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Wednesday, November 07, 2012

James Haskell big hit knocks out lock Alistair Hargreaves

Wasps forward James Haskell was slapped with a retrospective yellow card following the big tackle he made on Saracens' Alistair Hargreaves on Sunday. Here is a look at the tackle, and an interesting discussion regarding TMO use for foul play.

Second row Hargreaves had an eventful game as he scored his team's only try, but was also yellow carded for a ruck infrigement, and later knocked out cold by what looked to be Haskell's head.

The England forward went into the tackle with both arms up, but got his head on the wrong side as Hargreaves ducked down in contact. The South African lock left the field on a stretcher. 

Referee JP Doyle referred to Television Match Official David Grashoff for a foul play recommendation, and Haskell was subsequently penalised, but was not shown a yellow card.

He has since received a written warning and the level one citing goes on his record, meaning that if he receives another two yellow cards, he will face a disciplinary hearing.

Saracens Mark McCall said that they were surprised with the ruling: "It wasn't the greatest tackle of all time. A penalty on its own and no yellow card was a bit lenient."

The commentary team, including Austin Healey and Ben Kay, had a lengthy discussion about the tackle, the use of the TMO for foul play, and the rise in players appealing for yellow cards.

The whole discussion is included in the video below, so have a watch and listen and please share your thoughts as a comment below. There's plenty to discuss and while the video features a player being knocked out (never good to see), it was requested for the sake of discussion and reference.

If you're not registered to comment yet, you can do so here.

Posted at 6:58 pm | 42 comments

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Posted in Big Hits & Dirty Play

Viewing 42 comments

Full Back November 07, 2012 10:57 pm

I don't agree with the ref here, especially as he had the benefit of the TMO. Haskell went for a big hit as he's entitled to do, contact was made in a legal area, wrapping was impossible due to the movement of the player being tackled, not due the movement of the tackler...surely that's the difference between foul play and a simple accident of play? I think a penalty is the wrong decision and I can't get my head around the yellow, oh well. Interesting view on the TMO and ref's trusting themselves, in two minds about that one.

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Grobbie November 08, 2012 10:18 am

Legal area? Are you smoking something? His shoulder is on the guys nose.

If Haskell was 10 inches lower it would have been a fantastic hit, but in this case just too high.

Yellow card is too much, even afterwards. Penalty was enough.

But contact in a legal area? NO WAY.

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Cameron November 09, 2012 9:07 pm

No, the guy got into the same position haskell was in. Haskell did not go in high. TMO like this is taking away the physical nature of the game. If the chap got up again and wasn't injured play probably would have ensued. Terrible.

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Pretzel November 10, 2012 2:52 am

Bullshit it doesn't matter... the onus is on the tackler. As I said below Haskell CHOSE to go high and as such he ran the risks of going high (player ducks and now your higher up tackler becomes a "high tackle")...

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browner November 08, 2012 8:58 pm

Full back .....NO !
Law 10 [e]

He's not entitled
Above the should is NOT a legal area
Wrapping is irrelevant.

x

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Full Back November 07, 2012 11:00 pm

...not that I'd agree with him if he didn't have TMO, I just might understand the error as I see it.

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poccio November 07, 2012 11:02 pm

I personally think that tackle is high but no malice and the call was a right one. The whole TMO debate is interesting and I get A.H's point but I think in the end it's a good tool for refs to have...this shouldn't encourage players to appeal to the ref though, if anything they should take any decision made with the help of the TMO as almost certainly correct or at least as correct as it can be.

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elvis15 November 07, 2012 11:05 pm

Hardly a good tackle from a technical standpoint, especially when you consider a lot of forwards will lower their shoulder into a hit in close. I don't know if I'd go for a penalty on the initial reaction, but I could see the reasoning for it when you get to see Haskell's right arm swinging in over and over in the slo-mo. It really doesn't look like he wanted to use that arm to wrap in the tackle, but rather make a big impact.

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Guest November 07, 2012 11:10 pm

I think it's accidental from the replay. Haskell turns his head away from the oncoming player and can't see the oncoming Saracen dip his head down. If he hadn't then Haskell would have hit him square in the chest and not the head. Without the replay it does look like a yellow card should have been given. With the replay, definitely not, as it appears accidental. Considering that some high tackles are also accidental, but a penalty is always given, I would go with the TMO's decision.

