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'Bottled that': Wayne Barnes leniency over high tackle sparks drama in Premiership final

By Sam Smith
Wayne Barnes Leicester Tigers Saracens

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Leicester Tigers’ last-gasp 15-12 victory over Saracens in the Gallagher Premiership final was a thrilling encounter but a yellow card decision early in the match caused controversy.

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The game was thrown into controversy when Saracens scrum-half Aled Davies was guilty of a direct shoulder to the head of Tigers hooker Julian Montoya in a high tackle in the 25th minute.

With Saracens leading 3-0 at the time, the decision was going to change the course of the final in Leicester’s favour if a red card issued.

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Referee Wayne Barnes, officiating his tenth Premiership final, was reluctant to go with a red and explained that there was not “enough strength” in the tackle despite what looked to be a forceful collision.

Former England international Andy Goode floated a theory that the officials were trying not to heavily influence the game by issuing a red card.

The Tigers were pushed extremely close by the five-time Premiership winners, who were able to draw up proceedings at 12-all to set up a grand stand finish. However, if the red card had been issued it may have been a different story.

With the game on a knife edge, Barnes then inadvertently found himself between Vunipola and the tryline, only to further upset fans.

 

Barnes explained that with both the Davies’ incident and Matt Scott’s yellow at the end of the game, that both tackles started at a yellow because the ball carrier, and not the tackler were dominant.

Barnes, who has refereed a wealth of games at national and international level, broke the all-time Premiership Rugby appearance record for a referee in 2017, while earlier this year he officiated his 250th Gallagher Premiership Rugby match.

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