Red card for PRO14 refereeing

Standards are a joke after narrow win against Zebre, says Edinburgh coach

A row has broken out over the refereeing in the enlarged PRO14 tournament, with the standard being described as a joke. Edinburgh head coach Richard Cockerill launched a stunning attack after his side scraped past Zebre 16-15.

Edinburgh are grouped with the Southern Kings in conference B and the teams will clash in Port Elizabeth on December 1.

Over the past few weeks, Kings head coach Deon Davids and skipper Michael Willemse have spoken about how they are working closely with European referees regarding law interpretation.

Cockerill, the 27-cap former England international, said he was unhappy with how referee Marius Mitrea had handled his team’s match against Zebre.

He said the calls made by Mitrea had undermined Edinburgh’s attempts to put pressure on Zebre.

“I give up around the quality of the officiating,” Cockerill said.

“The last four weeks there have been so many inaccurate decisions or non-decisions that it’s actually becoming a joke.”

Highlighting a couple of key incidents that went against Edinburgh, the former Leicester coach claimed Mitrea had failed to penalise cynical play from the visitors, saying: “Dougie Fife made a line break from 50m out, they’re offside from the next phase, there’s no yellow card.

“We kick the three points, but how are you meant to play if every bit of positive play is killed by negative play?

“We kicked the goal to go in front, the next kickoff their prop is two metres in front of the kicker and the referee just chooses to ignore it.

“That’s a scrum back to us – they’re big moments in the game. But we’ve got a lot to improve ourselves as well.”

After their 31-3 defeat against Benetton Treviso, Davids also spoke about the interpretation of rules by European referees.

During the defeat against Benetton at the Stadio Comunale di Monigo, the Kings were repeatedly penalised by Irish referee Sean Gallagher.

Gallagher also took charge of their match against Zebre at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth last month. Davids expressed concern at the number of penalties his team had conceded.

“We have improved that aspect of our game over the last few weeks, but against Benneton we struggled to give the referee what he wanted to see at the breakdowns in particular,” the coach said.

“It is very frustrating because it stops you from gaining any momentum. We just have to learn to adapt.

“We’ve got a few weeks’ break now before our next fixture [against Glasgow Warriors on October 26] and that’s definitely one of the things we will be working on.”

Before the Benetton clash, Willemse said his team were coming to terms with European officials.

“We have had to adjust a bit and they definitely do blow the game a little bit differently and we try to communicate with them as much as possible before and after,” he said.

“They are trying to help us as to how they interpret the game.

“So we try to adjust as much as we can.”

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