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Pretzel November 07, 2012 11:11 pm

On my phone here so I don't have the benefit of flicking back on to the video to find the time of the frame I'm talking about, however it's shortly after the commentators talk about players appealing in tight games and one says "perhaps it was a little high" that particular angle looked like Haskells shoulder makes contact with Hargreaves head, from the other angles it looks like head on head but that one really looked more like shoulder on head. I initially felt it was a bad call, however of that angle is not deceiving and it was shoulder on head then I'd say penalty was a right call and perhaps (but not 100%) a yellow...

Tackler has the duty of care really... Obviously head on head is an accident but as I said shoulder on head is a penalty...

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The Green Mafia November 07, 2012 11:30 pm

Can't say I agree with you or the ref, pretzel. When the referee says "you have to complete the tackle", with me understanding that his problem with that tackle was that haskell didnt wrap, I think he is wrong. The whole situation and the impact happened so fast that hargreaves was bumped straight to ground, making it impossible for haskell to wrap him up, eve though he did try.

As for the high tackle, I agree that the tackler has the duty of care, but that only goes so far. Haskell comits himself to the tackle, but in the last meter of his stride, hargreaves' head goes down a good 40cms. It's bloody hard to correct that as a tackler, when it hapens in such a short space/time, and instead of catching the carrier square in the chest, the tackle was on that dangerous "shoulder and sliding up" area. It was an unfortunate accident, but not really anyone's fault, and certainly doesn't call for that whole level one citing deal on haskell. He can be quite a thug, but this time it wasn't his fault and he was lucky not to pick up a serious neck injury himself

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Jon November 08, 2012 3:21 am

There's no way that was a shoulder charge, I agree 100%.

The ref was talking right out of his arse.
There's nothing in the rules that says "you have to complete the tackle". That's utter bullshit, and who knows what it even means.
The rules simply say that you must make an "attempt to grasp the other player."
Just an attempt, you don't have to succeed.
The commentators are also sort of talking out of their arses, even though they are right that Haskell wasn't preforming a shoulder charge. When they talk about him wrapping the arms, that's not in the rules. There's nothing about wrapping in the rules, and it's a weird NH obsession.

Having said all that, to me it looked a bit high, he hits him in the noggin, so I guess it deserves a penalty. A yellow seems a bit harsh, since it was obviously accidental.

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Pretzel November 08, 2012 3:31 am

@The Green Mafia:

I totally agree with you when it comes to the referee... it's nonsensical to think that every time a player can "wrap" not to mention the fact that "wrapping" is not even in the laws... I (probably wrongly) believe that it merely mentions something like "attempting" to wrap, or use arms, or something..

As for the duty of care, it matters not what the ball carrier does, the onus is on the tackler, much like the whole tip tackle/spear tackle thing, the ball carrier could wriggle so hard that the tackler cannot hold him properly and it would still be the tacklers fault... I am not saying if this had been a horrible neck injury that we should "blame" Haskell and expect some sort of repercussions, as it would be a horrible accident, and I am sure that we can all agree on that, however what I would say is that it is still up to the tackler, as far as I am aware there is no law which stipulates a tackler is exempt from punishment due to the ball carrier "ducking into a tackle"...

As I said, this is certainly no "Hang Haskell" campaign (although I am not fan of his..), and of course one cannot expect Haskell to alter his tackle technique (as poor as it was) in a split second, however HE chose to hit HIGH, and it didn't work, therefore he has to "carry the can" on this one... lets say he chose to hit him in the lower torso area, he'd probably have snapped Hargreaves in half and we'd all say be talking about how it was an incredible tackle...

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browner November 08, 2012 8:44 pm

Jon, we don't have rules - they're LAWS ....& here is the one that you've missed when you studied them.

