It can’t be said that Nigel Owens didn’t add his ‘two pence worth’ of interest and conjecture to the 2019/20 Champions Cup final.
The highly-rated International referee once again controlled the pinnacle match for European Professional Club Rugby (EPRC). He oversaw Exeter Chiefs claim their maiden title over Racing 92 – but not without a few Nigels to go in the mix.
The Welshman is straight-up and never suffers from wanting to tell his version of events. From a Simon Thomas article in the Wales Online website, a few quotes will go a long way to concluding whether the claims by Racing fans and fans of good timekeeping are worth their own two pence worth.
I don’t want to be too harsh on Nigel Owens, but that was one of the worse refereeing performances I’ve seen in a while. Everyone has an off day, but felt he was trying to make the final too much about him instead of the two teams on show. Shame. Still love the bloke though!
— JustLuckyIGuess (@ZachCurtis2) October 17, 2020
Nigel Owens added his ‘two pence worth’ in Champions Cup final
Firstly, the referee’s decision stands. This has, and will always be the lasting rule in sport. Gladly, none of the Racing 92 players objected as vehemently as they do in Football. When rugby players begin to do that, then the game will be a poorer exhibition.
In terms of the match, a 31-27 victory to the Chiefs was a terrific one. It had its heights of expression, speed, and determination from both backs and forwards. Read the article from Elizabeth Cartright, for a full breakdown.
This piece is a lighthearted reaction to the drama which sometimes follows the Welsh referee. A man who has shone on the world’s stage, in EPCR, and in the Premiership, and Pro Rugby alike. You can’t reach his position without some talent and a high understanding of the game. Yet, he is a constant target for positive and, for negative fan reaction.
And in a rare insight, he confided in [friend] Simon Thomas about several key points of interest. Giving his two pence worth you might say, after social media blew-up postmatch.
Explaining his decisions; in his own words
The byline says ‘unprecedented move’ and while referees do disclose their conclusions on games’ rulings, few have been so detailed. Some might say he has been given a pulpit to explain this but, it might be that EPCR officials insisted.
Below are a few lines from that interview, and do look at the Wales Online article and on the hundreds of reactions on both Twitter and Facebook, to gain a fair perspective of how rugby fans have responded in course.
French club Racing were pressing for the try which would have put them ahead but, were penalized by Owens just inches from the Exeter line. Nigel Owens said that, “The Racing 92 guy who tried to reach for the line failed to do so. The ball was short of the line and he then ended up on his back.
“I said ‘hands away’ to the players on the ground. I was telling them not to illegally play the ball. Because the ball was not over the goal-line, everybody on the ground had to let it go.
— Smallclone (@Smallclone_) October 18, 2020
“If there was a ruck formed, then Hidalgo-Clyne wouldn’t be able to put his hands in to win that ball. But because there was no ruck formed, his actions were quite legal. He was on his feet and entitled to play that ball.
“He was onside because he was behind the goal-line and one foot on the goal-line, so he was quite entitled to play that ball, which he did.”
Owens then concluded, “The Racing player was penalized for holding on. Even though it wasn’t a ruck, he wasn’t entitled to hold on to the ball. Once you are on the ground, you are out of the game.
“When a jackaler is rewarded in those situations, there is never a ruck formed. A tackle has taken place and the player on his feet is playing the ball and the player on the ground has not released it. You can’t lie on the ground and hold the ball. You must release it.”
A fair explanation of rules, however, what about Time On?
The second point of argument was the timekeeping, and whether Racing 92 could proceed with their kick restart. In many matches where the referees watch differs to that of the stadium clock, a clear decision does not hold so much interest. Yet it was the theatrics and manner in how Owens discussed heatedly with the TMO, his actions beforehand, that has alarmed some.
Made all too comical, when the shirt sponsor for the referee was the official timing company, Tissot.
“When the kicking tee arrived on for Exeter to take their penalty, I said ‘time on’,” he explained. “For whatever technical reasons, they weren’t able to restart the clock immediately. So, when the player kicked the ball, the stadium clock was showing 79.57 seconds.
“If that was correct, Racing would have time to restart because the time has to be red before the player kicks the ball for the game to be over. I needed to stop to clarify the situation and to find out if the stadium clock was right.
“It turned out that when the penalty was kicked by Exeter, it was already about 15 seconds over the 80 minutes. The stadium clock was that much out. So time was up.”
Again, rugby should be pleased that no players remonstrated strongly with Nigel Owens over this. So for this, Last Word on Rugby is again a proud member of the fraternity.
In the end, the individual acts of the referee shouldn’t interfere with the game. And while Nigel Owens, or Romain Poite will be rushed off to their changing shed post-match, on this occasion, the referee has come out with his valid explanations.
Having the platform given him, Owens ended his detailed overview with this; “Ultimately, again, the decision was the correct one. That’s the most important thing.”
“Main photo credit”
Embed from Getty Images