Honesty under pressure
Angus Gardner’s decision not to penalise Owen Farrell’s match winning tackle on Andre Esterhuizen is being pounded on social media.
One highly respected Irish journalist labelled it “pathetic.” South African referee Jonathan Kaplan deemed the arm wrap an “afterthought”.
This is true; rugby is built upon such moments of physical dominance.
For better or worse, Farrell will not face any formal sanction.
Memory bank technique demands irresponsible bravery as cowardice guarantees losing the collision, with concussion promised by tackling lower in such moments.
Attempts at saving rugby have players facing this split second Catch 22. Faced with Esterhuizen’s stampeding run, Farrell’s right shoulder torpedoed into the South African’s chest.
Growing up in the shadow of a Rugby League king, England’s “spiritual leader” – according to Eddie Jones – clearly loves the collision, fist pumping the Twickenham sky when Gardner decreed on Saturday: “I believe there is enough of a wrap on the far side for it to be a fair tackle.”
Farrell’s left arm touched the South African, even glancing the ball under his right arm, but physics denied him a solid solid grip.
Give Andy Farrell’s son the sight of Esterhuizen in minute 80 of a two-point test match and every time he will seeks to obliterate. Technique is ingrained but the nipple line was his target.
What seems certain after re-watching Esterhuizen’s whiplash and Farrell’s stunned collapse to the floor is both men should be entered into the Head Injury Assessment return to play protocols.
The margin of Gardner calling a Springbok penalty and Farrell yellow card is paper thin.
His decision was not pathetic. It was honesty under suffocating pressure.