LAW 10 (e) Dangerous tackling. A player must not tackle an opponent early, late or dangerously.
Sanction: Penalty kick

A player must not tackle (or try to tackle) an opponent above the line of the shoulders even if the tackle starts below the line of the shoulders. A tackle around the opponent’s neck or head is dangerous play.
Sanction: Penalty kick

In this case, it was dangerous ...... because of where it ended up, Haskell led with his head/shoulder & that my friend makes it dangerous & is the end of this discussion'

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Pretzel November 08, 2012 10:50 pm

Don't be too pedantic, we all know when someone says "rules" that they mean those things that we should and shouldn't do in rugby...no need to start a penis measuring contest...

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Rob November 08, 2012 12:04 am

Crap form with head on the wrong side of the tackle but certainly not a card. Penalty at most.

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Xenophile November 08, 2012 12:22 am

Have to say that although Haskell may not have intended injury his actions were dangerous and could have seriously injured his opposing player. What he did was not tackle the man, but rather hit him straight in the head. I think a penalty and a yellow were even warranted. Before you critics start to say I prefer soft rugby, I disagree entirely. I love hard-nosed and extremely physical rugby, but as someone who has received countless headshots like the one delivered on Hargreaves I would like to see them eliminated from the game.

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Guy November 08, 2012 12:36 am

Well, to be honest: the level of decision making by the referees has not gone up since the introduction of the white card and the TMO for foul play. Referees seem to be more inclined to issue a yellow in most cases and let the citing commission deal with a proper punishment.

I definitely believe this is undermining the authority of and respect for the ref. Personally I would like him to make a clear and firm statement, even if it is a wrong one every now and than, instead of an ambiguous one. I mean: for God's sake decide something!

In this case: clash of heads, bad luck for one of them but could have been nasty for both. In the interest of player safety I can understand the penalty. But the off field yellow I really don't understand.

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Colombes November 08, 2012 12:59 am

Illegal tackle because Haskell clashed the sarrie player on the head
But not malicious, because he clearly tried to wrap his arms around
so, the TMO recommendation for a simple penalty seems fine

on the TMO debate and players prefering to put pressure on the ref decisions
Nothing very new...

Players will always try mind games, but the refs will always try to direct his game in the most simple and "short" way. if not, prepare oursleves to discover a NFL slow rhythm during rugby matchs

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ItalianRef November 08, 2012 1:36 am

as a Ref I must say that I totally disagree with this decision, on every level: he should not ask the TMO (I agree with the comentators saying he doesn't trust himself) since there wasn't foul play (believe me if there had been the first reaction would be from the Sarries)
and even then, the TMO is either blind or biased: the big hit is the one you can see from the rear angle and it's a head on head, furthermore, the recomendation is wrong because the TMO should advise yellow or red (and not just a penalty) if it was foul play targeting the head (as he stated).

if we go down this road it will be a touch rugby tournament by the end of the decade

as for the players puting pressure: i couldn't care less. i have 2 touch judges, a 4th judge and a TMO. the players better stand back or they will be sanctioned. it's as simple as that. the true problem here is the lack of personality of this referee, he just does not meet the minimum standards. when you go on the pitch with professional players, a stadium full of supporters you either own the game from the first minute or the pressure will crush you.

the difference between our game and others is that when the ref blows the whistle that's it. end of discussion. sure mistakes will be made and wrong calls will happen.
you don't like it? you want to argue? go play soccer

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Chris November 08, 2012 8:13 pm

You clearly have no idea what you're talking about. As a ref, I received multiple e-mails from the IRB and local associations telling us that the resposibility for the tackle is on the tackler. He went high, but it makes absolutely no difference if it was intentianl or not. We, as referees, are not there to judge whether or not an incident is accidental or not. If it's high, Penalty, Yellow or Red without asking any questions.

This has nothing to do with being touch rugby. A proper hit will hurt neither the tackler or the player getting tackled, and will look just as spectacular as the "big" high tackles players are going for nowadays. Anything in the upper chest area will almost certainly lead to injuries for either the tackler(as he is probably in a bad position and flat footed), or the person getting tackled(as he will almost always have some contact to his neck/head area when a player "slides up").

