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What Johann van Graan has been saying about the Beno Obano red card

By Liam Heagney
The red-carded Beno Obano rackle on Juarno Augustus (Photo by Steve Bardens/Getty Images)

Bath boss Johann van Graan has insisted he won’t criticise referee Christophe Ridley – even though he believed that the Gallagher Premiership final red card given to Beno Obano wasn’t foul play.


The final against Northampton was just 22 minutes old and tied at three points each when the England loosehead was sent off after his shoulder collided with the head of the ball-carrying Juarno Augustus.

Ridley, who was in charge of his first English league final, reviewed the footage with his assistants and the TMO before deciding to permanently sideline Obano.

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That resulted in van Graan immediately having to sacrifice No8 Alfie Barbeary to have a replacement prop on the field for the remainder of the match.

Things quickly unravelled for Bath as they conceded two tries in the next six minutes but they heroically fought their way back, pulling level at 18-all after 51 minutes courtesy of tries from Thomas du Toit and Will Muir and then going 21-18 ahead via a Finn Russell penalty on 67 minutes.

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However, they were sucker-punched by the converted 73rd-minute Alex Mitchell try that stemmed from a mesmerising break from replacement George Hendy and although they kicked a penalty to touch to set up the last play of the final with the clock turning red, they had the ball ripped by Hendy when the play moved to the other side of the pitch.

It left Bath beaten 25-21 and still looking to be crowned champions of England for the first time since 1996. “We came here to win. We fell four points short. We were alive in this game until the very last play. We didn’t just hang in. We fired shots for the very first minute when we had an opportunity.


“Can’t be prouder of this group but from a belief point of view, we stuck at it until the last play of the game. We as a group have got zero regrets,” exclaimed van Grann before getting into the meat and drink that was the Obano expulsion.

“Look, I’m not going to comment on any laws,” he said when asked if the 20-minute red card, which will soon be trialled in the WXV, Pacific Nations Cup and Junior World Championship, should be a consideration for the Premiership. “That’s way above my pay grade.

“All that I can do is adapt to what decisions are made on the pitch. Obviously, everybody wants the Premiership final with 15 vs 15 on the pitch but I thought Christophe went through the process with the TMO and his assistant referees – and I thought he has been the best ref in the Premiership – and all credit to him and well done on his first final.

“Shook his hand afterwards and we’ll have no issue with the red card decision that was made. Nothing more to say on that really.”


But he soon did. “Yes, I don’t believe that is foul play,” he went on to suggest about the Obano/Augustus coming together. “I believe that is a collision between two extremely powerful rugby players, a ball carrier and a tackler.

“I’m not going to get into the whole red card debate. It’s unfortunate. We had a World Cup final with a captain being red carded and a captain being yellow carded, and a Premiership final with a red card.

“With the decision itself, I have got no issues. I’d love to keep 15 vs 15 on the pitch but, as I said, there is absolutely no reaction from Ben (Spencer) or me or anybody in the group about the red card. That was the referee’s call and we will stick by that. All we focus on is our performance, which was heroic.”

How did Obano react to being the first player sent off in a Premiership final since retired England and Northampton skipper Dylan Hartley was red-carded for something he said to referee Wayne Barne in 2013 versus Leicester?

“Beno is disappointed but we are a circle of men and women at this club, we win together and we lose together and, as I said, incredibly proud of the group that we fought and not only hung in – we believed we could win with the last play of the game.”

On the tactical change that van Graan has to quickly implement following the early red card, the Bath coach explained: “We had to make a change straight away with a prop which leaves a coach with a virtually impossible decision, who do you take off?

“All credit to Alfie. He is one of our best players and we decided to take him off. The way he is aligned with the group was exceptional, exemplary really. At half-time we took our time, we needed to change some plays and some of our defensive systems.

“We have trained for red and yellow cards but this is a Premiership final and again Ben, Finn, Charlie (Ewels), how they led the group and how we adapted real-time, and to the coaches how we adapted half-time, we gave ourselves not only a chance but a game-winning opportunity until the last play of the game. Technically and tactically we grew a lot and we stuck to our plan.

“It makes it very difficult to play with 14 men. What I would say is we, as a group, stuck with our process and we adapted accordingly through the game with an aligned group, an exceptional leadership group on the pitch. We made some tactical decisions at half-time and the end result was just short.

“Special group of players and staff and supporters. We gave it our best shot and, as I said, we didn’t just hang on, we were in the game up until the last play and that is something I am incredibly proud of.

“We spoke about becoming tough to beat and we were certainly tough to beat. Congratulations to Northampton. We have got to mention them. Two very good teams out there today and it was a ding-dong game, the lead changed a few times. Congratulations to them.”


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Simon 15 days ago

Referees are now determining results by being forensic with their analysis of head contact. This is down to World Rugby. In this one, both players had bent their knees with the Bath prop’s target being the chest of the ball carrier. The Northampton carrier was lowering himself into contact in order to try and break the tackle or if not make as many metres after contact as possible. There was head contact but ultimately it was a rugby collision and should not even have been a penalty. Far too often the first thought is red card and not understanding the mechanics of a carry into contact and a dominant tackle.

