Connacht fans rage at refereeing blunder but Pat Lam keeps karma in mind
Connacht's annus miralibis ended on a bum note as they went down 9-16 to rivals Munster at a storm-swept Sportsground on New Year's Eve.
A converted Rhys Marshall try and two Ian Keatley penalties were enough to keep Rassie Erasmus's men top of the PRO12, while injury-ravaged Connacht face a mammoth task to return to the Champions Cup next season.
The defending champions are in eighth place, a whopping 22 points behind Munster and in a real battle to secure one of the four qualification spots potentially open to them.
Unusually enough for the very vocal, very committed Clan, the game in Galway ended to a chorus of boos, directed at replacement referee Dudley Phillips (below), who stepped in for the ill David Wilkinson at short notice.
Munster, it seemed, had too many players on the field for the final play following the sin-binning of Duncan Williams. In the confusion Dave Kilcoyne and Jack O’Donoghue (who had been replaced by James Cronin for the scrum) both returned to the pitch, giving Munster 15 players in the final moments.
There was debate over whether or not Kilcoyne was free to return having sat out his 10 minutes, but Munster definitely had one if not two players more than they should on the pitch.
The advantage was far from decisive, but Connacht head coach Pat Lam was certain the officials had made a mistake, which angered the Connacht faithful
"The fourth official got it wrong at the end, we were playing against 15 men when it was supposed to be 13," he said.
"We will leave that to the referee’s report," added Lam, who will have been conscious of not making too much of a fuss after his side got a very decisive rub off the green against Wasps.
The last time they played in Galway, Naulia Dawai's last gasp try against the English side was allowed to stand, despite it coming off a lineout that wen Connacht's way after Jack Carty found touch with a penalty once the clock had already hit 80 minutes.
Seeing as the EPCR gave Connacht the rub of the green with that decision, they were unlikely to be too bitter about this.
However the gut reaction of the fans did need to be explained to many.
we counted 15 Munster players on the field when they should have been down 13. Great effort by the lads in such conditions
— James Grennan (@jdgrennan) January 1, 2017
there's sportsmanship and then there's calling out the ref. A few howlers from the ref tonight!
— Aisling Horan (@HoranAisling) December 31, 2016
was because munster had 15 players on pitch at end of game and ref did nothing
— John Lewis (@johnlewis098) December 31, 2016
Some were reminded to rugby karma, however.
@rich_corless what about when Connacht played Wasps? Different story then I guess ?
— Munster4ever (@munster4ever) January 1, 2017