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Nigel Owens has his say on Jake Ball's unpunished clear-out of Faf de Klerk

By Josh Raisey
(Photo by Getty Images)

Referee Nigel Owens has said that the tackle by Scarlets lock Jake Ball on Sale Sharks’ Faf de Klerk in last Sunday’s Heineken Champions Cup “should be (a) red card”. Owens was responding on social media to the many complaints that Wales second-rower Ball was unpunished despite making contact with the head of de Klerk as the scrum-half was picking the ball up from the base of the ruck. 


The incident was looked at during the round of 16 European match to see whether Ball was offside, but the high shot was strangely overlooked in the Sharks’ 57-14 win. 

While Owens did not explicitly state whether he thought it should have been a red card or not, he responded to those who were insistent on Twitter that contact was made to the head of de Klerk, saying that it should have been a red card if that was the case. Moreover, the Welshman emphasised that the ball being out or not was irrelevant.

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“It doesn’t look good from that angle but would need to see the other angle to see if contact with head and legality of the tackle. Was it not looked at by the officials?” said Owens before adding a second tweet: “If contact with head then it should be RC irrelevant if ball is out or not.”

Owens didn’t necessarily unearth a complex or unknown law in this situation, which is all the more confusing how Ball managed to remain on the pitch. A cursory look on social media shows that the vast majority of fans clearly saw contact to the head of Sale player de Klerk from Ball’s shoulder/arm, with some providing photos and GIFS to make it clearer. 

Some events over the past weekend suggest that there is still room for improvement in terms of officiating, particularly with regards to the use of the television match officials. What made the incident at Llanelli all the more bizarre, however, was how the illegality of the tackle was not noticed when reviewing it for being offside. 

The South African came out of the challenge unscathed and played on, although he could have suffered a head or leg injury, but he was quick to protest to the officials in a game refereed by Mathieu Raynal of France with Philippe Bonhoure as his TMO.  



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