High tackles were at the centre of attention again in round eight of the Gallagher Premiership as cards were, or more importantly, were not handed out.
This is a topic that will always be complicated, and there will never be universal agreement at decisions, but this past weekend was particularly contentious.
Bristol Bears’ loosehead Jordan Lay saw yellow against Leicester Tigers on Saturday for his high shot on Telusa Veainu. Referee JP Doyle conceded that he did try to make a legal tackle, but clipped his head nonetheless, and in this current climate it warranted a card.
There were two incidents after Bristol’s match which have caused more controversy though. The first involved Saracens’ Owen Farrell for his shoulder to the neck of Worcester Warriors winger Tom Howe. The England flyhalf has a reputation for dubious tackles, and this has once again been assigned to the catalogue of hits he has got away with, much to the spleen of fans.
When will rugby referees man up Owen Farrell’s tackle on Tom Howe was right out of th the top draw RED CARD no ifs or buts question why does he get away with it time after time
— Mike Parsons (@MikeP39369411) January 5, 2020
How on earth was that not a red card? Leading with shoulder/no arms/to the head, simple red for me, no mitigating circumstances! Come on refs don't get caught up in the hype of 'oh, it's Owen Farrell' any other player would have been off. https://t.co/ik5TQPSpSe
— Marie Case (@mert198012) January 5, 2020
Hopefully there will be a citing for Farrell and his deliberate shoulder to the Worcester player. No wrap or attempt to use the arms therefore should have been a red card. If any honesty is left in English rugby this will at last be dealt with, as he has previous for this! https://t.co/ulnSjTgkAL
— Douglas Ferns (@ferns_douglas) January 4, 2020
However, while some feel that Farrell receives preferential treatment, Northampton Saints centre Rory Hutchinson was just as lucky in a frenzied match against Wasps on Sunday for a very similar tackle on Charlie Matthews.
I'm gutted about the result, we should have won.
I'm not one for ref bashing but he had an awful game as did the TMO. Didn't want to give the red, didn't want to give the yellow and missed Hutchinson completely. Then at the end they try came from a penalty that in my opinion…
— Alex Lancaster (@Alex90Lan) January 5, 2020
— Chlo (@Chloe20x07) January 5, 2020
Referee Matthew Carley let the Scotland centre off for his tackle as Matthews’ body position had lowered before contact. It was perhaps also helped by the fact that the Saints had just seen Tom Collins receive a red card for taking Jacob Umaga out in the air, and were about to see Cobus Reinach handed a yellow card.
— Rugby Union Round-Up (@RoundRugby) January 5, 2020
Rory Hutchinson is a VERY lucky boy. In the current climate that's surely a red for all money, even allowing for the fact Matthews was, slightly, on the way down. Flat shoulder straight to the head/face. Not sure even Farrell would have got away with that one.
— John Pearce ??????? (@JPearce_JP) January 5, 2020
Farrell and Hutchinson were saved by the fact that they were secondary tacklers on players that were already going to ground, unlike Lay, who was the sole tackler on Veainu. However, given some of the dismissals seen over the past twelve months, no one would have complained if the Englishman or the Scot were sent off, or at least sent to the sin-bin.
There would possibly have been even more uproar if one of the Saracen or Saint was punished and the other one was not, meaning there is a degree of consistency amongst the decisions, albeit what many feel were the wrong decisions.
While there was plenty of confusion during the Rugby World Cup at the liberality in which cards were awarded, that has quickly become the norm and the standard set, and now there is perhaps as much bewilderment at the lack of punishment.
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