I have only ever had 1 player argue with me, and he went straight to the bin, so I don't see why you think that this players will start to disrespect refs like they do in soccer. I reffed high level soccer for 3 years, and I quit because of the amount of disrespect for the officials. I can never see rugby get to that level as it never used to be like this, whereas soccer has always been bad. As well, refs have the ability to control players in rugby, whereas they have no recourse in soccer.

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browner November 08, 2012 8:49 pm

Here Here to Chris .....!

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ItalianRef November 09, 2012 1:05 am

Chris, i disagree with you not on the laws of the game but on the fact that, in my opinion, it was not a high tackle. Tackle was aimed at chest and A.H enters the tackle on the wrong side (everyone agrees on that fact) there is head to head contact (as you can see from the rear angle caption) and no one, absolutely no one gets pissed on the sarries side and there is no anger display from any red player. you should know, from your experience as a ref, that the first reaction of a player's teammates when he is knoked out in a foul tackle is immediate retaliation. I can point you to hudreds of cases where this is documented.

Having said that, you're entiteled to an opinion on the topic and to the reading i have on the game, i respect that; however you are not qualified to judge my undesrtanding of the game.

We may discuss opinions, and why yours differs from mine (which btw is quite in line with what the comentators say, so it does not seem THAT clear that I don't understand what I'm talking about) but unless you can clearly explain why i alegedly don't understand what I'm talking about i accept no rugby lessons from an ex-soccer ref turnd to rugby a few years ago. For your information, I have been refereeng for over 8 years at every level (from under 8 to division 1) and no colleague has ever questioned my knowledge of the game. i believe I know what I'm talking about: before turnig to refereeing i played in amateur and profesional teams (in Treviso) since I was 5 until I broke my knee at 25. What is your experience playing? If you want we can go down that road but i guess it is more intersting to focus on the real discussion at hand: excessive use of TMO, or we could also discuss on the laws of the game as much as it pleases you.

Regarding aoccer, i have no experience whatsoever. I just know they play it with a round ball and that's as much as I want to know about it.

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browner November 08, 2012 8:46 pm

As a ref ................... you should reacquaint yourself with Law 10 (e)
Dangerous tackling.
A player must not tackle an opponent early, late or dangerously.
Sanction: Penalty kick
A player must not tackle (or try to tackle) an opponent above the line of the shoulders even if the tackle starts below the line of the shoulders. A tackle around the opponent’s neck or head is dangerous play.
Sanction: Penalty kick

The Onus is on the tackler to aim lower. full stop !.

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HeavyHooker November 08, 2012 1:58 am

The multiple angles of cameras, the armchair refs that have the ability to stop and playback multiple times and then critique the call is turning the refs into calling a no risk game. A bad hit is obvious, as it was 10 - 15 years ago before multiple playbacks. Refs mostly call a fair game and over time equal 'bad" calls will be made on both sides. I say trust the refs to blow and whistle, call the game and shag the critics. TMO is slowing things down, cowering the refs and ruining the game. This was an accident, no penalty as the runner ducked into a less than well placed tackle and the yellow . . .that is crap. i am with colombes and italianref.

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Jon November 08, 2012 3:16 am

Not much in that at all.
Maybe a bit high, but largely due to Hargreaves ducking into it.
So a penalty is ok I guess, it did drift up a little.
But not much between that being a good legal hit and a high penalty worthy hit.

A yellow for that is very harsh.

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galwegian November 08, 2012 3:44 am

I want to put forward what will be an unpopular position.

It is very concerning that rugby players are getting so many concussions. This is going to put our players at risk of long-term neurological issues after their playing careers are over. It will damage the reputation of the game, and make it difficult to bring young kids into the sport.

The discussion here on RugbyDump is pretty typical of the broader rugby world -- big hits are celebrated, if they involve concussions that's life, get over it. Everyone actively involved in rugby knows that concussions are under-reported, players want to stay on the field no matter what. As a sport we're ignoring the long-term, which is unfair on the players and damages the rugby brand.

So how do we protect against concussions without stripping the game of the ability to make big hits? The vague gesture of wrapping arms around the target when tackling is bollocks, when the hit has been shoulder to jaw at speed by strong players, that law protects nobody.

