Adam Hathaway, rugby correspondent of The People, predicts a long-running controversy has only just started after events at Twickenham on Saturday and recognises rugby’s latest tribute to real heroes.
Go on….which way did you vote in the mysterious case of the Try That Never Was at Twickenham on Saturday that threatens to go on for longer than Brexit, who killed JR Ewing in Dallas and the JFK conspiracy combined?
Try or no try, remain or leave, Sue Ellen or Lucy, Lee Harvey Oswald, the CIA or the Cubans? A personal view is no try, but this is going to go the distance – and some.
In fact, this one threatens to go on for longer than the case of the Bob Deans try, which was disallowed in 1905 when Wales beat New Zealand 3-0 in Cardiff. Deans claimed on his death bed in 1908 that he had scored and was backed up two decades later by the Welsh wing, and try scorer three years earlier, Teddy Morgan.
That one is still running, the Kiwis still claim they were robbed, and this episode looks like going the same way. It is good job they didn’t have social media back in 1905 – it would have gone up in smoke. Twitter looked like it was going the same this weekend as the world and their dog had their say.
England’s 12-6 win over Wales at HQ could have been remembered for several things. Owen Farrell is a genuine world-class player, if he wasn’t already he has stepped it up a level, and Joe Launchbury is right up there too. Sam Underhill’s tackle on Scott Williams, that saved a five-pointer, looks like being a foot note in history too.
And on the Welsh front it proved that they have got some strength in depth with the likes of Aaron Shingler and Josh Navidi having stormers in the back row when most Welsh fans wouldn’t have had them anywhere near the team if their big guns were all fit. Warren Gatland’s mob might have lost but the head coach will have some ammo to fire come World Cup time.
But it won’t be remembered for any of that little lot.
Yep, the case of England and the Television Match Official against Gareth Anscombe and, it seems the rest of the world, will rumble on and on. RugbySpy is still fuming over Mark Cueto’s try that was knocked back in the 2007 Rugby World Cup final in Paris – so to all Welsh fans, we feel your pain.
The Anscombe affair will now be brought up in the build-up to every England game against Wales just like the 1980 fist fight, the Welsh win in the 2015 World Cup and Jarrett’s game in 1967. All that lot need is an Eddie Butler voice over and the previews for the next few clashes are sorted.
In cricket video technology has definitely helped, the jury is apparently out in football, and for the most part it has in rugby. At the Stoop on Sunday the Harlequins wing Tim Visser had a try chalked off, in the game against Wasps, by Wayne Barnes once the referee had seen the replay.
Barnes had originally given the score but on a second, third and fourth look he ruled the Scottish international had knocked on over the line. No try and fair enough.
You could watch the tape of Anscombe’s phantom score on loop for the next week and come up with a different conclusion every time you saw it. And if you haven’t already, you will be seeing a lot more of it to come in the future.
Here is the guts of what happened at Twickenham on Saturday.
England were leading 12-0 in the 23rd minute and all bets were off until Wales, with a penalty advantage, kicked, through Rhys Patchell, to the left hand corner.
The ball hit wing Steff Evans and bounced over the try line where Anscombe and Anthony Watson raced to get a finger on it. They both did get a finger on it – it was just a question of who got there first.
Up in the TMO’s box the New Zealander Glenn Newman was asked the million dollar question. And he ruled that Watson had got the vital digit down. After about the 900th time of watching the replay we reckon that Anscombe got the first touch but Newman said he did it without any pressure and Watson got the job done.
Evans might have knocked the ball on slightly with his first touch as well, although the most significant hit that got it into the in-goal area came off his knee and is therefore legal. We think it was a knock on – minimal as it may have been – so the right decision came about the wrong way because Newman ruled on the grounding.
Who would be a TMO? You take a 12,000 mile flight from New Zealand and you get slaughtered.
As it turns out the damage should not have been terminal to Wales’ chances. Whistler Jerome Garces turned down the try and took play back in front of the sticks for the penalty which Patchell banged over. It was 12-3 instead of 12-7 but who is to say Patchell would have knocked over the conversion from the left-hand touchline, so it was probably just a two-point swing.
Then the fun began. Eddie Jones refused to talk about it – apparently he has never commented on a TMO decision before and what is done is done and all that malarkey.
Jones had been on fire all week leading up to the game as he aimed pot shots at Patchell and the Wales captain Alun Wyn Jones but he wasn’t biting on this one bar saying there was a bloke there to make a decision and he made it. He had a crack at the media but that is for another day.
Gatland was up next and he marked out a massive run and had a crack at his fellow New Zealander Newman.
In measured tones he told us: “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. At this level that’s pretty disappointing.
“He just made a bad call, didn’t he? It will be interesting to chat to him to see what his explanation is of it. I don’t know anyone who has said they agree with the decision.”
It wasn’t a rant but you wouldn’t have minded being a fly on the wall for that discussion on Saturday night.
On Sunday night BBC Wales’ Scrum V programme had Welshmen Jonathan Davies, Gwyn Jones and Sean Holley in the studio and one Englishman in Jerry Guscott. So you can guess which way they all voted in the try or no try ballot and Guscott was in RugbySpy’s camp. The studio audience in Cardiff were pretty vociferous as well so Guscott was a brave man to put his head on the block.
But at the Stoop, on Sunday, one former England international, and now a TV pundit, told us that he really couldn’t call it whilst on Saturday night at Twickers one Welshman said it was a fair enough decision. Go figure……….
This one will run and run.
Scotland’s 32-26 win over France at Murrayfield gave debuts to two things. It was the first appearance of something resembling a Scottish rugby team in this year’s Six Nations after their collapse in Cardiff.
And it was also the first appearance of the Auld Alliance Trophy which was presented to the Scottish captain John Barclay after the game.
There might be some out there who don’t get why every game should have a trophy presented afterwards – the big prize is at the end of the tournament after all.
But this one – like some of the others in rugby – means something so in case you were wondering what that was all about here goes.
One hundred years on from Armistice Day the trophy celebrates the captains of the Scottish and French teams who played in the last game between the two nations before the First World War.
They were Eric Milroy and Marcel Burgun and they both died in the conflict.
Milroy, a scrum-half who toured with the British & Irish Lions in 1910, was a machine gun officer with the Black Watch and died on the Somme in 1916.
Burgun played for Racing Club in Paris and Castres winning 11 caps for France as a wing, centre and fly-half, and was shot down and killed in 1915 when working as an artillery observer and pilot. The pair were 28 and 25 respectively.
In all there were 31 Scots and 21 Frenchmen who had played Test rugby killed in the Great War as well as 28 English players, 14 Welsh and 12 Irish.
As Ben MacIntyre reported in The Times on Saturday, the London Evening News editorial wrote that ‘Young sporty men have better work to do. They are summoned to leave their spot and play their part in a greater game’.
With all this talk of TMOs and the rest of the circus surrounding rugby – despite it being a living for some of us – it reminds us that it is still only a game.