FALCONS boss John Fletcher is still seething over the controversial sin-binning of prop Jon Golding in last week’s EDF Cup defeat at Wasps.
And the Newcastle director of rugby has written to the RFU’s top referees chief officials protesting the decision and the penalty try awarded by Scotland’s David Changleng.
As he prepared his Falcons side for tomorrow night’s European Challenge Cup tie in Connacht in which All Black prop Carl Hayman will start in a new-look front row, Fletcher did not mince his words over what he reckons was a crucial decision in the 24-6 defeat at Adams Park.
“The decision to sin-bin one of our players was pretty close to a disgrace to be honest,” said Fletcher. “We have sent that information up to the referee’s body and we’ve spoken to the referee and we’re awaiting a response.
“The first penalty was right and John Golding should have been penalised, but the next two were just crazy. If you look at the video Phil Vickery ends up underneath his hooker facing the wrong way and the chances are he’s taken it down and he got the decision because he is England captain.
“That’s my opinion but I’m pretty sure that I’m right and we have sent in a report and I’m getting a bit sick of it because a lot decisions are about the perception of the referee and not what he sees.”
It’s not the first time Newcastle have suffered from poor refereeing and there is no doubt referees, possibly subconsciously, blame the Falcons for a scrum going down because their pack has had a reputation of being underpowered. That may, however, change with Hayman around.
Fletcher doesn’t anticipate anything other than an apology if he is proved right and he added: “That’s the only thing that will happen and it’s happened four times this season already and that’s great. We’d rather have the four points or the semi-final spot, but an apology is reasonably close.
“Referees are human and mistakes happen but there is a trend, in my opinion, that they referee too much by perception and guess and not by what they see. The only thing I ask is that they referee what they see. He just got that decision at Wasps so wrong.”
Tomorrow night (6.30pm) will see French officials in charge of the game and Fletcher added: “Connacht beat a Glasgow squad containing 14 internationals last weekend so we are giving them the respect they deserve.
“They won by four points but it could have been more and then they ran a star-studded Leinster team very close in Dublin a couple of weeks ago too.
“They kick the ball behind you a lot and they fly around. We also have a French referee which could make it an interesting game in terms of the laws being applied.”
Fletcher makes five changes with Hayman forming part of a new-look front row as fellow All Black Joe McDonnell and hooker Andy Long come in. Brent Wilson is at flanker and Geoff Parling switches to second row for Andy Perry.
There is just one change to the back line as Hall Charlton comes in at scrum-half for James Grindal which means Mathew Tait stays at full back.
“Mathew Tait is still learning his trade,” said Fletcher. “He went okay last week – Matt Burke is one of the best full backs in the world and he is a pretty hard act to follow. Mathew has the potential to be one of the best outside backs in the world, he is certainly the best 21-year-old outside back in the world. If you’re asking me if Mathew Tait is a better player than Matt Burke, he probably is a better player than Matt was at the age of 21. If you’re talking about a direct comparison, there ain’t many people as good as Matt Burke.”
NEWCASTLE FALCONS: M Tait, T May, J Noon, T Flood, J Rudd, J Wilkinson, H Charlton, J McDonnell, A Long, C Hayman, G Parling, M Sorenson, B Wilson, B Woods, P Dowson (capt). Reps: M Thompson, M Ward, S Tomes, R Winter, L Dickson, S Jones, T Visser.