Dean Richards admitted the officiating of the scrum was one of a handful of frustrating factors to emerge from Sunday’s 11-9 defeat at Worcester Warriors.
His Newcastle Falcons side received little joy from referee Tom Foley in the scrum as they had to make do with an Aviva Premiership bonus point, the director of rugby making no secret of his displeasure.
“We got a point from a game where we didn’t get a point last season, we had the lion’s share of possession but we didn’t make the most of it. That was the disappointing part,” said Richards.
“Worcester only really had one chance all game and they took it. In fairness we didn’t create too many chances of our own, it was one of those turgid horrible games and I could see most of the coaching teams from both clubs falling asleep at times.”
He added: “It was a physical game, as we expected, but when you sit down and look at it in the cold light of day – the penalty at the end from the referee at the scrum – you have got to understand why. We can’t understand why.
“They’re just looking at the outcome rather than the cause, they don’t understand what’s going on in the scrum and they are making rash decisions which are having a massive effect on the game. Some of them don’t even make a decision, as we found out against Leicester.
“It is very frustrating, and I think Steve Diamond at Sale Sharks said it last night. You have got a bunch of young referees who have never been in a scrum before in their life or refereed to any great level, and they are making decisions which are having a huge impact on the game. It happened last night [at Sale] and it has happened again today.
“Worcester were jumping the hit every time, and it is quite clear in that. In fact he penalised them for it in the first half but, once he had ticked the box, decided not to continue with that. What happened after that, I don’t think he had a clue what was going on. He was looking at the outcome, and the outcome was that they got a penalty. If they carried on doing that all day long they were going to get a penalty with the way he was refereeing, and it was a shame really because I think Tom Foley has got the potential to be a reasonable referee.
“You have got a group of young referees coming through who have probably never put their head in a scrum in their lives, and probably haven’t got a clue what’s going on in there. As a consequence they are making decisions which they’re not quite sure about, but they’ll get there in the end. It’s one of those things, it’s all about experience, but at this moment in time they are looking at the outcome rather than the cause. If you understand the cause then probably the decision would be different.”
Having won two of their five Premiership games and taken a pair of bonus points from the other three, Richards said ahead of Saturday’s visit of Bristol: “If we win next weekend then the boys will come away with a bit more of a smile on their face but, having said that, we will rue the games which went missing against Leicester and Worcester.
“We gifted Worcester their try even though their guy came round the side and kicked it out of the ruck, which led to the turnover. It was just one of those things. You need to take your chances when they come, and we didn’t.”
Newcastle were denied a possible try from skipper Will Welch late in the game when play was pulled back for a forward pass, Richards stating: “It didn’t look forward on my video.
“They’re the accuracies you want week in, week out, and I could understand it if we scored the try and he came back to look at it. But he didn’t do that. Why wouldn’t you let the try be scored and then come back? The angle of the camera on our footage didn’t look forward, but there you go.”
Pleased by the contribution of some his players, the Falcons boss said: “Simon Hammersley was outstanding, as were our back row of Ally Hogg, Mark Wilson and Will Welch. Hoggy showed why we think he is one of the best thinking footballers in the game, and the back row were outstanding. The disappointing thing was that we didn’t have the accuracy we wanted in attack, and as a consequence there were opportunities which went missing.”
Asked if he was dismayed by England’s decision to once again overlook Newcastle players for their elite player squad, Richards responded: “Yeah, very much so. I thought Mark Wilson would have been in that EPS squad, and there are a lot of boys in there who are not performing to his level week in, week out. The same for Simon Hammersley and Will Welch.
“It may be a matter of just opinion in terms of what they are looking for. They might be looking for something totally different but these boys are performing well every week in a side which is actually performing alright. This time last year you might have said something else, but it is disappointing they are not in and you would expect certainly two of them to have been there.”
Asked if there had been dialogue with England head coach Eddie Jones, a former team-mate of Richards during their Leicester days, he said: “I met Eddie in passing in the corridor at a conference in Loughborough for five minutes, and that was it. He came up to the hospitality box for one of our games but I’ve not seen him or heard from him, and none of our other coaches have either. Perhaps he doesn’t want to. It’s a long way to Newcastle – a little bit like the refereeing department. It’s a long way for them to come.”
Newcastle Falcons are next in action on Saturday at 3pm when Bristol are their Aviva Premiership visitors. For tickets call 0871 226 6060 or click here.