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Harlequins coach Flannery isn't totally happy with cunning Etzebeth try

By Ian Cameron
Shark lock Eben Etzebeth about to successfully foil a Harlequins caterpillar ruck.

Harlequins lineout and defence coach Jerry Flannery has reacted to Eben Etzebeth’s opportunistic try against Harlequins at the Stoop yesterday.

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Quins came away with 39-29 win against the Sharks that sent them into the Heineken Champions Cup knockout phase, but they didn’t have it all their own way in West London.

Just before halftime Etzebeth seized the ball at the base of a ruck under the nose of Danny Care and galloped over from about 40 metres out.

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The South African lock spotted that Marler’s arm had become detached from its bind on Wilco Louw after a counter ruck attempt by Kerron van Vuuren, with only loosehead’s hand left resting on his fellow prop’s back.

Knowing his laws, Etzebeth took the gamble that the referee would agree with him that the ball was now technically out and duly swiped it from a protesting Danny Care, before sprinting in under the posts.

This morning Flannery took to Twitter to give his two cents on the matter and seemed to suggest the referee should have let Harlequins know in advance that the ruck would be referred in this manner.

“Counter ruck to disrupt the caterpillar ruck so the ball becomes exposed, teams must execute the kick quicker, less time to organise kick chase line means more broken field attack, just let us know how it’s going to be officiated beforehand please,” wrote Flannery.

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The former Munster hooker seemed relatively happy with the call other than the allusion to the referee not making it clear the ruck would be refereed in this manner – although the obvious question is how else should an official referee the ruck other than applying the laws of the game?

For neutrals, it was a breath of fresh air to see a caterpillar ruck successfully disrupted. The technique is considered by many to be a plight on the game as it’s near impossible to counter and encourages box kicking.

Even Marler seemed to doff his hat at Etzebeth’s game knowledge, writing on Twitter: “I told you this Geeza knows his onions, one of the best in the business.”

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Funnily enough, the England loosehead had learned his lesson and was far more careful in the second-half to bind accordingly, one incidence causing both him and Etzebeth to break out laughing during the game after Marler pointed to properly bound arm [see below].

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