Blunder: Referee Angus Gardner failed to penalise England flyhalf Owen Farrell for an illegal tackle. Picture: STEVE HAAG/GALLO IMAGES
Blunder: Referee Angus Gardner failed to penalise England flyhalf Owen Farrell for an illegal tackle. Picture: STEVE HAAG/GALLO IMAGES

In a shocking admission that is bound to make his officiating life difficult in SA‚ Australian referee Angus Gardner admitted to making an error by not penalising England flyhalf Owen Farrell for his illegal tackle on Springbok centre André Esterhuizen recently.

Gardner won World Rugby’s referee of the year award in Monaco on Sunday and was speaking on former England centre Will Greenwood’s podcast.

In what became the last play of England’s 12-11 win against SA at Twickenham on November 3‚ Farrell tackled Esterhuizen without wrapping his arms around the Bok centre.

According to law nine that governs dangerous play in the World Rugby law book‚ point 16 states that a player must not charge or knock down an opponent carrying the ball without attempting to grasp that player.

In that Test‚ repeated replays showed Farrell made no attempt to grasp Esterhuizen.

“I think in hindsight now‚ having discussed it with other referees and having had some mini-camps post that game‚ a penalty should have been the outcome there and it should have been given‚” Gardner said.

“I think we need to see a wrap with both arms and in hindsight, although he got pinned‚ there wasn’t a big enough wrap from both arms. There was a wrap with one arm‚ but there wasn’t a wrap with the other arm.”

Gardner‚ who also incurred the wrath of SA rugby supporters for his handling of SA’s 32-19 loss against Argentina in Mendoza on August 25 during the Rugby Championship‚ said the angles available to him at Twickenham influenced his decision.

Gardner also highlighted the subsequent collision between Farrell and Esterhuizen as a factor in the decision that denied the Boks a legitimate penalty.

“The angles that I saw with the television match officials, which were the head-on angles‚ showed a clear wrap of the front arm but it was the back arm that got pinned.

“I guess of the angles that I was shown in the stadium at the time‚ that seemed to me to be enough of a wrap for me to constitute a legal tackle. It was never high and what we were looking at was the tackle technique.

“The collision itself also swayed my decision because it was a big rugby collision and we see these hits in the game.”

Having not learnt his lesson‚ Farrell pulled off the same no-arms tackle on Australian lock Izack Rodda during their Cook Cup encounter at Twickenham last Saturday. With the incident taking place near England’s try line‚ SA referee Jaco Peyper did not sanction Farrell nor award a penalty try.

England were leading 13-10 just before half-time and a penalty try would have given Australia a four-point lead. England won the game 37-18.

Gardner said Peyper may have seen the incident in the way he saw the November 3 one, but said they need to be honest about their mistakes.

“Maybe Jaco saw it in the same manner in which I saw it in the first game.

“We don’t always get it right and we understand that there are going to be decisions that are going to heavily influence the game,” he said.