Bien Joué

Seems it’s a day for talking about the ref.

The amount paper needed for the column inches written about the Wales v England game in Cardiff last Saturday probably accounted for half an Amazonian rainforest.

Surprisingly in such a close and fiercely fought match I don’t remember any writer, player or coach complaining about the referee.

I frankly thought he had an excellent game – but then my team won. To be fair though, there seems not to have been many complaints from the other side of the Severn.

In the cauldron of the Principality Stadium (even with the roof open) Monsieur Garces kept control of a match that had the potential to be highly controversial.

One rugby writer, Rob Lloyd, monitored the ref mike during the game and put this summary on the Wales Online web site –

10 minutes – an early test of Garces’s interpretation of the new tackle directives as Scott Williams’s swinging catches Jack Nowell. There are calls from players and the visiting contingent in the stand for a sin-binning, but Garces is adamant it is just a penalty. Common sense prevails. Farrell nails the points to level the scores at 3-3.

21 minutes – Joe Launchbury is penalised for not rolling away at a ruck, handing Halfpenny another penalty. Garces has a word with Dylan Hartley. “I want quick ball for both sides” he tells the Red Rose skipper.

24 minutes – A quick word of advice for Wales scrum-half Rhys Webb. “Stop trying to buy penalties” orders the Frenchman as the Osprey appeals for another England infringement.

27 minutes – Wales are pressing and Webb attempts to do a Ben Youngs and squeeze over from a short-range ruck. Garces doesn’t think the Osprey gets there, but there is a polite request from skipper Alun Wyn Jones for the television match

29 minutes – Wales are awarded a penalty which sees Jones opt for an attacking scrum instead of a shot at goal. The set-piece collapses and the decision goes the way of England tight-head Dan Cole as Rob Evans hits the turf. Alun Wyn questions the legality of Cole’s scrummaging. “The tight-head was okay” is Garces’s response. Afterwards Rob Evans admitted it was a ‘50-50’ call.official to have a look, while the scrum-half adds “I think I got it on the line”. Garces goes upstairs. Replay shows Webb is inches short.

41 minutes – A pumped-up Moriarty is flying into everything and hits Farrell with a thunderous challenge which clearly rocks the centre. Replays suggest Moriarty was late and the English contingent in the Principality Stadium make their feelings clear. For Garces “the timing was perfect, it was a good tackle.”

61 minutes – A big call this. Welsh pressure is mounting, Liam Williams and Jonathan Davies make incursions then the forwards rumble it up. The experienced James Haskell manages to slow down home ball by not rolling away, it’s just a penalty and Halfpenny has an easy three points – on another day it could have been yellow for the replacement. There’s plenty of chatter on the subject from Wales players in earshot of the referee.

69 minutes – England continue to press and Nowell cuts inside off his wing. There is a stray high arm from replacement Samson Lee and after a call comes in from his assistant, Garces awards England a penalty. Farrell is on target again and that makes it 16-14 to Wales.

Considering all the concern that the Six Nations would be overshadowed by contentious refereeing decisions, this was an exemplary performance from Monsieur Garces.

The official allowed the game to flow, not letting either set of forwards the chance to slow down possession and as a result both sides enjoyed quick ball, resulting in an entertaining high-tempo game.You could argue that Haskell’s blatant ball-killing in front of the posts merited a yellow, while Moriarty’s late hit on Farrell probably should have been a penalty for the defending champions, but otherwise Garces got pretty much everything spot on.


Top job Jerome – Bien Joué, as nobody said in Cardiff – even though they should have done!

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