Jonathan Davies: Lesson in how to ruin a game at the drop of a knee

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The Independent Online

Match officials are supposed to run games, not ruin them. I'm aware that the laws have to be imposed without fear or favour, but when there is a massive doubt whether an offence deserves a red card the decision must bear the state of the game in mind.

Match officials are supposed to run games, not ruin them. I'm aware that the laws have to be imposed without fear or favour, but when there is a massive doubt whether an offence deserves a red card the decision must bear the state of the game in mind.

Simon Shaw's sending-off in Auckland yesterday spoiled the game at a ridiculously early stage and rendered it comparatively meaningless as a test of two fine sides.

Referee Nigel Williams had to take the advice of touch judge Stuart Dickinson, who had a better view of the incident, but the decision reflects well on no one.

Keith Robinson was clearly lying offside at the ruck and had earlier thrown a punch without being pulled up. Shaw used his knee in attempting to get him out of the way. But nobody was hurt and it was, at the most, a yellow-card offence and a penalty kick.

It seems to me that many officials don't have a feel for the game and ignore the context in which it is being played. This was an extremely tense encounter, and an early indication that no nonsense would be taken was necessary. But that decision was so far over the top it was out of sight.

You had to admire England's show of character and grit in making a game of it, yet slowly but surely the handicap of being a man short, and such an important player at that, caught up with them.

And in feeling sorry for England, you have to extend the same sympathy to Shaw, who I'm certain would have made a big contribution to the game. He hasn't had much luck in the past year, and I hope the authorities will consider the sending-off to be more than sufficient punishment and that he doesn't receive any further sanction.

We will never know what would have happened had he stayed on, but England had been awarded a penalty that would have taken the score to 9-0. They had made a much brighter start than in the previous Test, and might have gone from strength to strength.

However, I have to say that, regardless of what their forwards would have achieved, they lacked a cutting edge behind the scrum. They didn't show any creativity and at times looked ponderous - and the fact that they haven't scored a try for two games doesn't bode well.

As well as Charlie Hodgson played, and he did have a good game, they do miss Jonny Wilkinson, while the overall lack of bite obviously had a lot to do with the absence of Jason Robinson. Stuart Abbott looked impressively sharp at inside-centre, but they are definitely missing Will Greenwood.

Nonetheless, there were encouragements. Lawrence Dallaglio had an immense game and is really growing into the captaincy. Andy Gomarsall played very well at scrum-half. He put his heart on the line and coped with the pressure superbly.

But they will bounce back with that big pack of theirs, though they will need more ideas among the backs for the game with Australia. Ben Cohen is not looking fresh. He spends most of his time seeking contact instead of space, even though he is at his best when he is looking for gaps.

New Zealand looked good and eventually made the most of their advantage. They are very crisp, sharp and confident at the back, and they always pose a threat - they always will when they have players like Daniel Carter and Joe Rokocoko in action.

You can see what Graham Henry has done with them. He has given them self-belief. The forwards supply quick ball and they are more organised defensively. They are still a young pack and are looking promising for this early stage in the season.

England don't need to worry too much. They will get the All Blacks back at Twickenham in November, and it will be a different story then. The pack will be hugely dominant and the cutting edge and confidence will be restored again. We will get the game we were robbed of yesterday.

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