Owens: Watson was lucky

Former international referee Nigel Owens says Nic Berry got most of his decisions correct in the first Test between the Springboks and British & Irish Lions, but Hamish Watson should have been yellow-carded.

Watson was involved in a tip tackle on Springbok fullback Willie le Roux in the second half of the first Test this past Saturday.

Controversially, referee Nic Berry decided to only award the Springboks a penalty, despite Watson taking Le Roux through the horizontal and driving him dangerously into the ground.

Writing in his regular column for the Telegraph, Owens praised the refereeing team for their performance in the first Test, but said that the Watson decision was the one call they got wrong.

“I felt Nic Berry had a decent game overall and there were a number of decisions where the TMO, Marius Jonker, had to be called upon.

“The one decision where I disagreed with the officials, however, came with Hamish Watson’s tip tackle on Willie Le Roux in the second half, when the British and Irish Lions flanker was penalised but not sanctioned any further. It should have been at least a yellow card.

“When you lift a player like that past the horizontal, the fact that Le Roux put his hands and the ball out to stop his fall is irrelevant. You do not take that into account as a referee. It’s on the tackler, who was fortunate that Le Roux did not land on his neck or head and put out his arms to protect himself.

“Le Roux was treated and then five minutes or so later left the field, but we do not know whether that was tactical or if he was injured from that incident. It shouldn’t have made a difference in the decision making of the officials anyway, but the offence by Watson was clearly a yellow card in my opinion and there was not much debate around it.

“I did not believe it was a red-card offence, meaning Watson will not be cited, unless the citing commissioner views the incident differently. In the end, Watson was fortunate to only be penalised and not sent to the sidelines for 10 minutes.

“The officials did well with those three reviews for try-scoring opportunities by South Africa, making the right calls. But the Watson decision was the one misstep.”


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Dylan Jack