Six Nations: Earls blasts 'sickening' try decision as Ireland lose to Wales
Wales 19 Ireland 13: Keith Earls has added his voice to the chorus of discontent led by Brian O'Driscoll by describing Ireland's 19-13 RBS 6 Nations defeat by Wales as “sickening”.
Touch judge Peter Allan was the target of Irish fury after the Scottish official confirmed to referee Jonathan Kaplan that Mike Phillips's decisive 50th-minute try should stand.
On the contrary, the disputed score breached three laws, starting with Matthew Rees failing to use the same ball that was kicked into touch for the quick line-out.
Furthermore the ball picked up by Rees had been handled by a ball boy, before the series of violations was completed by the Wales hooker clearly stepping into play when throwing to Phillips.
Ireland protested furiously to Kaplan, who acted on the information supplied by Allan, and the sense of injustice lingered long after the final whistle.
“The try was controversial. It's bad to lose, but when you lose like that, it's sickening. It's heart-breaking,” said Earls, the Lions winger who was one of few in green to impress in Cardiff.
“The rules state you can't take a quick line-out with another ball.
“There were six points in the game and with the conversion, the try meant seven points, so it was a big factor in the result.
“We talked about it at the time, asking what happened. When we found out, it was sickening.”
Coach Declan Kidney's response was typically restrained. “We lost by six points, it was a seven-point decision, but look at what's happened in Japan. That's life isn't it,” he said.
But incensed skipper O'Driscoll refused to take a diplomatic line.
“I didn't see it myself but when half your team is saying it you take their word for it,” said O'Driscoll, whose third-minute touch down saw him equal Ian Smith's championship try-scoring record of 24.
“I tried to relate that to Jonathan Kaplan and the touch judge. They were having none of it and it's really frustrating for such an incident to have a huge bearing on the game.
“I did mention it to him a few minutes later after I had seen it on the TV and I told him that it was a massive momentum swinger and that it had a huge bearing on the game, but he just shrugged that off.
“If I was wrong I would personally be embarrassed, especially if you have the services there to cover all bases.
“Games hang in the balance on decisions. Everyone is human and wrong calls are made sometimes, but some are unforgivable.”
The services O'Driscoll was referring to were those of the television match official, though in this instance protocol dictates Geoff Warren was powerless to help.
The video referee can only assist in questions concerning the act of scoring, whereas the unlawful line-out took place near the halfway line. No retrospective action can be taken by the International Rugby Board, but the incident may prompt a rethink in the way the TMO is used.
Phillips' intervention, and Allan's lack of it, ensured the try dominated discussion of a low-quality encounter Ireland could have snatched at the death.
In the final play of the game, a one-man overlap on the left was ignored by substitute Paddy Wallace, who stepped inside instead of feeding Earls.
While Earls publicly supported his team-mate's decision, his exasperation was palpable.
“It was very frustrating that the ball didn't come to me. It was Paddy Wallace who took the step inside,” he said.
“Paddy is an experienced man. He made his decision and I have to back him up.
“But I think that if the ball had come to me I'd have snuck in at the corner.
“Paddy didn't think so and went for it, all you can do his back him up.”
The finger of blame also hovered over Kidney, whose decision to replace Ronan O'Gara, who surpassed the 1,000 Test points milestone in the game, with the less experienced Jonathan Sexton in the 50th minute was highly questionable.
Surely as surprised as anyone by his unexpected introduction, Sexton's first act was to slice a kick straight into touch for the line-out that led to Phillips' try.
The Leinster half-back then missed a simple penalty, giving the substitution the appearance of a hospital pass from Kidney.
Defeat by England at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday will see Ireland equal their worst Six Nations performance alongside 2008, the aftermath of which saw Eddie O'Sullivan removed as coach.
With only five games left until the World Cup to repair the damage done by a demoralising championship, the England game is of paramount importance.
“People who say we have no chance against England have to think again,” said O'Driscoll.”They have obviously never seen an Ireland-England game and don't know what it means to the Irish public and the Irish team. There's plenty of rugby left in this side.”