Wayne Barnes criticism 'unfair' after test rugby's longest game
OPINION: Wayne Barnes was always going to cop it in the wake of the farce at Stade de France.
Allegations of biting, a yellow card, a strange substitution, controversial penalties and, finally, a try. The game, which played out like a mad pantomime in Paris, had almost everything apart from some decent footy.
When any rugby match, let alone a Six Nations fixture between France and Wales, controversially ends with 20 minutes of added time there is always likely to be some verbal shrapnel flying thick and fast post-match.
No surprises, then, to see English referee Barnes cop it. You could also say it was unfair.
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France may have won 20-18 but that didn't prevent coach Guy Noves and lock Yoann Maestri squeeze off a series of shots as they slammed Barnes for a variety of alleged offences, believing he should have awarded a penalty try after Wales repeatedly infringed during a series of defensive scrums.
Barnes told Maestri his pack were not dominant enough to deserve a penalty try, while the second rower claimed the Welsh were up to some sneaky tricks and were "rigging" every scrum.
Wait, there's more. Much more, it turns out, to muddy the waters about who may have been in the right, or wrong, or otherwise.
Maybe those cunning Frenchmen should be careful before slinging too much of the horrible stuff at Barnes and Wales.
Because, clearly, there was confusion about the substitution of tighthead prop Uini Atonio. Wales coach Rob Howley questioned whether Atonio was really injured prior to being replaced by starting prop Rabah Slimani.
When you listen to the audio, you can clearly hear Barnes ask Atonio, who was was born in Timaru, New Zealand, whether he was okay to play on prior to a scrum packing down. Atonio confirmed he was good to go.
Then, after another scrum collapse, off he wanders. He didn't look too crook, but what was Barnes to do? He consulted with a French doctor, who said Atonio needed to be assessed.
So the drama dragged on. And on, and on.
About a dozen penalties, all against Wales for either collapsing scrums or being offside, were awarded to the French.
When Welsh prop Samson Lee was told to take a hike after being yellow carded, it caused more confusion.
The clock stopped. Wales needed to replace him. Eventually starting prop Thomas Francis trotted out of the stand, and, rather reluctantly it appeared, joined the action.
Wales told one of their backs, Leigh Halfpenny, to trade places with Francis.
The minutes dragged on. The crowd became restless.
More penalties. More scrum re-sets. Boring? Well, not really. You just knew this was going to end in tears for one of these teams.
France were a bit like the Big Bad Wolf. They were huffing and puffing, but couldn't burst a hole in the red defensive wall.
Then Lee returned to the field. He arrived just in time to recover from his 50m run from the naughty chair; because team-mate George North alleged someone, a Frenchman presumably, had bitten his arm.
Barnes stopped the clock, consulted with the TMO and waited. The crowd went nuts, whistling their lungs out. No conclusive evidence was found.
More scrums, more collapses. There was another warning against the Welsh.
Finally, replacement flanker Damien Chouly scored. In keeping with all the ugly scrum collapses and re-sets, and penalties, the try wasn't spectacular. Chouly, buried in a pile of bodies, just burrowed over. Camille Lopez converted.
Barnes appeared to be relieved to finally award a try, so he could get the hell out of there. Who could blame him?