Irish emotions run high over Kaplan's 'unforgivable' decision

Wales 19 Ireland 13
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The Independent Online

It will hardly be a unique scenario for the English, having to travel to Dublin and deal with a burning sense of Irish injustice. Except that any backlash on Saturday may not only be based on any historical grievance, but perhaps also on the belief they were "robbed" in their last match and have a point to prove.

Believe it, the Irish are fuming. "The try that never was" – as it has already been coined – meant only their second defeat in Cardiff in 28 years. It meant the end of their Triple Crown campaign, as well. Yet it definitely did not, in Brian O'Driscoll's opinion, mean the end of their Championship campaign.

"Anybody who thinks we are no-hopers against England need to think again," said the captain. "No one could possibly think like that if they'd ever seen an England-Ireland game, if they knew the history of the two nations, and what this means to the Irish people and the Irish team. There is plenty of rugby left in this side."

O'Driscoll, dare we say, sounded quite Churchillian. There was cold anger in his voice, real anger. Indeed, rarely in the Six Nations has one refereeing decision caused such resentment and led to such outspoken comment.

In short, Jonathan Sexton kicked it out on the full; that ball flew over the hoardings, a nearby ball-boy cleaned another ball; handed it to the Wales captain, Matthew Rees, who, as the line-out was still forming, took a quick throw-in to Mike Phillips who ran 50 yards up the line to score what proved to be the match-winning try.

Rule 19.2 says: "For a quick throw-in, the player must use the ball that went into touch. A quick throw-in is not permitted if another person has touched the ball." It blatantly broke the law on two counts. Different ball, another person. Little wonder, therefore, that O'Driscoll was minded to use some football-interview terms.

"We feel robbed," said O'Driscoll. "It was a complete momentum-changer. Everybody in the stadium knew it had been touched by a ball-boy. And the first ball cleared the fence. We queried it with the referee and he had the option to go to the TMO, but didn't. He just consulted the touch judge and they gave the try. It beggars belief."

O'Driscoll, who called the decision "unforgivable" and said he would be "embarrassed" if he were Kaplan, was wrong in that Kaplan could not go to the video referee, who is only to be used for decisions on the act of scoring. He could only ask his touch judge, Peter Allan, and when the Scot erroneously confirmed it was the same ball the try was awarded.

Understandable? No. Frankly, how either of them missed (a) the first ball going into the crowd or (b) the ball-boy handing another to Rees is baffling. So much for Kaplan's reputation as the finest referee in the world. It will be of absolutely no consolation to Ireland that the South African official was involved in a carbon-copy incident four years ago in a Western Blues match against the Auckland Blues.

On that occasion Ali Williams, the All Black who took the quick throw-in, was accused of bad sportsmanship and it will be interesting to see if Rees is. Yesterday, O'Driscoll simply took issue with the Wales captain telling Kaplan Ireland were "playing negative rugby" in a compelling if messy contest.

"If you want to look at negative rugby look at the last five minutes of the game," said O'Driscoll, who in his ire had forgotten his own milestone in equalling the 78-year-old record of Ian Smith as the Championship's record try-scorer. "It took quite a while for a penalty to be awarded against them for sealing off. I wouldn't say that was the most positive brand of rugby, trying to close off a game with eight minutes to go."

The Welsh were not making excuses for that, or indeed for the controversial try. "It's the luck of the Welsh not the luck of the Irish," said Jamie Roberts. "It's about time something went our way."

Scorers: Wales: Try Phillips. Conversion Hook. Penalties Hook 3, Halfpenny. Ireland: Try B O'Driscoll. Conversion O'Gara. Penalties O'Gara 2.

Wales: L Byrne (Ospreys); L Halfpenny (Blues), J Roberts (Blues), J Davies (Scarlets), S Williams (Ospreys); J Hook (Ospreys), M Phillips (Ospreys); P James (Ospreys), M Rees (Scarlets, capt),C Mitchell (Ospreys), B Davies (Blues), A-W Jones (Ospreys), D Lydiate (Dragons), S Warburton (Blues), R Jones (Ospreys). Replacements: J Yapp (Blues) for Mitchell, 12; J Thomas (Ospreys) for R Jones, 59; R Hibbard (Ospreys) for Rees, 72.

Ireland: L Fitzgerald (Leinster); T Bowe (Ospreys), B O'Driscoll (Leinster, capt), G D'Arcy (Leinster), K Earls (Munster); R O'Gara (Munster), E Reddan (Leinster); C Healy (Leinster), R Best (Ulster), M Ross (Leinster), D O'Callaghan (Munster), P O'Connell (Munster), S O'Brien (Leinster), D Wallace (Munster), J Heaslip (Leinster). Replacements: P Stringer (Munster) for Reddan 1; J Sexton (Leinster) for O'Gara 49; T Court (Ulster) for Ross 69; D Leamy (Munster) for Heaslip 69; P Wallace (Ulster) for Fitzgerald 72; L Cullen (Leinster) for O'Callaghan 75; S Cronin (Connacht) for Best 76.

Referee J Kaplan (South Africa).

The match statistics


Wales 1 Tries Ireland 1

Wales 1/1 Conversions Ireland 1/1

Wales 4/5 Penalties Ireland 2/3

Wales 0/0 Drop goals Ireland 0/0

Phases of play

Wales 0 Scrums won Ireland 3

Wales 0 Scrums lost Ireland 0

Wales 18 Line-outs won Ireland 15

Wales 1 Line-outs lost Ireland 0

Wales 10 Pens conceded Ireland 8

Wales 2 Mauls won Ireland 5

Wales 42 Ruck and drive Ireland 39

Wales 37 Ruck and pass Ireland 57

Team statistics

Wales 132 Passes made Ireland 185

Wales 2 Line breaks Ireland 2

Wales 36 Possession kicked Ire 42

Wales 7 Kicks to touch Ireland 10

Wales 111 Tackles made Ireland 93

Wales 12 Tackles missed Ireland 4

Wales 3 Offloads in tackle Ireland 6

Wales 10 Total errors made Ireland 17

Ball won

Wales 81 In open play Ireland 101

Wales 12 In opponent's 22 Ireland 35

Wales 26 At set-pieces Ireland 28

Wales 2 Turnovers won Ireland 5