What did you think of the Leinster-Munster game on Friday? I’m only getting a chance to think of it now due to a weekend of dissipation and ebauchery, but reflecting on it, I think the French referee, Pascal Gauzere, ruined the game. As my companion observed with his legendary economy of words, This fucker is whistle-happy.
And so he was. Gauzere didn’t seem to understand that a referee may use discretion, and that the best officials are the ones who stand back and let the game flow. This ref seemed to have the idée fixe that he must reach for his whistle at every hint of an infringement. I thought his performance hinted at a lack of confidence: that perhaps he was trying to impose himself on players he feels in awe of, but all he succeeded in doing was killing the match.
As a game, I thought it was a dull affair, not helped by a worrying injury to Keith Earls’s knee after only 30 seconds. For now, Munster seem to have forsaken the basics of getting the ball over the gain-line, in favour of a more lateral game. Perhaps there’s a strategic reason for that, but if there is, I don’t know what it might be. Having said that, it quickly became obvious that every time they got inside the Leinster twenty-two, M Gauzere was going to blow for a penalty, so there wasn’t much point in going forward anyway.
As we watched it while gulping back glorious pints of Guinness in a favourite city-centre bar, we decided very quickly that Munster were not going to win this game, with the sort of capricious decisions this referee was capable of. He confirmed this view at about the sixtieth minute by carding Leamy for not releasing, a ridiculous decision by a very poor referee.
I’m not going to blame him for the final score. It’s never seemly to blame the ref for losing. Munster had their chances and didn’t turn them into points on the board, but I will blame him for distorting the game to the extent that we really don’t know how Munster and Leinster stack up against each other. This must be the most kicks straight in front of goal that Jonny Sexton ever had.
To Munster’s credit, they ground out a bonus point, and I suppose, coming so soon after the World Cup, we were never going to witness a stellar moment in sporting history. But maybe, if we weren’t cursed on the night with such an anal and unimaginative referee, we might at least have had a solid, competitive game of rugby football between two great rivals.
Instead, sadly, we got Monsieur Gauzere. I hope he doesn’t become a recurring nightmare in games to come.