Steve Borthwick furious with Pat Lam after sideline confrontation

Steve Borthwick Pat Lam

Leicester Tigers head coach Steve Borthwick has said he doesn’t “have much good to say” about Bristol Bears boss Pat Lam after their sideline confrontation.

Borthwick and Lam were involved in an argument in injury time during Bristol’s narrow 26-23 win against Leicester, after a disagreement over whether Bears prop John Afoa should have been allowed back on to the pitch after being substituted.

Leicester had Bristol under massive pressure five metres from their tryline in the dying seconds of the game, after repeated infringements in the scrum saw Bears replacement tighthead prop Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro sent to the sin bin.

Leicester Tigers boss Steve Borthwick’s frustrations explained.

The officials were told that Afoa was substituted at half time for tactical reasons, but Bristol boss Lam refuted that after Chaparro was shown a yellow card, saying that he took Afoa off as he was injured, meaning that he would be unable to return to the field of play.

Referee Ian Tempest informed Lam that there would be uncontested scrums with eight Bristol men involved, meaning that the Bears would have one player less in their backline, while Leicester would be guaranteed to win the ball from the scrum.

However, just seconds after Lam told the referee that Afoa was injured, he said Afoa was able to play and the New Zealander returned to the pitch.

This incensed Leicester head coach Borthwick, who accused Lam of lying about Afoa being injured in the first place. A Bristol member of staff then told the referee that Afoa was taken off as a tactical substitution and fly-half Callum Sheedy was taken off so Bristol were reduced to 14 men.

That meant that the scrum was contested, and after the ball squirted out of the scrum, Bristol scrum-half Andy Uren kicked the ball out to end the match.

Borthwick incensed after the game.

Borthwick was interviewed by BT Sport shortly after the final whistle, and was clearly still frustrated about the incident involving Bristol prop Afoa.

“When I don’t have much good to say about people, I don’t say it. I’d rather not comment on the behaviour of the opposition. I’d rather not comment on what happened at the end,” Borthwick said.

“I’d rather comment on what happened in the minutes before that… there will be a lot of talk about the last couple of minutes there and the way people conducted themselves and that is not for me to talk about any of that.”

Bristol’s Pat Lam explains his side of the situation.

Lam explained his side of events after the game, saying that Afoa was carrying an injury into the game, but revealed that the prop decided himself to return to the pitch.

“We all remember John Afoa got injured in the Gloucester game. He was due back next week but he trained with the guys,” Lam started.

“Kyle Sinckler trained on Thursday and just had a twinge on his hammy. We made a call, we checked with the medics. They said it was a risk but if we were playing Johnny we might as well start him and then get him off at half-time and that is what I did.

“You all know I never ever take John Afoa off at 40 minutes. Then when that happened at the end there and he needed to go back on I didn’t realise he was on a tactical, I thought it was on injury and with that they wanted him to back on.

“My concern was we had driven up here because of Covid, he is nearly 40 and he sat there the whole half. Although they were, ‘Let’s go, it’s tactical’, I said we have got to look at the safety of John.

“Then the Leicester boys came in and started going and accusing us and Johnny said, ‘Bugger it, I’m going (on)’. I wasn’t happy but John said I’ll just do it and that is what he did, he went in and did the job. That is basically what happened.”

Bristol secured a home semi-final with the win, while Leicester remain in sixth place in the Gallagher Premiership table after claiming a losing bonus-point.

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