A simple solution could be called the 'crest rule' -- the club/country crest on the chest is a standard mark on all jerseys. Any hit below that mark, especially if requiring a wrap, is never going to put the head at risk. This is a great tackle from the Rugbydump archive:
http://www.rugbydump.com/2010/09/1585/counties-prop-jono-owen-smashes-manawatu-flyhalf-tomasi-cama

This, on the other hand, shows two hits by Motu Matu'u where contact is made both times in the upper chest, the head snapping forward both times.
http://www.rugbydump.com/2012/05/2607/motu-matuu-massive-hits-and-great-sportsmanship-against-the-rebels

No attempt made to scapegoat Matu'u, he was, as pointed out by the commentators, perfectly legal, and he went out of his way to help to unconscious player after the second hit.

This can't go on, though, it's bad for the players and bad for the image of the sport. Something needs to change.

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filth November 08, 2012 6:41 am

Does anyone know if you can tackle in rugby anymore?

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browner November 08, 2012 8:53 pm

Since professionalism, hits have got higher, and the head injury stats are rising ....... governing bodies need to be strong, bit hits aren't about winning possession they are about doing damage.......reward proper tackles by letting players compete for the ball and you will remove the 'justification for the big hit/injury tackle

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Canadian content November 08, 2012 7:17 am

Completely agree with galwegian. This is bigger than the game, this is people's. You know what sports regularily have players knocked out with permanent brain damage for the beer drinking swillers on the coach; mma and american football, which basically no one particiates in except for pros. Do we care that little about our participants that we let them get knocked out for our watching enjoyment? That's not rugby now is it? HASKELL went too high, near the head and ended up knocking his opponent out, that's a yellow, plain and simple.

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ZakirGrrr November 08, 2012 9:02 am

I think the tackle seemed suspect because of how high he went but he did try to wrap with both arms

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redchocolab November 08, 2012 11:30 am

this head clash did seem accidental. but it was a high tackle and its a yellow card. as a big tackling kiwi- i myself have lead with my head plenty of times when i've been pissed off with a player... more and more players are now wearing head gear and are using it as a weapon, delibratly leading with their heads offensively... if your heads so sore that you wear head gear then you should be treated extra harshly if you use to offensively... a charging head butt can kill someone...and will... and the crowd cheered on...

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Leadbitter November 08, 2012 3:47 pm

Redchoclab; I think perhaps you are saying a bit more about yourself as a player than rugby players in general. In my 16 years of senior rugby playing on the flank, I have never myself, or seen an opposition player lead with the head. Nor have I ever seen players strap up headwear praising its offensive head butting qualities. But then again, you kiwi `big hitters' may be different. Although, when you look at your finest `boom’ boys, say Jerry Collins, I don’t think he has ever done anything more than just put cracking hits in at a body level which causes the most effect.
Players get knocked out in rugby all the time; invariably its by one of their own players in close contact / they do it to themselves by getting their head in the wrong place when trying to tackle / very, very occasionally they accidently clash heads with the tackler – as on this occasion with Mr. Haskell. On this occasion I actually think it was the attacker who got it all wrong, assuming a terrible position in which to take contact which is a direct consequence of the Saracens style of attacking flat into the gain line.

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stroudos November 08, 2012 12:14 pm

An unfortunate accident. Sounds like Hargreaves was OK shortly afterwards, (notwithstanding the very valid concerns raised above by Mr Galwegian).

But it is an accident that could arguably have been avoided by better body positioning by The Brand. The resulting high tackle / contact with Hargreaves's head clearly merited a penalty. Other than the wording the TMO used (I think "foul play" is incorrect), I think he and the ref got the sanction spot on. Penalty, no more. I would argue for a penalty reversal for Borthwick demanding a yellow card like some bloody footballer.

In principle I agree with Austin Healey in that some recent measures are detracting from the ref's autonomy and consequently his authority over the game. But I think using the TMO for this type of incident has generally been a fairly useful addition. The retrospective yellow card, however, totally undermines the ref and other matchday officials, as well as having no effect on that game itself. So in that respect I feel Ben Kay's right to say anything that helps the officials make the right call *during* the game should be enouraged.

