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Nigel Owens explains why Kolbe should have been red-carded

By Ian Cameron
Nigel Owens (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

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Retired referee Nigel Owens says if he had been overseeing the British & Irish Lions second Test with the Springboks, he would probably have red-carded Cheslin Kolbe.


Kolbe challenged Lions nine Conor Murray in the air, a collision that left Murray falling headfirst into the turf in Cape Town.

Referee Ben O’Keefe felt that following a lengthy TMO review, Murray had landed on his back, although video footage appears to suggested that Murray’s head and shoulder came into the contact with the ground first.

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Matt Dawson on the 1997 Lions:
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Matt Dawson on the 1997 Lions:

O’Keefe ruled the decision a yellow and Kolbe spent 10 minutes on the sidelines.

Gatland said he didn’t want to comment on the incident, although he suggested he wasn’t delighted with the call. “It didn’t look great from where I was but he decided it was a yellow card decision.”

Owens gave his assessment of the incident on Sky Sports and believes Kolbe was lucky to escape with just a yellow.


“You start at red and then you work down on mitigating circumstances,” said Owens. “The only circumstances are whether Biggar and Curry have shielded Murray and affected Kolbe’s line of sight?

“But they do not do that and there is no mitigation here – Kolbe has enough time to change what he is doing. The onus is on Kolbe to be aware of the man in the air.”

“It would have been a clear red depending on the landing – if Murray did not put his leg out and his arm out then he would have landed on his shoulder and his neck and that would have been a straight red. Kolbe is very lucky here.


“I can understand where the yellow came from, but if I was reffing this then I would be thinking more red than yellow, because Murray’s actions have saved Kolbe – and that should not be part of the equation.”


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