Bore Da. On the Hole It Aint Rite [sic]

When we read the Irish Times’ sport section on Monday, the main thing that jumped out at us was Gerry’s return to full frontal teenage girl gushing over Deccie – Il Duce was not only vindicated by Conor Murray’s selection, but “utterly vindicated“. Little did we know that it was Toland’s analytical and thoughtful deconstruction of some of Nigel Owens refereeing calls that would cause waves – after all, it seemed to be accepted fact that Owens got at least one big call wrong (the wheeled scrum) with significant consequences.

Toland’s article was fairly typical for him – analytical and detailed, always a good read but occasionally confusing, and something you need to concentrate on. It wasn’t a rant or a frothing moan, but quite obviously written from an Irish perspective. It certainly was not worth Nigel Owens getting his two penn’oth in, that’s for sure. But he did, wading in on twitter (on which he is a highly prolific and grammatically wayward participant) and claiming Colonel Liam was “wrong in law” and derided him for being biased and printing “lies“. Lies!!

There was no need for Owens to get involved – he is paid to referee as he sees fit and Toland is paid to write what he sees fit.  It might be frustrating to read articles you consider incorrect, but it’s really part of the job.  There was no personal abuse and no impugning of Owens’ neutrality, just a dry critique. Many moons ago, Romain Poite said to Egg in Bruxelles that he gets abusive communication from fans all the time (quelle surprise!) – you’d imagine all referees do, and it’s something they learn to live with.

Owens’ toy de-pramming had one immediate impact – huge interest in Toland’s original article. As they say in Hollywood, there is no such thing as bad publicity, and the IT and Toland milked it for all it was worth.  Poor delicate little lamb Liam was “disappointed” that Nigel disagreed with him, so much so in fact that he managed to fill a few column inches saying the d-word no less than four times.

Still, it is worth pointing out that the Irish rugby capos (e.g. Deccie and his apostles) roll out the blame-the-ref approach all the time. Axel had been in the setup about 10 minutes when he started the familiar moan after the France game. And faithful junta lapdog, bearded leather legend Gerry, famously blamed the referee or his assistants for results in 4 of Ireland’s 5 2011 Six Nations games and before Leinster’s semi-final in Clermont this season, took the bizarre step of blaming Wayne Barnes for a game that had not even yet been played. It’s tiresome enough for the fans, so it’s easy to imagine the referees get sick of it as well.

It’s also worth highlighting the reaction after Owens’ performance in the Munster-Northampton match earlier this season. In what turned out to be the most permissive piece of refereeing all season (and was a catalyst for mid-season tightening of ruck rules, ultimately to Munster’s detriment against Ulster), Nigel Owens famously allowed sealing off, entering from the side of the ruck and going off your feet in the 41 phases leading up to Radge’s amazing drop goal. The reaction from Gerry?

Nigel Owens, at the centre of yet another taut finish and protracted end game [signalled] Ronan O’Gara had delivered.

That’s consistency alright – it’s no wonder Owens feels he is only getting lambasted because Ireland lost. And what of Gerry’s favourite statistic – the penalty count? Why, that was 11-9 in Ireland’s favour! Maybe not so biased after all then.

Typically, and hilariously, Hugh Farrelly has taken another opportunity to point the blame at the internet for the whole affair, even though Toland’s  piece was published in print meeja – which we all know is inherently better than the ‘underpants brigade’  anyway.  Now to order some takeaway and sit in a darkened room…

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  1. Amiga500

     /  June 20, 2012

    This weeks performance will go a long way to tell us how good this team are and how good this management is.

    • Amiga500

       /  June 20, 2012

      I speeke the good england. Should of course have been “how good this team is”.

  2. Cena2j

     /  June 20, 2012

    REFGATE! Was there a meeting between Hansen and Owens in a hotel before the match? Is Liam Toland a modern day deepthroat? is the deepthroat reference even from Wategate?
    If we do the improbable and beat NZ on Saturday and Thornley has a Kidney-gasm all will be forgotten and forgiven and Kidney will get to stay on until the next world cup. I don’t think Kidney got the players to perform on Saturday I think they did it themselves I think thats what they do when they get spanked, and get frustrated they probably stop listening to Kidney’s rhetoric and the senior players take the bull by the horns and get the team firing. I think thats how they won the GS in 09. Maybe I’m totally wrong and Kidney is a coach who just gets it right 50% of the time. see record at Leinster before you bring up the 2 HC at Munster

    • HenryFitz

       /  June 20, 2012

      Do you mean Leinster’s No.1 seeding from the pools before he, Jennings and Cullen jumped ship in the run-up to the QF?

      Kidney’s successes were not accidental. He is a clever selector, a decent man-manager and a good motivator. His weaknesses as a coach are tactical and technical. He is a reactive strategist with little flair for innovation. He remains a good man to analyse a defeat and fix the evident problems, but he lacks the imagination to anticipate them or to fix them in situ. He has also become a mite too predictable as time has gone on.

