Another weekend and another referee decision that has split opinion. Last week’s controversy concerned Munster flanker Peter O’Mahony’s two yellow cards that resulted in no ban at all, this week’s controversy is centred on Exeter Chiefs’ Jonny Hill. 

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The lock was shown a yellow card during the Gallagher Premiership semi-final by referee Luke Pearce for a no-arms clear-out to the back of Bath’s Taulupe Faletau at a ruck. No-arms, undoubtedly, but the area of contact proved to be a grey area. 

Pearce and the television match official Wayne Barnes gave the Exeter incident the attention it deserved, and after careful review agreed that there was no contact to the head by Hill. Subsequently, the 26-year-old was not cited and is available to play in the Heineken Champions Cup final and the Gallagher Premiership final. 

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The debut episode of RugbyPass Offload, starring Dylan Hartley, Simon Zebo, Jamie Roberts and Ryan Wilson

In the ensuing trial by social media, there were who agreed with this decision and many who felt there was clear-cut contact with the head of Faletau. While the brunt of the clear-out was to the Welshman’s back, there are claims that Hill did graze his head with his shoulder. 

The incident is a glimpse into how complex the judicial process is in rugby. Had there been obvious contact with the head or neck with this shoulder charge, anything but a red would have rightfully been inexcusable. While the officials in the Exeter game agreed that Hill did not make contact with the head, there were plenty online that were adamant he did. One action garnering contrasting takes is the problem. 

The controversy surrounding O’Mahony was perhaps less nuanced. The Irishman drove an unnecessary elbow into Jake Ball last week and received a yellow card in the match. Though this was an elbow, not a shoulder, there was a debate that it was more dangerous. 

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O’Mahony did not receive a ban so, from that respect, there was consistency between the two incidents – albeit many feel both players should have been disciplined more severely. 

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