Rugby must tackle inconsistency over new law, says Sean Reidy
Exeter v Ulster, European Champions Cup: Sandy Park , Sunday 5.30pm
After the penalty try that sparked a thousand opinions last Friday night, Ulster's Sean Reidy believes rugby will need to find some balance in its application of high tackle laws.
A World Rugby directive, which came into effect three days before the province faced Scarlets in Llanelli, instructed referees to show zero tolerance when applying the existing laws and Reidy was the first to fall foul with a game-turning yellow card against the Welsh region.
The flanker, who has been enjoying a fine season as one of his side's unsung performers, was sent to the bin for what seemed to be a try-saving tackle when the diminutive scrum-half Aled Davies was diving for the line in the 61st minute.
While Reidy halted the scrum-half, the penalty try was also awarded, consigning Ulster to their fifth PRO12 defeat of the season.
The Irish-qualified Kiwi, who made his Test debut on last summer's tour to South Africa, admitted to being unsure how a tackler is expected to defend in such a situation.
"So close to the line, what can you do?" he asked rhetorically.
"If you sort of dive at the bloke's ankles, he's going to float over the top.
"If you go too high, you're going to be yellow carded. You need an even balance.
"At the time, I thought I wasn't in the wrong. I thought I made a positive tackle, but the referee saw it in a different light. It's his call.
"He went upstairs (to the TMO) and he got a bit of feedback from upstairs.
"The new rules have changed and you can't make any contact around the area, even though during the game there were numerous tackles which were similar.
"He just said the tackle was around the neck region so that prevented a try and obviously it was a yellow card.
"We knew we'd have to change our approach a little bit, but obviously I didn't think it would be that bad.
"I'm sure the laws will ease off a bit in these coming weeks."
While it will provide little solace after the fact, especially having been denied what would have been an impressive away win, his side's Director of Rugby Les Kiss revealed that even referee Marius Mitrea admitted that a mistake had been made.
"The decision last week was agreed through the right channels, and even Marius, that it wasn't the right decision," Kiss added.
"That was agreed by all across the board. But we're not here to moan about that, we just want clarity and less confusion about what's happening at the moment.
"It's World Rugby who have introduced this directive about being more stringent in managing the laws as they exist, particularly around tackles around the head.
"It's disappointing what happened last weekend but we have to live with that.
"We need to get to a process where better decisions have to be made. Sometimes there's a bit of pain there and hopefully it won't happen to another team."
With that result consigned to the past, Ulster must immediately get back to winning ways against Exeter on Sunday to keep their hopes of a Champions Cup quarter-final spot alive.
Beating both this weekend's opponents and Clermont at home has given them a chance of the last eight but they must come out on top against both the Chiefs this weekend and Bordeaux next Saturday to maintain their challenge.
And despite an indifferent run of form, Reidy remains confident his side can progress from what always looked a testing pool.
"Obviously we really want to get back on that wagon and play some good footie," he said. "We want to get some good results going.
"We know we can get through to the quarter-finals and there's some real belief in the squad.
"We're going to go out there and really attack it and play some good running rugby out there.
"I think we've shown we can score points when we get in the right areas. We just need to be a little more clinical.
"We're getting in the right areas, but a dropped ball, a little mistake here or there, that's really costing us.
"It's Europe and we've seen in the past that 16 to 19 points can get you through, so get a couple of wins here and we're well in the hunt."
Exeter's form has improved considerably since being beaten by Ulster at Kingspan in October however, with Reidy aware that much will rest on the shoulders of he and his forward colleagues.
"They've got some big boys, but we've also got some class footballers as well," he added.
"If we can match them up front, we know our backs can do the business.
"We're going over there to get stuck into them."