Hopes that the top of the table Exeter versus Bristol Gallagher Premiership clash would provide some top-class action on Saturday were hampered by frustrations at the scrum which resulted in referee Karl Dickson brandishing yellow cards to Jake Woolmore and Harry Williams at the same time after his patience snapped, a decision that was criticised on Twitter by England prop Ellis Genge.
Fed up with a series of collapsed scrums, free-kicks and penalties at the set-piece, Dickson called the Bristol loosehead and Exeter tighthead aside on 27:03 having just awarded the Chiefs a penalty after a Bears put-in.
His warning went unheeded, though, as he went on to show yellow cards to Woolmore and Williams on 29:48 following yet another infringement called on that side of the scrum.
It resulted in the pair getting sent to the sin bin and while Williams did return just before the interval to take his place back from replacement Tomas Francis, Woolmore was kept away from the action and Yann Thomas allowed to continue.
The episode unfolded on live TV with the match poised at 7-0 in Bristol’s favour following a try for Harry Randall but the opening half was to finish with teams tied at 7-all as Exeter hit back with a converted try from Jonny Hill when the contest was 14 players against 14.
It ain’t on sending 2 props off , should be able to isolate the incidents from each prop and make decision accordingly.
— Gengey (@EllisGenge) January 9, 2021
BT Sport match commentators Alastair Eykyn and ex-England skipper Lawrence Dallaglio had long since grown tired of the malfunctioning scrum by the time the yellow cards were shown. Here is how they outlined their frustrations, with commentary also from referee Dickson.
Dallaglio: We have got some defensive analysis and if these guys [Woolmore and Williams] keep messing around we’ll bring it to you.
Eykyn: It’s such a mess. Another scrum penalty here for the Chiefs.
Dallaglio: It’s Woolmore again. The Chiefs won’t mind that because it’s a turnover.
Dickson: Just one and three. Your side is causing the issues [Woolmore]. I need you to bring your feet underneath, I need you [Williams] to bring your shoulders up. If we have any more issues that side you will be leaving the field and we’ll get the next guys on to do the job if you can’t do that.
Eykyn: So they have had their stern talking to. Another one.
Within minutes, the packs were scrummaging again and a pre-engagement penalty was called against Kyle Sinckler, resulting in Exeter opting to pack down again at the set-piece.
Dallaglio: It [the scrum] is a battleground, a key battleground. It’s not being allowed to develop at the moment because we are getting penalties and free-kicks. Kyle Sinckler on that occasion pre-engaged and the ball has been turnover over. It was a Bristol put-in, now it’s Chiefs put-in.
Eykyn: Straight down again. The yellow is coming.
Dickson: No1 and 3, off you go, please.
Dallaglio: It’s one way of trying to get around this problem.
With the replacements Thomas and Francis on, Exeter opted to restart with another scrum and the set-piece was completed on that occasion, the ball coming out the back for scrum-half Sam Hidalgo-Clyne to play.
Watching the incident unfold on live TV, England and Leicester loosehead Genge believed the referee had got his decision wrong, thojugh, in yellow-carding a player each from Exeter and Bristol at the same time. “It ain’t on sending two props off,” he tweeted. “Should be able to isolate the incidents from each prop and make a decision accordingly.”
With margins in their last four meetings of just 3??, 3??, 5?? and 2?? points, can Exeter vs Bristol make up for this season's absence of the feisty Exeter vs Saracens rivalry?#GallagherPrem #EXEvBRIhttps://t.co/WOStm4yrbt
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) January 9, 2021
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