Farrell lucky to escape sanction for last-gasp ‘no-arms’ challenge
Fly-half ’s dangerous tackle could easily have brought action from the referee and a win for South Africa
This match was a good old arm wrestle, with South Africa doing most of the attacking in the first half and England dominating the second, so it was inevitable in a game of small margins that there would be greater scrutiny on a “tackle” such as Owen Farrell’s on Andre Esterhuizen.
Taking off my South African hat and putting on an impartial one, I am trying to be as objective as I can, but Farrell can count himself lucky to get away with that “no-arms” challenge.
If a big man had hit a smaller man in similar fashion, resulting in a “broken” smaller man, it would probably have resulted in a different outcome. Think Bakkies Botha on Jonny Wilkinson as an example.
Many people will think that if Farrell’s tackle is not worthy of being penalised, then a lot of other tackles would have to be reassessed.
The arm wrapping around is an afterthought.
In addition, any tackle which starts chest-high and finishes with snapping back the head of the ball carrier is still definitely deemed to be dangerous all day, every day.
On this point, I would say I would not agree with the assessment of referee Angus Gardner and the Television Match Official.
Outside the decision, which may or may not have resulted in a different match outcome, I have to say that this contest was played in an outstanding spirit and camaraderie.
I thought on the whole that the referee did well in the rest of the game. Gardner was spot-on with three other important calls.
First, Maro Itoje’s yellow card in the first half of the game was legitimate and fair.
Although he stopped Ivan van Zyl five metres short of the line with a superb tackle, he held on to the South African scrum-half, which was deemed cynical.
Itoje’s previous infringements in the game had no relevance to that decision.
The South Africans will be kicking themselves that they were not able to press home their numerical advantage at that point.
The referee also called it right on two key penalties late in the second half.
The first was when the South African scrum collapsed near the try line to allow Farrell to put England ahead. The second was when England’s scrum disintegrated just inside their own half and Handre Pollard missed the opportunity to restore South Africa’s lead when his penalty hit the upright.
Perhaps the game was won and lost when South Africa botched their field position close to the England line with a minute to go and never tried a simple dropped kick.
In a game of small margins, that appeared the obvious play.
Wrong call: Referee Angus Gardner should have taken action against Owen Farrell for this dangerous tackle on Andre Esterhuizen