Alain Rolland has come out in defence of the officiating in the first Test of the 2021 British & Irish Lions tour of South Africa.
The Lions emerged victorious – 22-17 – after a hard-fought contest which saw a brilliant second-half comeback by the men in red.
There have, however, been loud grumblings in South Africa with regard to some of the decisions made by referee Nic Berry and TMO Marius Jonker, grumblings which, Rolland believes, are unfounded.
Penning an article in dailymail.co.uk, Rolland scrutinised each decision in question, beginning with Willie Le Roux’s disallowed try in the 47th minute.
“This is the correct decision,” he wrote. “You need to look at the kicker's standing foot, NOT the foot that's in the air striking the ball. The back foot sets the offside line, not the point of contact with the ball.
It is no different to when you are defending your goal-line. You might be leaning forward, with your torso and hands in front of the line (while not on the ground) but your feet are on or behind the line.
The offside position is from the hindmost foot. The referee gave the try on the field. For the TMO to overrule that, there has to be compelling evidence.
There was enough to show Le Roux was in front of the foot that was planted.”
South African fans were also outraged at the fact that Lions flanker Hamish Watson was not sent from the field after a tip-tackle on Willie Le Roux. Rolland wrote:
“Some people will look at that tackle within the context of the game and don't see it to be particularly dangerous.
Others will look at the technicality of the tackle, see feet lifted up beyond the horizontal and deem it, within the laws, to be a yellow card.
Just giving a penalty does not make it an incorrect call. Had the referee pulled out a yellow card, that would also have been an acceptable call.
The game is not black and white. Every decision does not fit neatly into a box.”
In the 72nd minute, Springbok centre Damian de Allende scored what could have been a match-winning try, but was disallowed due to a knock-on in the lead-up thereto. Rolland’s response was resolute:
“Again, the officials got it right. There was a contest in the air between Liam Williams and Cheslin Kolbe. You can clearly see that the last touch on the ball came from the South Africa winger and went in a forward direction. That is enough compelling evidence.
The referee asked for three things to be checked: the knock-on, then to see if there was a pull back, and then the grounding. Once the knock-on was given, the first offence in the sequence, what happens next is immaterial. It was another good process from the team of match officials.”