the ball still off the ground. England were asked to use the ball and Ireland counter shoved to move forward. Then the ball when to ground – Ireland put in – correct decision.

    I agree that Lawrence didn’t have one of his better days – but you seemed to have missed a number of doggey/none decisions that should have gone to Ireland, including taking the legs out of an Ireland player while in a maul – dangerous play.

  5. In no way am I making excuses. Ireland deserved their victory and there is no denying that, but it’s interesting to debate these points.

    There were certainly some dodgy decisions in England’s favour as well, and overall it probably balanced itself out, but the article was a response to Johnno’s criticism and to see whether people thought it was fair.

  6. Morgan, Moyne jumped up and caught the ball and while in the air he preceded to put his feet towards Heaslip’s chest, which is the stage when Heaslip put up his hands. That’s not a tackle and I don’t see why Heaslip was penalised for it.

  7. I’ve never been a big fan of Saffer referees anyway. First Andre Watson, then Kaplan and worse still Marius Jonker.

    I have to admit though, Kaplan was actually pretty good on Friday night, but Lawrence brought SA refereeing to a new low for me.

    Just like John and Hutch, I’m not suggesting he changed the outcome of the game. I think England would have lost even if Johnno was refereeing, but Lawrence was not consistent in the way he refereed a number of areas of the game.

    You have to question the wisdom of using so many SH refs in the 6 nations though when not so long ago they were officiating under the ELVs and we have one of the tournaments that didn’t use them in full.

  8. Because the laws of the game do not permit you to tackle/take anyone out in the air. Simple. The ref even said he knew there was no malice in it at the time, but was correct in giving the penalty.

    Everyone has said the poor refereeing didn’t affect the end result. I completely disagree. If O’Leary had been warned for the 2 previous holding onto the ball offences, Care probably have got physical against him, and so the penalty wouldn’t have been overturned and Ireland wouldn’t have had the try scoring opportunity. Care was completely out of order to dump O’Leary, but if the ref had warned O’Leary, that incident would probably never of happened. BOTH teams should of been warned more about being offside and forward passing – most of which was very blantant and Ireland should of had someone sin binned in the dying mins for trying to collapse Englands driving maul several times – it was dangerous, obvious of their intent and is considered a professional penalty (which is a sin bin offence).

    I am not saying that all the decisions went against England, but a lot of key ones did, and ones which DID make an impact on the end result

  9. Breakdown – it is a lottery. Thank the law makers for that one. We just have to do what we can to police it. Not easy.

    Maul – agree. Wondered how he cold conclude that those mauls failed on their own accord.

    Care – not a clever move and for me deserved penalising. Agree it could have been managed a few pens earlier with a warning, but on that one O’Leary was focussing on the ball he had just put in, Lawrence was on other side penalising the far prop and then Care threw O’Leary to the ground. If that becomes OK behaviour, Im jacking it it all in. 9s seem to think they have free reign to push, pull shove etc their oppo without sanction. They need to cut it out.

    Referees will always in every sport have an impact on the result of the game. While there are 3 points for penalty what on earth should we do?

  10. Just to add it into the mix, the Care-O’Leary incident was called by the touch judge rather than Lawrence, so you can’t technically blame him for this one….although we should do anyway!

  11. I don’t really understand why so many Southern Hemisphere refs are used in the 6 Nations either. They rarely use ours in the Tri-Nations. We’re complaining about the inconsistencies in refereeing this season but if we don’t give our refs exposure at the highest, most intense level, they won’t improve. It’s the same for reffing as for playing.

    Re the Care incident, it irritates me when referees overturn decisions on the touch judge’s advice even when they have seen the incident themselves and come to a different conclusion. When was the last time you saw a ref say ‘thanks mate, but I saw it too and I disagree with you, I’m sticking with the original decision’. Always going with the touch judge under these circumstances strikes me as a cop out.

  12. Just to add fuel to the fire, I,m surprised that there weren’t a lot more penalties against England for lazy running, or failing to retire quick enough. Here is the Southern Hemisphere, refs are quick to blow on these offences.

  13. A couple of things stick out to me:

    Funny you should mention the failing to retire, Alan — I thought Ireland were consistently guilty of that, too. Nothing compared to the Welsh against England, though, who were almost South African in their levels of disregard for the laws.

    For every forward pass or offside kick-chaser penalised, there were probably three or four that weren’t. This seems increasingly to be the case — slightly forward passes, like feeding the back row in the scrum, seem increasingly to be accepted…

    … or at least not caught or penalised, which leads to my main point: it seems that increased scrutiny on the rugby pitch hasn’t brought fairer play. Rather, it has just shown players what they can get away with and where, and shown spectators and coaches the extent of the misbehaviour. We have “assistant referees” who are more involved than ever, if only to justify their presence, as in incidents of the type Stuart describes; we have fourth officials consulting the tapes almost every time the ball passes the tryline; we have citing officers pouring over tapes, and often picking up things like Dupuy and Attoub’s disgusting behaviour (did you know that there are at least FIVE Facebook groups dedicated to supporting Dupuy against the raking charges? FIVE!) The result is no doubt that we’re more aware of these things, but clearly it’s not dissuading anyone from gouging, punching, late tackles, high tackles, taking people out in the air or off the ball; it’s not stopping scrum-halves from holding each other back with more and more force at the put-in; it’s not stopping John Hayes from taking down every scrum he can get to in time. What the increased scrutiny HAS done is focus our attention of the failings of the referee — we all think we’re qualified referees now, without ever stopping to think about how one man can police the actions of 30 others, many of whom behave like delinquent teenagers (on steroids) most of the time, without being said to have ANY intrusive effect on the scoreline. What a job. I hope to Bill McLaren above that we don’t go the way of football in terms of the respect shown to these guys.

    Here endeth the lesson!

  14. howzit

    I watched the ‘maul’ incident again and you are delusional. If you watch closely you will see that the Irish defence did nothing wrong. They did not drag down the maul ‘repeatedly’ as touted by a certain Martin Johnson. He has no cause for complaint and needs to resign with a level of dignity intact.

    The Care incident: The whistle blew, then Care immediately grabs O’Leary and ball, then dumps him. Why is this not a reversal. The handbags shoving by Ferris and others is standard protection in a fracas.

    No it is not like South Africa, this is more illusion, fact is England just constantly whinge about every refereee since the year dot.

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