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'There's no way that is nothing': Pair of Irish Lions clash over unsuccessful captain's challenge regarding alleged foul play

By Liam Heagney

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Friday night’s Rainbow Cup match in Dublin featured the unusual situation of one Ireland Lions pick, Ulster skipper Iain Henderson, left furious that alleged foul play by another 2021 Gatland selection, Leinster centre Robbie Henshaw, went unpunished despite repeated reviews of the video footage by referee Mike Adamson and his TMO Olly Hodges. 


Henderson and Henshaw were two of the eight Irish players chosen last week by the Lions to tour South Africa in July but they were certainly no comrades in arms at the RDS as the Ulster lock used the new Rainbow Cup rule of the captain’s challenge to try and get punishment for what he felt was a high, dangerous tackle by the Leinster back on Robert Baloucoune.

The play was halted on 30 minutes with the score tied at 7-all and a penalty for a different offence coming Ulster’s way. However, Henderson wanted referee Adamson to review a tackle that was deemed to be okay when it happened.  

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In the ground from the vantage point where RugbyPass was watching from, the tackle appeared to be a legitimate, arms wrapped, monster man-and-ball tackle that left the Ulster player on his back with his Leinster opponent lying on him after the juddering collision.

Henderson didn’t agree it was legal. He felt incensed that the tackle wasn’t worthy of a regular TMO review and it led to him invoking the captain’s challenge that ultimately left him furious when it was decided there was no foul play by Henshaw. “There is no way that is nothing,” he said to the referee after he was told there was nothing to see. Here is how the decision unfolded:

REFEREE ADAMSON: It’s a big tackle. Do you have any clear angles of contact to the head? We want to see if there is any clear contact… I’m not seeing the clear contact of shoulder to head. Are you seeing any different? I have got the arm coming up afterwards.


TMO HODGES: I have got a clear wrap and his head makes contact with the white shoulder. There is no contact by the blue player to the head.

ADAMSON: So we are saying there is no clear foul play? So I have got a clear wrap and I’m not seeing any clear contact from the blue shoulder on the white head. Are you seeing the same thing?

HODGES: Right shoulder of blue makes contact with the upper chest and the blue player’s head hits the white player’s shoulder so there is no head contact initiated by blue.

ADAMSON: We don’t have any clear contact from the blue shoulder to the head of the Ulster player, so there is no foul play. We will go back for the original penalty. 


ADAMSON TO HENDERSON: From the replays, we don’t have any clear contact from the shoulder to the head. 

HENDERSON: There is no way that is nothing. That cannot be nothing. It’s such a dangerous tackle on our player. 

ADAMSON: It is upright but we are not seeing any clear contact. We are seeing a bit hit and we are seeing a shoulder to the upper chest.  

With no red card materialising, which would likely have happened had there been contact to the head, Henshaw was instead taken off for a head injury assessment following the incident. He returned just before the interval and then went on to score around the hour mark in a match in which another Lions selection, Jack Conan, came off the bench to score an early second-half try in Leinster’s 21-17 win.


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'There's no way that is nothing': Pair of Irish Lions clash over unsuccessful captain's challenge regarding alleged foul play