Munster head coach Anthony Foley believes the province has to stand up and fight its corner against inconsistent decision-making by referees.
Speaking to the Irish Examiner in a wide-ranging interview, Foley said he felt his players are too often penalised for actions other teams escape sanction for and is planning on sending a detailed analysis to referees’ commissioners after a series of inconsistent decisions by officials from week to week.
Munster, who resume their Guinness Pro12 campaign today at Zebre, have come out on the wrong side of a number of decisions in Europe this season, including last Sunday’s bonus-point victory at Treviso while others, particularly at home to Leicester in round three, may have proved costly in tilting the balance during a three-game losing run that saw Foley’s side fail to reach the knockout stages of the Champions Cup.
“People say you’re paranoid but you’re only paranoid when they’re not out to get you,” Foley joked.
“A lot of the things that are going on are outside of your control. Against Treviso we had three interferences from the touch judges, all against us. We had a TMO overturn a try as we are about to take the conversion — that’s a lesson learned, I think we’ll be taking drop goals from now on!
“I’ve been around a while and I haven’t come across some of the stuff that’s going on at the moment. You kind of scratch your head. There was a neck roll on Billy Holland five metres from their line — that’s a penalty. Dave Foley checks a fella who’s running through a line, it’s not foul play that a touchie needs to come in upon.
“Conor Murray’s one, I’d take that, you could argue it both ways but you’d take that because Conor probably should have just tackled him rather than going in with the shoulder. The (disallowed) try, I still can’t see the ball going forward. I know CJ (Stander) loses control but he seemed to lose control of it going backwards and their No.4 seemed to bring it back into CJ’s hands.”
Refereeing inconsistency has been a recurring theme for Foley this season and he outlined a series of decisions concerning aerial challenges.
“We’re definitely going to fight our corner. I’ll give you another example. (Against Treviso) Keith Earls goes up for the ball and he ends up on his shoulder blade. Last week (at home to Stade) that was a yellow card to Ronan O’Mahony. That’s a yellow card, a penalty, and two weeks’ suspension for Gerhard van den Heever (against Edinburgh, for tackling in the air). Against Leinster, Andrew Conway went in the air twice, once on a pass and landed on his back on both occasions — there was no penalty on one of them but a penalty on the other. Against Leicester he was taken out twice charging for the ball.
“One was reversed against us for one of our players (James Cronin) getting pushed (by Dan Cole); another one was a penalty but no yellow card. And that’s before I get into the forward passes. You’re staring at it and you don’t expect anything out of it, you don’t even expect anything from the 50/50 decisions. It’s frustrating and it’s frustrating for the players because they’re coming to us and asking ‘what can we do differently’ and we’re going ‘we don’t really know’.”
Foley is only too aware of Munster’s own problems during a run of five straight defeats in both competitions.
“Referees aren’t dropping balls, touchies aren’t dropping the ball, they’re not turning over our scrums, they’re not at times missing the kicks at goals that we’re getting. We understand all that but there’s definitely, from my point of view anyway, stuff I’ve queried and questioned and you get the standard answer back.
"I just think at the moment we need to put it all together and ask the questions again and see where the consistency is. We’re entitled to consistency in terms of what’s going on.”
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