Saracens chief executive Edward Griffiths has branded the use of the Television Match Official in rugby as a ‘shambles’ after his side lost the Aviva Premiership Final against Saints at Twickenham on Saturday.
Saints claimed their first English league title thanks to Alex Waller’s dramatic last-gasp try in extra time, the Saints edging home 24-20 after a mammoth contest.
But it might have all been very different if Owen Farrell’s try on the hour had been awarded, as Griffiths believes it should.
Indeed, the try was awarded by referee JP Doyle, but as Saints fans in the stadium booed the replays on the big screens which appeared to show an Alex Goode pass in the build up had gone forwards, the TMO Graham Hughes intervened.
With Farrell injuring himself while scoring, Doyle was heard to ask Goode “are you taking the conversion?” after awarding the try. It was clear he had no intention of reviewing.
Hughes then asked Doyle if he wanted to review the score, at which point Doyle said: “Do I need to review it?”
The TMO suggested he did, Doyle agreed to, and as soon as he saw the forward pass on the big screen, reversed his decision.
It was a controversial moment, especially as Luther Burrell had thrown a clear forward pass in the build up to George Pisi’s earlier try that went unpunished.
Doyle did go to the TMO for that score, but only to check if Pisi was offside or not, which he wasn’t, and the forward pass was missed.
“Most teams in the Premiership would say the protocol has become a shambles, it’s almost make it up as you go along,” said a frustrated Griffiths.
“Some referees use the TMO as a kind of video operator, ‘show me that again please’, others take instruction, others take guidance.
“This sounds like sour grapes but it isn’t, because this would be the case had that final try not been given.
“The TMO process is a shambles.
“It’s something Premiership Rugby will have to look at, but the protocol needs to be clarified exactly what is meant to happen.
“The role of the TMO needs to be clarified: it’s almost different with different referees and TMOs in different games.
“If you bring something into the game it’s got to be decisive.
“I’m not going to say it cost us the title, but the protocol, for the good of the game, needs to be clarified.
“In the old days the referee would have looked at what happened and made an educated decision.
“Would that have been any better or worse than what happened?
“The TMO has got something to add in the sport, but how and when it’s used has got to be clarified.
“It’s not clear what the TMO says, who says it, when the referee’s allowed to ask, when the TMO’s allowed to ask, it just looks like a general hotch-potch.”
Tries from Ben Foden and Pisi for Saints and a reply from Marcelo Bosch for Saracens left the scores locked at 14-14 at full-time.
Charlie Hodgson landed two penalties to Myler’s one in extra time, before Waller crashed home - the TMO deciding he had scored after watching several replays - to seal Saints’ victory and spark wild celebrations among the Saints faithful that lasted long into the night.
Saints director of rugby Jim Mallinder shrugged off the impact of the TMO rulings, suggesting tense finals will always throw up marginal calls.
“I think in a close game like that you can always pick on one or two ifs and buts decisions, and we could look on one or two things where we didn’t get the bounce of the ball either,” he said.
“Alex Waller’s score at the end was a clear try as soon as the ball went down - never in doubt!”