Connacht coach Pat Lam is calling on a new system to regulate referees in the RaboDirect Pro 12. In the wake of Connacht’s 32-30 loss to the Scarlets last weekend in Parc Y Scarlets, Lam says all the referees from the four countries should be controlled by a single entity, similar to SANZAR in the Southern Hemisphere.
“It is a hard job, but all we want is accountability. There are four bosses here for referees and I think the Celtic League can improve the standard of officiating across the board if they were all to come under one umbrella.”
Lam continues to be frustrated by refereeing calls at “crucial times of the game”, that he believes are costing Connacht. Last weekend against the Scarlets, after Connacht had forced their way back from a 25-6 deficit to close the gap to 25 - 23, a penalty against Connacht when camped on the Scarlets’ line provided the home side with possession from which they scored.
Lam says the penalty was a “big call” at a crucial time, and one he believed should have gone the other way. “I was astounded the penalty went the other way, and that is frustrating, because if you look at the amount of bonus point losses we have had, officials have given us hard calls. It is about consistency.”
The former Auckland Blues coach says touch judges are similar in their approach to Connacht, calling for television match officials to decide tries that have clearly been scored. “If you look at our season and look at the seven losses - I have got four apologies from referees where we got bonus points, including the two Leinster games.” Although Connacht came away from Llanelli with two points, the Scarlets consolidated their position in the top six for the guaranteed Heineken Cup place, while Connacht are now seven points behind in seventh place.
Lam accepts Heineken Cup rugby is now unlikely. “It’s out of our control now. We just have to regroup and face Ulster, then Munster - there are no easy games. We have got to keep going. We are still going for the sixth place, but there are other targets because Connacht have never ever finished higher than eighth.”
Galwegians add cup crown to league title
Galwegians claimed their second junior cup title in three years at the Sportsground last Sunday with a comprehensive 35-15 victory over Westport, adding to their Connacht Junior 1B League title.
Westport, who took control up front, enjoyed the better start, and were on the front foot, particularly at the breakdown where Galwegians were forced to concede a host of penalties. However Westport were unable to capitalise with out-half Matt Dempsey missing an early penalty before finding his range after 30 minutes when ‘Wegian prop Paul Griffin was sent to the bin. However Westport failed to take advantage of their numerical superiority and it was ‘Wegians who launched an immediate riposte when fullback Ciaran Gaffney capitalised on some sloppy Westport defence to score the game’s opening try, which Conor Lowndes converted. And when Westport scrum-half Paul Jennings was sinbinned for illegal use of the boot, Lowndes extended the lead to 10-3 at half time.
‘Wegians struck a killer blow immediately after the resumption when Lowndes pounced for a second try, and converted.
The Mayo men responded well when a superb break from Tobin drew the cover and Dempsey crossed for an excellent try, which he converted to reduce arrears to 17-10. However almost immediately Lowndes landed a penalty before ‘Wegians put the game out of reach when Lowndes fed substitute winger Dave Butler, who finished impressively from near halfway. Lowndes landed another superb conversion, and shortly afterwards he added a third penalty to put ‘Wegians out of sight at 30-10. Westport never gave up the fight, and, with two minutes remaining, they were rewarded with a second try when centre Andrew McAleer cut through to touch down out wide, but yet again the Blues responded when centre Matt Dever intercepted a loose pass on halfway and scored in the corner to seal a memorable season for the Galway club.