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Appalling mistake from referee simply unacceptable

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The concern whether a call can swing a game or not isn’t something that should influence referees’ calls

CONTROVERSY: Andre Esterhuizen is tackled by England's Owen Farrell (right) during the match at Twickenham om Saturday. Photo: EPA/Facundo Arrizabalaga

THERE is never a good time for a referee to make a bad call.

Not when the game is in the ­balance. Not when one team is running away with it. Not at the start or in the 80th minute of a contest. Never.

But there was something especially unacceptable about Angus Gardner’s call late in the Springboks’ game against England.

That unacceptable call came when England co-captain Owen Farrell bulldozed Springbok centre Andre Esterhuizen, but the no-arm, clear shoulder charge didn’t warrant sanction – not even a penalty – according to the Australian match official.

Television replays confirmed that the flyhalf had turned his head away to the left and dropped his arms before charging into the replacement Bok with his shoulder.

And after consulting with the Television Match Official, Gardner made his decision and said that Farrell had attempted to wrap his arms around Esterhuizen and that it didn’t warrant a sanction before ending the game with a blast of the whistle.

First, Gardner’s interpretation that the offence didn’t even warrant a straight penalty was a dubious one. And what is the point of having TMOs and all that technology if these kind of errors still creep in?

To be fair, the Boks didn’t lose that game because of Gardner’s decision; they just didn’t make proper use of their chances throughout the match. But his call certainly didn’t help.

And one has to wonder if he would have handled it differently had it ­happened at the half-hour mark, or at any other time but the last minute.

The concern whether a call can swing a game or not isn’t something that should influence referees’ calls.

We’ve seen bizarre and inconsistent refereeing at Super Rugby level many times this season. And that, in itself, is unacceptable.

But for refereeing mistakes like these to often rear their ugly heads at the highest level as well is just bad. And World Rugby needs to step in.

And while the match between the Boks and England was far from a classic, Gardner sure played his part in ensuring that the rugby public had more than just mediocre team performances to whinge about.