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Gatland verdict on Kolbe yellow and what irked him in the 2nd half

By Liam Heagney

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After a week when the first Test post-mortem on the level of refereeing reached extraordinary new heights with Rassie Erasmus’ 62-minute video, Warren Gatland felt it best to limit his take on the contentious first-half yellow card for Cheslin Kolbe and on the refereeing in general following Saturday’s 27-9 defeat for the Lions by the Springboks.

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Commenting on Sky Sports when the 25th-minute incident took place, the Test centurion referee Nigel Owens felt the Springboks winger was in red card trouble after he took Conor Murray out in the air. However, second Test referee Ben O’Keeffe felt the collision only merited a yellow card, leaving Kolbe only heading to a sin bin already occupied by Lions winger Duhan van der Merwe for his cynical 23rd-minute foot-trip on Kolbe.

“I’m not going to comment on the referee’s decisions,” responded Gatland at his virtual post-game Lions media briefing in Cape Town. “We’ll have our meeting with the referee next week and see what the assessors come back with in terms of their decision and then get find out what it was. It didn’t look great from where I was but he decided it was a yellow card decision.”

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The try-less Lions were 9-6 ahead at the break but they fell away in a second half where they were held scoreless and how they lost out on the penalty count by 15-10 will be a source of frustration as well as how the Springboks slowed down the pace of the match.

Last week’s opening Test and the mid-tour game featuring South Africa A had seen the hosts struggle with their conditioning in the second halves but they countered that in this latest second half in Cape Town by preventing the Lions from building tempo and quickening up the play.

“The referee was continually talking to them about trying to speed the game up and keep it moving,” admitted Gatland. “That is something we will probably look at raising next week in terms of how we get some more tempo in the game and that every stoppage isn’t an injury stoppage which we seemed to have, in particular in that second half. It’s difficult to change that. Alun Wyn (Jones) was working with the referee and he was talking to Ben in terms of trying to speed the game up and keep it moving but it was very, very stop-start.”

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Reflecting on a build-up where the refereeing became the dominant narrative, Lions boss Gatland hoped it doesn’t set a precedent for how such matters are handled in future and that there will be no repeat of Erasmus so publicly airing his grievances.

“I hope that doesn’t happen. We have got systems and processes in place and hopefully World Rugby looks at that in terms of making sure everyone follows the protocols and that is important. We do press conferences and try to give you guys some feedback and some information and we deal with the referees through World Rugby and that is the process.

“I just hope we don’t get to a situation where we end up with things on Twitter and people airing their views in that way. I found it quite strange that that approach was taken but it is definitely not something I will get involved in and it is important that we keep the integrity of the game up as much as we possibly can.

“The last thing that we need is a war of words and being accused of doing certain things. It’s amazing how the narrative changed with regard to the TMO. I didn’t make one comment leading up to the game last week on the TMO and yet I was accused of questioning his integrity.

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“That’s the message that they were giving out. We will just keep things to ourselves and go through the proper channels when we deal with the referee, talk to the referee after reviewing the game and then hopefully get some feedback from him and us giving him so feedback as well.”

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Gatland verdict on Kolbe yellow and what irked him in the 2nd half

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