British and Irish Lions 2017: Kyle Sinckler questions scrum penalties as Warren Gatland highlights referee concerns

Sinckler's replacement, Dan Cole, was twice penalised in the scrum that led to the Highlanders securing a late 23-22 victory over the Lions

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The Independent Online

Kyle Sinckler has questioned how referee Angus Gardner decided that the Highlanders had gained a dominance in the scrum that brought the two match-deciding penalties in the 23-22 defeat for the British and Irish Highlanders.

Having controlled the scrum for the majority of the match, Sinckler departed the field along with Joe Marler and Rory Best, with Jack McGrath, Ken Owens and Dan Cole forming a new front-row ahead of the 60-minute mark.

The following two scrums saw Australian Gardner penalise tighthead prop Cole, with French assistant referee Mathieu Raynal calling for Gardner to look out for the England front-row’s “long bind”, and with the two penalties the Highlanders were able to score a converted try through hooker Liam Coltman and a successful penalty kick at goal via the boot of replacement Marty Banks that condemned the Lions to a second defeat on their tour of New Zealand.

“It’s a tricky one but at the end of the day, there are no penalties conceded in the scrum for the whole game but then a whole new front-row comes on and the scrum collapses and the referee gives the penalty straight away,” pondered Sinckler.

“For me as a player it makes no sense, to me as a tight-head prop, it makes no sense. Ultimately that changes the game, as they kick to the corner, they’re in our 22 but it’s about taking your chances and they did that.

“But I just think there’s not much you can do with the penalty in the first scrum of the game where there’s a whole new front-row and there’s a genuine collapse. Normally when you have a whole new front-row on, you give it time – you have whole new combinations who want to come on and prove a point and you let them settle in and the referee ultimately made a decision so we have to get on with it.

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Pushed on the Highlanders packs’ claim that they had gained “dominance” over the Lions tight-forwards, Sinckler responded in a quizzical manner. “How can you have dominance? They didn’t get a penalty the whole game.

“It’s a perception thing. We know we’re going to have our backs against the wall every single game when we’re here and we are going to stick together as a 41-man squad. It just doesn’t make any sense to me, some of the calls.”

The 24-year-old was supported by his head coach, Warren Gatland, who insisted after the match that the first penalty should have gone in the Lions’ favour, and that Cole had been harshly penalised by Gardner, the referee who also took charge of the Lions’ opening match against the New Zealand Provincial Barbarians.

“I look to those two penalties against Dan Cole, and I think the first one's a penalty to us, the loosehead has gone down,” Gatland said. “They've [the officials] seen a different picture.

“There's no doubt they've got some ascendancy in the second scrum penalty and I accept that, but I thought the first one, we'd forced an error.”


The Lions appeared to be frustrated with Angus Gardner's refereeing (Getty)

There appears to be a growing discontent among both the Lions and Super Rugby camps with how the three different referees that have been used in rotation are managing the set-piece area, and Gatland highlighted that it had been a very different story when Frenchmen Pascal Gauzere and Mathieu Raynal took charge of the whistle in their last two matches.

“We've gone from single figure penalties to double figure penalties again,” he added.

“That's eight or nine penalties in that last 10 or 12 minutes and that really hurt us.”