Johnson mystified by Lawrence’s ‘huge call’
Martin Johnson sought an explanation from referee Mark Lawrence for the “huge call” which finally condemned England to defeat against Ireland and left their RBS 6 Nations campaign hanging in the balance.
Ireland won 20-16 courtesy of Tommy Bowe's second try of the match, just minutes after Jonny Wilkinson's drop goal had nudged England ahead for the first time.
England still had time to mount a response and did so with a well-organised and powerful driving maul which carried them to within five metres of Ireland's try-line.
But when Ireland finally halted the drive, both England's players and management were stunned to discover that referee Lawrence had not awarded them the put-in at the scrum for not releasing.
In that moment went England's hopes. From chasing a Triple Crown and potential Grand Slam, England's defeat leaves them staring down the barrel with inhospitable away games against Scotland and France to come.
“I thought we were going to score at the end. When you have gone 25 yards and they have tried to collapse it three times already, it is a huge call to give Ireland the scrum,” said Johnson, the England manager.
“I don't know why we didn't get the put-in. If they are taking guys out of the maul illegally — even if they don't actually collapse it — it is still a penalty, it has a material effect.
“Maybe Mark has got a reason, I will talk to him. I don't want to labour the point because we lost the game but it was a penalty to us before it even got to that point.”
England were also disappointed by a pivotal decision early in the second half — to reverse a penalty against Tomas O'Leary — which led directly to Ireland's second try for Keith Earls.
With the match on a knife-edge at 8-6 after 53 minutes, England won a penalty at the scrum but Danny Care flipped O'Leary onto his back as he tried to wrestle the ball from his opposite number.
Meanwhile, Dan Parks struggled to comprehend how his latest kicking masterclass had gone unrewarded after Scotland slumped to yet another RBS 6 defeat in Italy, 16-12.
“I was very frustrated,” said Parks. “When you kick a ball to touch and then chase, and they get a chance to take a quick one — that really bugs me.
“It's just an urgency thing really; I think it's as simple as that. It was hot out there but we shouldn't be letting them take things quickly, because that would've been ideal.
“That's the whole idea of putting it into touch, to put them under pressure at the line-out.”