    • @Cena2j – I don’t think you can have it both ways and give all the credit to the players when they win and hang it all on Kidney when they lose. Fair’s fair. Kidney has his flaws, and we are generally critical of his recent results and the team’s performances but his record up to the end of 2009 stands up to scrutiny.

      @HenryFitz – coming out top of the pool as top seed counts for diddly squat if you go out in the next round.

      • Cena2j

         /  June 20, 2012

        A fair point and I probably am wrong about the players getting credit. But there has to be something behind the lack of consistency in terms of the performances. if it was player power then it would leak to the meeja. It’s mind boggling how we can go from getting spanked one week by the champs and then go toe to toe with them another. we’ll know at about 10:30 on Saturday where we stand

  3. Degsy

     /  June 20, 2012

    I’d disagree with the notion that underpins this article. Other nations are at least as bad as Ireland and in many cases much worse when it comes to blaming the ref for their woes. Look at Wales in RWC2011 and NZ in RWC2007 for example. Read the non-Irish papers for stuff that is worse than Thornley. Indeed I’d suggest that Kidney and co have been very restrained when it comes to their reaction to some of the abysmal refereeing the team has suffered. For example there was little reaction to the Welsh game earlier this year. When Axel made his remarks, really they were long overdue when you look at what other nations have been doing for a long time.

    • HenryFitz

       /  June 20, 2012

      Agreed. Foley made the remarks on the back of two years in a row of Dave Pearson failing to apply the same laws to France as to Ireland. There was no recrimination after either Welsh defeat in 2011 or 2012, where the errors were more forgivable and the Irish team’s performances had been poor. Contrast that with Gatland’s post-match whining about Rolland’s decision in the WC.

      In the games against France and NZ, the performances were good, but were undermined by questionable refereeing. To their credit, there has been little complaint from the Irish management or players, though they must have been bitterly disappointed at the way the game was taken out of their hands through no fault of their own.

      • Foley was only in the set-up a wet week – he had nothing to do with the previous loss to France. The Irish management have been effectively at loggerheads with officialdom for about two seasons now. It’s a dangerous game to play. The media are only too happy to back him up. I really don’t think we can say Ireland have been on the end of ‘abysmal’ refereeing more than anyone else. Everyone has decisions go for and against them that can be perceived as dubious – that’s rugby for you.

        Warren Gatland’s behaviour after the World Cup semi-final was disgraceful. I don’t think that’s anything to aspire to, and we said as much at the time. Perhaps other nations complain just as much as we do, but that doesn’t justify it.

    • A lot of the evidence for the idea that Ireland get a bad deal from the refereeing fraternity is based around the fact that we give away more penalties than we get awarded – Gerry frequently brings up the penalty count, seemingly under the illusion that it is the referees job to make it equal.

      The reality is that, for 2 years our discipline has been appalling – we continually give away dumb penalties of a similar nature. And a lot of the offenders are serial penalty conceders. Some of them are younger (e.g. Healy and SOB) and will improve (and have improved) as they get more experience and are worth persisting with, but some aren’t.

      In New Zealand or South Africa, if you give away 2 dumb penalties in a game, you’ll do well not to be dropped. We have a smaller playing pool admittedly, but if the management leave in players who give away cheap points, they have only themselves to blame when the behaviour continues.

  4. P White

     /  June 21, 2012

    Firstly, from a scum nerds perspective, the penalty to New Zealand for wheeling was a complete and utter farce. It is more evidence that we need specific scrum referees in a game. Owens clearly did not have a clue what was going on. Healy and Franks had a clean hit and then Healy decimates him legally. Healy gets a big push on and drives though Franks with Cane getting out of dodge. Does Owens think Mike Ross was moving backwards and dragging the loosehead on the other side?? Why the f*ck would Ireland wheel a scrum when they had been massively on top in the area for the previous 20 minutes, had field position and had an extra man???? It makes no sense. You cannot tell without being in the scrum but i would guess that it is Franks that causes the scrum to wheel around on his way backwards. Healy just keeps driving at him in the attempt to win a turnover. Technically, it should have been a re-set with the put in to Ireland as the scrum went 90 degrees but an Irish penalty would have been a reasonable call.

    Secondly, we need to stop blaming this decision for losing the game. If Owens had made this call in the 12th minute, there would be no discussion about it (which is unfortunate, we need to start getting scrum decisions correct through the 80 minutes). Also, if you watch the full game again, Owens was more than fair to us. For a guy with a reputation as a home town ref, he called the game slightly in our favour for 75 minutes.

  5. P White

     /  June 22, 2012

    Great post over on the Mole highlighting the issues of the final scrum. Again, when you have people who know about scrummaging, you get the right decisions/judgement.

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