As is customary at Welford Road, a chant of "Deano, Deano" rang around the ground but it could just as easily have been replaced by a blast of "Campo, Campo". Brian Campsall is a high-profile, demonstrative referee at the best of times. On Saturday it was the worst of times.
Campsall is a Yorkshireman and, therefore, by definition, dogmatic and he conducted this match with such authority he might have had a baton in his hand rather than a whistle. The maestro gave a virtuoso performance, overshadowing anything achieved by Dean Richards or anybody else.
In effect, Campo was the leading "try scorer", awarding Leicester not one but two penalty tries. "This was always going to be a difficult game to referee," Deano said. Any Irishman present would have recalled the discrepancy between Mr Campsall's performance in Dublin last month and here.
In the final minute at Lansdowne Road Ireland, trailing 16-10 to Scotland, were encamped on the Scottish line and were awarded penalty after penalty at a series of scrums. What they did not get, was a penalty try. At Welford Road, with Leicester leading 18-13, Campsall had no hesitation in giving the home side the benefit of the doubt on two occasions in the space of 23 minutes in the second half.
The first penalty try was for collapsing a scrum, the second for breaking from a scrum. By then Campsall's patience was wearing as thin as the pea in his whistle. He blew for 44 penalties, 22 to each side. "He's one of the better referees in the country," Tony Diprose, the Saracens captain said. "Both sides took the law to extremes." Mark Evans, the Saracens coach, said:"I never criticise referees in public." In private he was sticking pins in Campsall's effigy.
There has been no love lost between the clubs since Saracens stood on the Tigers' tail at Southgate last November, severely denting their prospects of regaining the Courage championship. Leicester, once again relying on their pack, had precious little to offer elsewhere. Graham Shiel joins them next season but it is odd that a club with such clout and backing can be outmanoeuvred by neighbours Northampton who have assembled a back line which is playing a brand of rugby that was once the hallmark of Leicester. It is as odd as Jez Harris keeping Niall Malone on the bench.
Richards said the Tigers were a bit sheepish because of a prolonged break from the game but the prospect of a home quarter-final against Harlequins should have been incentive enough. As for Saracens, they meet Quins in the league next Saturday and need a few victories to ensure that Michael Lynagh is not playing Second Division rugby next season.
Before the end Campsall issued a yellow card to Richard Hill for "persistent infringement", not by Hill himself but from the team as a whole. Campsall's party piece, having awarded a penalty, is to drive the offenders back a further 10 yards for backchat and on Saturday he was in no mood for a "good afternoon, Brian" let alone a "for Christ's sake, ref." He applied the extra 10 yards so often he was in danger of ending up in the stand but the teams still did not get the message. No wonder the Rugby Football Union says it is short of 15,000 referees.
Leicester: Tries penalty tries 2, Harris; Conversions Liley 2; Penalties Liley 7. Saracens: Try Ravenscroft; Conversion Lee; Penalties Lee 3.
Leicester: J Liley; S Hackney, J Overend, P Delaney, R Underwood; J Harris, J Hamilton; G Rowntree, R Cockerill, D Garforth, M Johnson, M Poole, C Tarbuck, D Richards (capt), N Back.
Saracens: M Singer; K Chesney, D Dooley, S Ravenscroft, M Ebongalame; A Lee, P Friel; R Andrews, G Botterman, S Wilson, M Langley, C Yandell, A Diprose(capt), R Hill, A Phillips.
Referee: B Campsall(Yorkshire).Reuse content