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Guy November 08, 2012 2:51 pm

+1 for using 'The Brand'. Totally forgot about that episode.

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Say No to Doyle! November 08, 2012 5:16 pm

I think, considering Hargreaves ducked into the tackle, it should not even have been a penalty.
But the main issue here is that, JP Doyle not stopping the game immediately, let play continue and there was a retaliatory dangerous tackle from one of the Saracens players straight after.
This is the second week in a row that JP Doyle has missed such an important incident. He is, without doubt, not capable of refereeing at this level.

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Lewisac November 08, 2012 6:15 pm

Tackle is high and with a stiff arm. Below the neck that's a yellow, above the neck it's a red. Given that he's ducked into it a little, I wouldn't be thinking red card, but it was a reckless shoulder that didn't involve the arms at all. to tell the honest truth, the body position and the way he launches himself upwards, Hargreaves didn't need to be ducking to get that in the face. I've seen red cards and bans handed out for less

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stroudos November 08, 2012 8:11 pm

I would say The Brand's initial body position and angle of movement were about right for tackling a 6'7 lock.

But yeah, the onus is on him (Haskell) to adjust for the fact that Hargreaves ducked.

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Gonzoman November 08, 2012 9:15 pm

I think the outcome was correct, but the process that led to it, and the justification for the call were rubbish.

High tackle: yes, even if Hargreaves ducked.
Yellow card: yes; the high tackle part was kind of accidental, but definitely a result of "The Brand" aiming for the collar-bone (pre-duck) in an attempt to put a big lick on Hargreaves. Also, there was a ridiculous amount of force. I'm not saying he should tackle softer, I'm saying he should be more careful with where and how he applies that force. Reckless play by Haskell, and he should spend 10mins thinking about how to legally and safely apply all the force his frame can exert.

On to the ref: as a referee myself (Rugby and Ice Hockey at fairly high levels), I know that nothing undermines your authority as hesitation and indecision. I agree with the user that posted that they would prefer to see the occasional mistake vs. the constant self-doubt. Make a decision, and be firm. If you realize later you've cocked up, then be an adult and admit it. You'll get a lot more respect from the players and coaches that way, vs. constantly passing the buck to the TMO or citing commissioner.

This is what should have happened (assuming the ref saw anything...):
- blow whistle immediately and loudly (dangerous play), and indicate the penalty
- blow whistle again and signal time off
- call over The Brand, explain that "the tackle was high, and reckless"
- show yellow card
- resume play (when possible)

Simple, clear and with authority. No need to explain further, no need to enter debates, watch highlights, etc.

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Pretzel November 08, 2012 9:39 pm

Ok guys here is how it is...

Haskell, COULD have got very low wrapped up Hargreaves legs, and let Hargreaves fall over his shoulder, therefore perfectly legal tackle, yet extremely soft and allows the attacking team to move forward.... 100% safe (or 99.999%) from a legal side of things....

However, he did not did NOT choose to do this, he instead chose to GAIN an advantage, by hitting hargreaves with a monster high-up hit and (in theory) forcing him back.... so he chose the more "risky" option, and Hargreaves ducks.. Haskell nearly takes his head off and although it was an "accident", it could be deemed a somewhat reckless series of decisions by Haskell... he knew the laws and he chose to play right to their limits and it didn't pay off...

I think a penalty is fine in this situation, yellow would be too harsh, but a penalty is fine...

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Jon November 08, 2012 11:31 pm

browner, I specifically said that it was a high tackle and so deserved a penalty.
Did you even read what I wrote?
I said it wasn't a shoulder charge but was a head high tackle.

And don't be a pedant, who cares if I call them rules or laws. It means the same thing. Semantics mate, petty, pointless semantics.
I know they are called the laws of the game. But you know what? I don't care. Rules, laws, it means the same thing.

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Rennerz November 10, 2012 2:34 am

If the ref was unsure about the tackle then why did he play advantage to wasps in the first place for the knock on, he should have blown his whistle there and then and made a firm decision even if it was the wrong one instead of passing the call to a bloke sat in a box with a little screen TMO's should be kept for the try scoring not in-play calls ITS RUINING RUGBY !!!

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