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.
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.
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.
It's all kicking off… https://t.co/e9JBFoZcnV
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) October 9, 2020
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.
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.
It was a completely reckless attempt at a clear out with no arms and shoulder contact with the neck/ head with force. Red card all day. Allowing that type of contact will encourage serious neck injuries at the breakdown. Clueless and gutless not to ban Hill .
— Matthew Lloyd (@Matthew02399807) October 12, 2020
One day when a player has his neck broken with an identical challenge we will all think why didn’t it get sorted.
Going into RWC 2019 high tackles were eliminated and the game became safer.
Same situation here, players adapt quickly?the game evolves ?
— Andrew Allen (@AndAllen) October 12, 2020
The incident was checked multiple times from multiple angles in slow motion by the video refs who decided yellow, so time to move on. Not saying it wasn’t a potentially dangerous tackle but we need to respect the refs.
— Richard Adams (@RichAdams17) October 13, 2020
Whether you agree or not with the decision the ref and TMO went through the process and made their decision based on the footage. Could have been a red but the outcome was yellow.
— Adam White (@Adam_B_White) October 12, 2020
I watched it a number of times and from the apparent same angles that the ref & TMO saw. One angle arguably showed marginal contact with the head first but not ? clear. Marginal call & accept the decision. My beef is that new/current laws put jacklers in very vulnerable position
— PinBath (@PinBath) October 12, 2020
Im going mad then. I was 100% sure I saw contact with the head and I still think there was, but clearly not. It’s odd how something as black and white as was there or wasnt there contact is so devisive.
— brendan (@brendanBWFC) October 12, 2020
Correct decision, careful consideration of many angles by experienced officials. Reaction from pundits and teams on the day seem to agree with refs decision. Hate the trial by video from one angle, that’s why TMO was created.
— Roger Small (@rogersmall666) October 12, 2020
Poor decision. My opinion is that the initial glancing collision is with head, but there we go.
I hope this allows them to clarify the breakdown before a life changing injury occurs. Need to consider use of arms, intent and angles like they do in the tackle area.
— Joni Trôns ?????????????? (@jonitrons) October 12, 2020
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