Monday Maul
The trials and tribulations of the TMO
Tom Hamilton
March 24, 2014
The spectacular Niki Goneva © Getty Images

Following a weekend where 36 tries were scored in the Aviva Premiership, Monday Maul looks back at the key talking points.

The trials and tribulations of the TMO

The various interpretations of the Television Match Official once again dominated the headlines from the Round 17 action for two different types of incident. In London Irish's match against Bath, Greg Garner came in for flak after he allowed Anthony Watson's score. For all the world it looked like it was going to be, correctly, disallowed for blocking in the build-up from both Dave Attwood and Ollie Devoto. Garner went to the TMO for clarification, but due to the luxuries of the modern day stadium, he saw the incident on the big screen and took it upon himself to grant the try. It was a slightly bizarre call having asked for extra help.

And at Wembley, only referee Tim Wigglesworth knows why he did not refer the incident that led to David Strettle being knocked out. Replays showed Maurie Fa'asavalu's swinging arm connecting with Strettle's face and had the TMO been used, the blindside would have surely spent time in the bin. Two separate incidents, but enough to show there is still ambiguity surrounding the TMO and its use.

The weekend's awards

  • Player: Leicester's Niki Goneva
  • Coach: Sale's Steve Diamond
  • Try: Kyle Eastmond's try against London Irish was a delight.
  • Quote: "Sport doesn't necessarily give you everything you think you deserve. It hurts." - Worcester boss Dean Ryan on their loss to Wasps

Breaking a Warrior's heart

The Warriors have played 17 games in this season's Premiership but they are still searching for their first win in the top flight. They have not come closer than against Wasps on Friday when they were leading 11-6 with the clock well into the red at the end of the game. But such is the Warriors' luck, the conceded the game-equalling score and then, of all players, ex-Worcester No.10 Andy Goode struck the winning conversion for Wasps. Worcester need a miracle to still be in the Premiership next term. They lie 12 points adrift of Newcastle and despite the Falcons' best efforts to upset just about everyone this week as a result of their now infamous fans' forum, they will breathe a little easier after the weekend's results.

Saracens push the boundaries

Saracens aren't to everyone's taste. Their club song grates and they have a slightly arrogant strut about them but they deserve every plaudit for the manner in which they are taking the English domestic game to the next level. It was an astounding effort to get 83,889 into Wembley on Saturday - though it did seem like there were quite a few empty seats left in the football ground - and they put on an impressive show.

Their play on the field is also developing as they combine power with precision but of course silverware is the only reward they want. Positive PR and record-breaking ventures can only go so far, it must lead to titles. As you read this, Saracens will be in New York on a rest and recuperation jaunt - it's all part of their unique approach to managing a Premiership side.

Sharks flying under the radar

The result of the weekend was without doubt at the AJ Bell Stadium. The Sharks exploited tiredness in the Saints' ranks to defeat the previous league-leaders 19-6. It's a far cry from last season when they were battling the drop. Steve Diamond has instilled a belief and backbone in the team, though don't expect him to get carried away with plaudits.

"Does the win give us more ambition? No, not really," Diamond said post-match. "This time last year we were scrapping it out for our lives and, this year, we're just glad to be in mid-table."

Gloucester re-find some teeth but errors remain

It was great to see Gloucester finally cut loose against Newcastle on Saturday as they ran in five tries to get the bonus point win but what will come as a concern to the Cherry and White's hierarchy were the quintet of scores they conceded. Rumours in the weekend's Rugby Paper suggest change may yet come at the end of the season at Kingsholm with Gary Gold reportedly in the frame to replace Nigel Davies if they opt for a new direction behind the scenes.

Quins' gamble backfires

It must have been a fairly humbling experience for Conor O'Shea to see his Harlequins side lose five tries to two in front of over 80,000 people on Saturday. Much of the talk prior to the game concerned O'Shea's call to rest England trio Chris Robshaw, Danny Care and Mike Brown and the same topic reared its head in the post-game press conference. How Harlequins would have done had those trio played, we will never know, but resting three of your best players for a match against one of the form sides in the league was a huge gamble.

O'Shea defended the decision after the game, saying: "Mentally and physically I felt it was the right thing for them to have a break. You have to look after players. I felt the best thing for their long-term future was to give them the rest. It would have been easy to play them." Only the end of the season will tell us if O'Shea's gamble was a stroke of genius or an error of judgement. In the short-term, it did not pay off.

The spectacular Niki Goneva

The Tigers were irresistible against Exeter on Sunday as they scored six tries. Central to their performance was the wing wizardry of Goneva as he scooped yet another Man of the Match award. He has now scored 11 tries in 19 games this season and if there is any hope of the Tigers scuppering his proposed move to Castres, then they must move heaven and earth to keep him at Welford Road.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd
Tom Hamilton is the Assistant Editor of ESPNscrum.

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