LLANELLI SCARLETS COACH Simon Easterby and captain Rob McCusker were incensed by a heavy penalty count and a controversial Tom Court try that went against them in their Pro12 semi-final defeat by Ulster.
A late Scarlets fightback was not enough to claw back a scoreboard gap that stretched to 22 points after Court barreled over their line to dot down. Irish referee awarded a try but then asked the TMO if there was any reason why he should not award the prop’s effort.
Almost two minutes and 16 replays passed before the call ‘you may award the try’ came down. The angles either seemed to show Court’s momentum had taken him over for the score. Others were obscured. However, a final angle surfaced second before the try was awarded, appearing to show a Scarlets knee knocking the ball loose, just short of the line.
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Speaking post-match, Easterby told TheScore.ie, “I’m not sure whether you guys say that third try and the video referee decision. I don’t see how that can be given when it is clearly short of the line. You expect some calls to go against you but… there is a clear decision, where it obviously isn’t a try and it takes the game out of your hands.”
He added, “We’ve got to deal with this. This will make us that bit hungrier next season… there’s a fair bit of emotion in the dressing room after the match and, I think, rightly so.
Easterby was asked if Ulster could go on to win the final on 25 May. “Yeah, they certainly can,” he responded, “especially if they get the rub of the green with the referee like they did [tonight]. I think they’d probably look forward to having Alain Rolland refereeing the game again.”
Scarlets captain Rob McCusker lamented the amount of turnovers and penalties his side gifted to Ulster and conceding two first half tries that gave the home side ‘a quality head-start’. McCusker, too, had issues with the match officials.
We did well during the week; we knew how he was going to ref those areas but I don’t think we dealt with the Ulster defence as well as we would have hoped.
McCusker was asked by a Welsh journalist why a neutral [Scottish or Italian] referee was not in charge for the semi-final between Scarlets and their Irish opponents. He responded, “We are told that they are professional enough to be impartial yet you don’t have that for an international so I don’t know why we do for a club game.”
Easterby, a former Ireland flanker, interjected, “I think we have to be careful that we are not using him as an excuse. At best I’d say [Rolland] was, I won’t say. We contributed to our own downfall. I think it was a combination of things but when you come to a place like Ravenhill what you’ve got to expect is a little bit of consistency.
“Like Rob said, we focused and analysed aspects of his refereeing during the week and that actually came out. We’ve got to deal with that on the pitch and react to it if we are not getting the calls.”
*Additional reporting by Megan Joyce of The Front Row Union.