Jon 16 days ago

I take it the English Premiership is using the mouthguards or is that just a SR trial? He was not required to go off was he, even on the field you could tell it wasn’t much of a knock. He was pleading for a penalty while falling.

I expect WR soon will see the overwhelming data regarding a large portion of cards and make some much needed changes to the head contact protocols.

swivel 16 days ago

What a joke the English are making of rugby ruined the RWC when there was obvious mitigation as well.

Rugby should be more concerned about player safety in this day and age. That players are rewarded for dipping their head into a tackle is pathetic. Penalise the carrier, win win for fans and players.

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Mzilikazi 1 hours ago
Is Ireland versus South Africa a battle for the title of ‘world champions’?

Very good article, Nic, and I find agreement with what you write virtually 100%. I think this two mach series has increasingly become one which will be very difficult for Ireland to win. After the first game of the last 6N, I would have been very full of confidence taking on the Boks in SA. France beaten by a big margin in France, it looked as if Ireland had emerged in fine form from the World Cup, despite the very narrow loss to the AB’s. But after that game, a slide began, ending with the defeat to England. Ireland were very fortunate to win this years 6N ! And as you so fully expose, this has not been a good season for Leinster, or indeed, in my view, for any Irish province. The Leinster loos to the Bulls, and then Munster letting a glorious chance slip to the Glasgow Warriors down at Thomond. Man, that one will really hurt. And both Connacht and Ulster have at times looked very poor this seaso, bith heavily beaten on occassion. The loss of both Gibson Park and Keenan are huge blows, especially Gibson Park. And there is really only one clear class 10 in the touring party, Jack Crowley, and he is still a very young player learning his trade. If he goes down, heaven help Ireland. And in my view, Ireland do not have a good scrummaging front row, SA do, and in great depth too. But despite all this doom and gloom, I always believe my team can win. Not that they will win, just can ! Ireland will still field what is the best and most talented team overall that I have seen in my lifetime. But the coaching group will really have to step up, no awful decisions like the one made against the AB’s in the QF….keeping the totally spent and poorly performing(on the day) Sexton on for the full 80mins, leaving Crowley on the sidelines. Ireland should never have lost that game !

54 Go to comments
Shaylen 3 hours ago
Is Ireland versus South Africa a battle for the title of ‘world champions’?

Ireland have all the tools required to hurt SA. They develop quick ball, hold onto the ball for long periods, stretch the game when its on, have powerful mobile forwards, a good kicking game and they can hold their own in the scrum. They also can force turnovers regularly and in general do well at the breakdown. When Munster, the Ospreys and Glasgow all won games in SA this year against the Bulls and Stormers they did just that and won. It is also the reason why Ireland won the game at the world cup last year. The problem for Ireland is that SA have all the tools required to hurt them as well and hurt them a great deal more than England did in the Six Nations. They are physical and powerful at the set piece, they rush up and counter the Irish attacking system and they can really attack the breakdown and slow your ball down. Their counterattacking threat is also a big weapon and they score many tries from turnover turning defence into offence in a second. Toulouse and the Bulls nailed Leinster in this way and Glasgow did the same thing to Munster. So the series will be really interesting because both sides are so good at countering each other. Interested to see what kind of surprises Tony Brown springs and how the SA game develops. Feel like SA have more potential to surprise Ireland but then a new coaching set up as well as the fact that Japanese and foreign based players tend to take about 5 to 6 weeks to get up to speed might work in Irelands favour. SA have shipped at least one game in 4 of the last 5 June/July test windows going back to 2018 for this exact reason.

54 Go to comments
Flankly 5 hours ago
'Let them keep talking' - Mike Catt claps back over Bok remarks

The comments were reported weirdly. De Allende did say it would be war, but he said it amidst comments like “Ireland play such good footy”, and “they are so good at the breakdown”. He said that the Boks lost heavily to Ireland a few years back and that they felt the Irish press was dismissive of the Boks. I don’t recall that, but I suppose it is true, and that SA players would want to turn around that sentiment. The RWC loss to Ireland would naturally pour fuel on the fire. In short, it is a natural thing for passionate players like him to feel very strongly about the goal of registering a convincing series win against Ireland. There is really nothing to see here. As an aside, the SA team shouldn’t be too self-righteous about this kind of a situation. Recall that in 2004, after SA won the Ireland series in SA, Jake White noted that no more than two Irish players were good enough for selection in his Bok side. "Considering the facts, I think only two of their players would be included in the Bok team - O'Driscoll (centre) and maybe one of the locks. How could we have lost against the Irish?" O’Driscoll disagreed and said that it was close, and Ireland were just tired. My Irish friends were pretty incensed by the comments, quite rightly. And I am sure it was part of the energy that drove them to some famous wins against the Boks. The Etzebeth thing was a little different. I think he was just not hearing what was being said. It is not that unusual for someone to say “We will see you in the final”. Of course it is a statement of confidence, which every team should have, but it is also a compliment. I think there was a cultural fly-by, in which a “see you soon” comment was taken to mean “we will beat you again”. But it was a good story, and a convenient clickbaity headline. I don’t think anyone is intentionally trying to rile up anything. But if you interview a Bok player and prod them about their passion wrt the Ireland tour, you are likely to hear some pretty heartfelt words. And so you should.

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