Try? No try?
According to Warren Gatland it was the decision that decided the match – Wales’ “disallowed try.”
It occurred in just the 23rd minute of the first half, so there was plenty of time for the destiny of the game to be altered, but in such a close contest it could have proved the difference.
Wales fly-half Rhys Patchell kicked across field in the England 22 to Steff Evans’ wing. The ball bounced just before the Welsh winger and rebounded off his knee into the in-goal.
It was then a mad scramble between England winger Anthony Watson and Gareth Anscombe – but who got there first?
The referee Jerome Garces’ first port of call was the linesman, Irishman George Clancy, who was standing just metres away.
Clancy tells him: “I think it comes off the knee of the red player and then is grounded by white.”
Garces then says: “We check the grounding. Glenn (Newman, the NZ TMO) – we want to know. Try – yes or no?”
This gives Newman a clean slate. He could have been asked – is there any reason why the try could not be awarded? Which gives Newman a different impetus to prove that the try was not scored.
It seems from the replays Anscombe clearly reached the ball first. Decide for yourself by clicking the video.
But Newman then decides and reports to Garces: “the ball has not been clearly grounded.”
Note he does not rule that Anscombe did not get there first – he rules that the ball was not clearly grounded.’
He then says: “The first grounding was by England therefore it is a five metre scrum.”
That ruling is wrong in two regards – Anscombe got there first and as the ball was taken over the line by Wales and Newman says then grounded by England, it should have been ruled a 22 drop-out.
However Garces was playing an advantage so he goes back for the Wales penalty, which Patchell duly landed. So in the end the decision only cost Wales a maximum of four points – not enough to alter the result.
Nonetheless the decision sent all those wearing red into absolute meltdown with Gatland leading the charge.
“It looked like a try to me. Everyone else I’ve spoken to who has seen it (has said) it’s a clear try,” said the Wales coach at the post match media session.
“To me, it’s disappointing that they can get that decision wrong. It’s such a critical moment in the game, such a big decision.”
He then gave Newman some special attention.
“You get a guy over from New Zealand to be the TMO, he has one big call to make and unfortunately he’s made a terrible mistake,” he said.
“At this level that’s pretty disappointing.”
During the game Shane Williams, Wales legend, gives his views in commentary: “The ball’s on the ground, the hand’s on the ground – there is pressure. For me that’s a try.”
Williams is wrong about downward pressure as the rule now says the player must have “control of the ball” and an argument could be made that Anscombe did not have that.
But the red mist was rising on the Twittersphere:
Enjoyed the test match. England deserved to win, just. Don’t know why Wales didn’t take the points when awarded penalties. Bad call by TMO re Anscombe try.— Jonathan Davies OBE (@JiffyRugby) February 10, 2018
Am I wearing red tinted glasses in seeing Anscombe get his hand to that ball first? 👀— Martyn Williams (@martynewilliams) February 10, 2018
No Try— Billy Vunipola (@bvunipola) February 10, 2018
Just finished my piece for @TheRugbyPaper on one heck of a Test match. Amazed the TMO decision went against Gareth Anscombe and you know me I try to be objective. Never seen England under 'Uncle Eddie' so relieved to belt the ball into the crowd.— Peter Jackson (@JackoRugby) February 10, 2018
In the end there was probably only one voice claiming the TMO got it right, England head coach, Eddie Jones.
“I don’t know why people say we’re lucky with the refereeing decision,” said Jones. “The TMO has all the time in the world to make his decision.”
But even he was hedging his bets.
“I never get involved in what is decided,” he finished.
In the end it’s all water under a very high bridge. As the old saying goes: “Look in the paper tomorrow – the result won’t change.” As much as passionate Welsh man may want it to.
Joe Launchbury was denied the chance to become a Lion in the summer by Gatland – who then felt the full force of his ability at Twickenham.
The Wasps lock is a softly spoken man – and certainly does not look the type to harbour grudges – but, just like a bull, ran down everything that wore red.
As has been pointed out elsewhere, there were five Lions locks in both England and Wales squads on Saturday: Maro Itoje, Courtney Lawes, George Kruis, Alun Wyn Jones and Cory Hill, one of the ‘Geography Six’. A strong group that certainly is but Launchbury has the measure of them all.
