Like many others within the Irish rugby community, Alan Quinlan wasn’t impressed by Jaco Peyper’s refereeing performance on Saturday.
In a case of week-old deja vu, Joe Schmidt’s charges came out of the gate like raging bulls on Saturday. Alas, they fell apart as a more physically dominant squad out-muscled them in the closing stages. Some may cite the loss as being attributable to a debilitated second-half scrum or a banal game plan in a macabre deluge.
The irksome quality of this is that it so easily could have been different.
While all those Irish errors and knock on’s came from untimely bullet passes at close proximity (in an inclement setting), and France unleashed the best tighthead prop in Europe – Rabah Slimani – fresh from the bench, it could have been oh so different.
One could easily forget quite how many errors were made by the officials and referee Jaco Peyper, despite being blessed with Nigel Owens, the best referee in the business, along the sideline.
Alan Quinlan was quick to criticize the officiating on Monday’s episode of Against The Head (RTE 2) and has written that Peyper should stand down following his performance.
Quinlan points out three instances in French territory which were spread out over a short five minute period during a dominant Irish first half.
Importantly, again, this is when Ireland failed to convert on their early dominance. Few will argue that in taking the most renowned pairing out of the French side (Maestri and French Captain Guirado) for any period would have benefited Ireland and their scoring opportunities immensely.
This is compounded by the fact that had Guirado been sent off for the egregious close-line tackle – as tendered by Quinlan – France would have been forced to introduce Camille Chat for scrummaging purposes at the probable cost of a back, such as crucial try scorer Maxine Medard.
While capable at Racing Metro, Chat would have been on his debut cap and red raw in a punishing Six Nations cauldron.
Extra penalties for such infringements would obviously have been welcomed and while Peyper didn’t favor either team, Ireland really suffered while in the ascendancy and TMO reviews of the contested knock on’s from Trimble (off his head) and Robbie Henshaw would have been fair reviews to adduce from.
Regardless of Peyper however, Ireland left that game behind them and the toll of numerous injuries as well as a lack of player confidence following a dour Champions Cup was self evident.
This continues to intensify as Jonathan Sexton’s whiplash, Sean O’Brien’s hamstring, Dave Kearney’s AC joint, Jared Payne’s hamstring and Mike McCarthy’s concussion join the gargantuan injury list that includes luminaries like Bowe, Henderson, Fitzgerald, Healy, O’Mahony, Earls and Zebo.
The Six Nations media has been quick to condemn the actions of the French and the officiating, but it is clear that in their respective countries they now know that Ireland are out of the race to claim a third successive championship.