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13th May 2018

Ronan O’Gara hits back at Matt Williams criticism over Champions Cup final

Patrick McCarry

“Who’d be a ref?”

That was the question posed by Racing 92 lock Donnacha Ryan after his side’s cruel 15-12 Champions Cup final loss to Leinster.

Racing led for 70 minutes of a fraught affair before Leinster turned a three-point deficit into a three-point win, thanks to two Isa Nacewa penalties.

Such was the tense nature of the final that neither side truly cut loose in attack. Instead, the game was won in and around the breakdown and many of the big calls divided fans.

It was interesting to note that referee Wayne Barnes and his match officials were roundly booed, by both sets of fans at the San Mames, when they collected their post-match medals for overseeing the game. There were no complaints from Ryan, though, and he even stopped in to share a post-match beer with the match officials.

Ronan O’Gara, who was Racing’s defence coach for three and a half seasons, was watching the game from afar. Now with Crusaders, who sit atop the Super Rugby table, O’Gara left Racing in late December to take on his new role.

Following the game, O’Gara sent out this message:

‘Very sad for the staff, the play and the supporters of Racing 92. There is no difference between the two teams. Keep your heads up and you’ll be rewarded in the Top 14.’

And that was it for O’Gara until former Leinster coach Matt Williams piqued his interest.

Williams and former Leinster winger Luke Fitzgerald engaged in some post-match analysis on Twitter. Fitzgerald felt Barnes was being ‘picky with small things’ and Williams went a few steps further.

The Aussie, who was on pundit duty for RTE Radio in Bilbao, accused Racing of wantonly straying offside and blamed the English referee for making the game ‘a poor spectacle’.

O’Gara wasn’t letting that one lie.

This could be an interesting one to keep and eye on. It might be even more exciting that the final itself.

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