Of course, he didn’t go underappreciated for the entirety of the match as his outrageous offload while on the floor teed up Jonny May for his second.
However, for all the talk of “do-it-all Itoje” and the rare physical specimen, such as Lawes, among England supporters, neither matched him when it came to the dirty work either.
In sodden conditions that demanded discipline in defence, Launchbury made an England-best 19 tackles – missing only one – without conceding a penalty, and got through 13 carries before being removed from the theatre of conflict with 12 minutes to go.
It took even Jones a while to fully understand what he had in a weapon that was beginning to gather dust. Of the first seven games he was fit under Jones’ regime, Launchbury was named among the replacements in five of them.
Saracens man Kruis curried favour as a master lineout operator – but could he match Launchbury for physicality, work-rate, and explosion? Not a bit of it.
The fear remains that, with Lawes being trialled as a No6 and England at times struggling to stop quick ball at the breakdown, Launchbury could be the fall guy.
Remove reputation – as well as Launchbury’s baby face from the equation – and he’s the one man who deserves to be left alone. This is no average Joe.
Controversy of the day: Wales’ disallowed try
Wales coach Warren Gatland didn’t mince his words when he spoke after the match about the crucial moment in the first half when Gareth Anscombe was disallowed what looked like a legitimate try.
The Welsh full back seemed to ground the ball a milli-second before Anthony Watson, but after numerous replays the TMO Glenn Newman ruled no try.
As Gatland said after the match if the try had been awarded it could have changed the whole momentum of the match.
Gatland also rightfully pointed out that Mike Brown could have received a yellow card for a professional foul late in the match when Wales were on the attack – but both decisions went against the visitors.
In a game as tight and close as this crucial decisions like this went in the favour of England – and if they had gone the other way the result may have been different.
After the match England coach Eddie Jones grew increasingly indignant about opinions that Wales were denied a fair try.
“The TMO is there for a reason,” barked Jones. “He has all the time in the world to make his decision and he said no try.”
Of course if the decision went the other way you can be sure Jones would not have kept quiet.
Try of the Day : Stockdale’s second vs Italy
Jacob Stockdale’s second try for Ireland against Italy was as thrilling as it was telling.
The 21-year-old Ulster winger intercepted a loose Italian pass, of which there were many on the day, and pinned his ears back on a sixty-metre run to the line. Stockdale had one man to beat and a man looming up in support on the inside but Stockdale never had any doubts.
He executed a perfect in and away on Jayden Hayward then beat the Italian replacement for pace to touch down in the left corner.
Conor Murray and Johnny Sexton may be pulling the strings in the Ireland attack but they desperately need the power and pace of Stockdale out wide if they are to capitalize on the chance that may come their way as the tournament gets to the pointy end.
Right winger Keith Earls and full back Rob Kearney are quality finishers but they can’t bust the game open like Stockdale.
In the end this Six Nations may come down to the final five minutes of England and Ireland at Twickenham and Stockdale given the ball ten metres out with two men to beat.
With his natural ability and growing confidence, chances are Stockdale will get over the line and win it for Ireland.
Player of the Day : Gareth Anscombe (Wales)
With Dan Biggar and Rhys Priestland out injured, Wales were forced to call on their third choice fly-half, the Scarlets Rhys Patchell. Much of the talk before the match from the England side was that Patchell was not up to it and would “bottle” it when the heat really came on.
The 24-year-old was at fault for England’s first try when he failed to gather Danny Care’s high kick and he was swamped at times with ball in hand by a fast moving England back row, But he recovered well to put in the delicate cross-field kick that almost led to Gareth Anscombe’s try.
Patchell’s game lasted 55-minutes and it was when he was withdrawn that Wales looked at their most dangerous.
George North came on to the wing which saw Anscombe move in to the No10 role and the Cardiff Blues playmaker was electric.
Anscombe made a couple of long breaks that were very unlucky not to result in tries and his distribution and kicking out of hand were also dangerous.
This display, like Aaron Shingler, showed that a place must be found for Anscombe in the starting line up.
With Halfpenny back Gatland could do worse than to start the 26-year-old at No10 in Dublin against Ireland.