Ex-Wales forward Gareth Delve branded Connacht’s Paul Boyle ‘a lucky man’ after the No. 8 escaped a sending off for an illegal challenge on Scarlets lock Tom Price in Friday’s United Rugby Championship clash at The Sportsground.
And fellow Wales international James Hook also felt the incident warranted a red card, saying Boyle had dropped Price on his head ‘like The Undertaker’.
The Irish side were leading 16-11 and on the attack when the episode unfolded in the 48th minute.
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Attempting to clear out Price at a ruck, Boyle lifted the Scarlet and deposited him onto the new synthetic turf. Another home player’s shoulders appeared to lever Price’s legs upwards as Boyle swung into action, but the episode looked dangerous, even if Price was close to the ground.
The officials, however, decided against dismissing the Connacht forward, with referee Marius van der Westhuizen instead just showing him a yellow card. You can read the Connacht v Scarlets match report here.
Van der Westhuizen had said to TMO Marius Jonker: "A player is clearly lifted above horizontal. He’s very close to the ground. He does end up on his head, but because he’s so close to the ground I’m only thinking yellow card.
“Have you got any other facts to add to that?”
Jonker replied: “I’ve got no other facts to add to that.”
Scarlets captain Jonathan Davies seemed unimpressed with the decision but was dismissed by van der Westhuizen, who told him: “It’s not a debate. He’s very low to the ground, so it’s not a high level of danger. It’s a yellow card.”
Such a view didn’t align with the opinions of both Delve and Hook, who were working for BBC’s Scrum V.
Delve immediately felt a sending off was imminent, saying: “That’s a piledriver on Tom Price. This could be red-card territory in my view.
“You are talking about a high-level of danger, he’s dropped him straight on top of his head.”
And after the call had been made only to send Boyle to the bin, the former No. 8 raised memories of the infamous tackle on Brian O’Driscoll on the Lions tour of New Zealand in 2005, with Tana Umaga and Kevan Mealamu the perpetrators, although the incident of 17 years ago was much more overtly dangerous.
Of Boyle, Delve said: “I think he will be a fairly relieved man.
“I think he’s a lucky man, because that’s reminiscent, to me, of the O’Driscoll challenge that brought in a new level of safety. Obviously, going back to that tour of New Zealand, there was a far bigger danger element and he [O’Driscoll] was slammed to the floor.
“There doesn’t seem to be such a big impact on Tom Price, but, certainly, danger level — it doesn’t get more dangerous than being upside down and out of control.”
Hook also took issue with the referee just showing Boyle a yellow, saying : “I don’t agree with that. I know he wasn’t that far from the ground but you just watch here. He’s lifted him upside down, he’s dropped him on his head like The Undertaker, and regardless how far away from the ground he is, I think that’s dangerous and that’s a red in my opinion.”
Connacht went on to win the match in Galway 36-14, with five tries.
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