yellow or red
Jamison Gibson-Park’s ‘tackle’ of Kieran Marmion in Leinster’s win over Connacht at the Sportsground once again highlighted the arbitrary nature of refereeing.
Referee Karl Dickson ruled a yellow card was sufficient, BT analyst Ben Kay and commentator Ryle Nugent thought it should have been a red while Brian O’Driscoll suggested another referee could have opted for this last color.
Dickson’s two assistant referees didn’t look too convinced when he initially decided it should be a yellow card and after a long debate the England official decided that Gibson-Park had “received contact” rather than moving forward and orchestrating the collision.
The undisputed facts of the incident are that Gibson-Park’s shoulder came into contact with Marmion’s face and as a result, the Connacht scrum-half ended up with a damaged/broken nose. Marmion dives a bit as he straddles Ed Byrne’s tackle, but Gibson-Park stands tall when he makes contact.
If there is to be more uniformity in terms of officiating this part of the game, then a recommendation that any tackler who comes into contact with an opponent’s head/face/neck while is standing, even if deemed accidental, forfeits any right to attenuation. Coaches and players need to change their tackling behavior if the stated ambition to protect players is to be maintained.
If there are a few extra offloads in the game, too bad because it will be a reasonable compromise to protect the well-being of the players.
In the red
It was a case of what could have been for the Irish men’s team at the Singapore Sevens as they came within a hair’s breadth of making the Cup final. With the clock in the red at the end of the semi-final, they led New Zealand 19-17, but their opponents won a crucial restart and created a chance which Akuila Rokolisoa finished.
Ireland faced Australia in the third and fourth place playoffs but were beaten again, this time 21-19 with Hugo Lennox, Gavin Mullin and Andrew Smith scoring tries. Earlier in the tournament, Ireland secured a victory over Fiji in the pool stages, a first for the national side against the two-time Olympic champions. Terry Kennedy’s match-winning try was a brilliant solo effort.
It was a superb tournament for James Topping’s new Irish team. Jordan Conroy swapped his dancing shoes for rugby boots with the jet-heeled wing traverse for six tries. Conroy, captain Billy Dardis, Harry McNulty and Gavin Mullin also returned after missing two tournaments in Spain to provide quality and experience when there were new faces too.
Irish Under-20 Grand Slam winner Chay Mullins made his debut, as did 24-year-old Matt McDonald. Mullins scored two tries in the pool win over Japan while another relative newcomer, six-foot-six winger and former Kilkenny schoolboy Tamilore Awonusi also crossed for a brace. Steven Kilgallen is another young player who has excelled.
The team is then in action over the Easter weekend in Vancouver, while the women line up in Langford, Canada in late April.
Ireland team: Tamilore Awonusi (IQ Rugby), Jordan Conroy (Buccaneers), Billy Dardis (Terenure College, Captain), Jack Kelly (University of Dublin), Terry Kennedy (St. Mary’s College), Steven Kilgallen (UCD), Hugo Lennox (Skerries) , Matt McDonald (IQ Rugby), Harry McNulty (UCD), Gavin Mullin (UCD), Chay Mullins (IQ Rugby), Mark Roche (Lansdowne), Andrew Smith (Clontarf/Leinster)
Word of mouth
“I’ve been coming back to the series for a long time. There were a lot of firsts, there were first timers, our first time in Singapore, the first time we beat Fiji. Irish Sevens player Harry McNulty at his return to the group after a sabbatical in the United States.
By the numbers
10,307: The number of supporters who turned out to watch Exeter Chiefs beat Munster 13-8 at Sandy Park, including a typically boisterous Red Army cohort.
Six Nations Day
The inaugural Six Nations Women’s Under-18 festival kicked off in Edinburgh on Saturday with Ireland taking on England and France in two 35-minute matches. Under former senior international Katie Fitzhenry, now coach of the IRFU women’s team, the Irish team lost 17-12 to England and 28-0 to a strong French side .
Fitzhenry said: “Overall it’s been pretty positive. Like there were obviously some standout times where we were really good and had really good clarity in our systems and our form. Then I think the physicality of the French probably scared us a bit, but I think we learned a lot from that and still carried on, so overall it was a good day.
The Irish team’s final game of the festival is a full 70-minute clash with Wales on Wednesday (Kick-off 12.0) which can be seen live on the Six Nations YouTube channel, with a stream link as well available on irishrugby.com.
Ireland’s Boys Under-18 Schools team were also in action as part of their Six Nations festival and narrowly lost 28-23 to France in Marcoussis. Ireland were leading 13-0 at one point thanks to a few penalties and a conversion from Jack Murphy and a try from number eight Brian Gleeson, but the French took control in the second half and even a late try from Jacob Sheahan didn’t help. could prevent them.