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What Exeter made of the yellow-carded Cowan-Dickie England error

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Andy Buchanan/AFP via Getty Images)

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Rob Baxter has claimed that if there was any front-rower he would have backed to catch a crossfield kick it would have been Luke Cowan-Dickie, the England hooker who was yellow-carded for flapping the ball into touch at Murrayfield when under pressure from Darcy Graham.

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The England defence had found itself manipulated in the closing section of the Guinness Six Nations match against Scotland it led to the scenario where Cowan-Dickie had retreated from a ruck and taken up a position as the last defender on the wing who soon found himself having to defend a Finn Russell kick to the corner.    

Flapping the ball into touch resulted in referee Ben O’Keeffe yellow-carding Cowan-Dickie and awarding Scotland the penalty try that pulled them level in the match at 17-all and then they went on to win 20-17 with a follow-up penalty that stemmed from a scrum infringement.

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England had looked set for victory having silenced the Murrayfield crowd with a dominant second-half display that turned a four-point interval deficit into a seven-point lead but they were caught napping by the Cowan-Dickie incident and were unable to recover their momentum. 

Exeter boss Baxter watched the England match unfold from afar as his Gallagher Premiership team had been in action that same afternoon against Wasps at Sandy Park and he had backed Cowan-Dickie to make the when he saw the incident happen. “I’ll be honest, if there is ever a guy in the front row that I thought might have come up with that catch it would be Dickie because he is a good ballplayer,” said Baxter when quizzed by RugbyPass on Wednesday. 

“I bet if you asked him, there is a couple of split seconds in his head there where he doesn’t probably quite know what he has done. He has probably just been a bit reactive in a difficult situation that obviously won’t be commonplace for him, competing for a high ball out wide and it has just been one of those things. 

“It’s not one of those things where I would try and make a coaching point of view of it, particularly because there isn’t one to make. The whole thing has broken down and to end up with him kind of on his own as the last man in defence, other things have gone wrong for that to happen.

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“He has ended up there and he has given it his best shot and then he has made a miscalculation by flapping at the ball. It looks like if he makes an out-and-out attempt to catch it he probably stops the try anyway. That is what he has got to do because if it is a genuine knock-on from really going for the ball that might have stopped the try.

“He himself will shake his head about it and get on with things. That is all you can do. Trying to overanalyse it is almost worthless because there isn’t anything to analyse from it.”

Has Baxter been in touch with Cowan-Dickie since the much-commented yellow card?  “No, I don’t need to because I know he will be fine. If I phoned him he will just go, ‘Yeah, I’m fine, I’ll get on with it, training is okay. It’s alright’. That would be how he would be. He doesn’t need me to give him any kind of advice on what to do in that scenario.”

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