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Rob Penney: Poor penalty calls at scrum time were pivotal

Updated: Monday, 28 Apr 2014 13:52 | Comments

Rob Penney addresses the press after his side's defeat to Toulon
Rob Penney addresses the press after his side's defeat to Toulon

Munster head coach Rob Penney has criticised referee Wayne Barnes for poor refereeing decisions at the scrum early on in his side's Heineken Cup semi-final defeat against Toulon, calling the decisions "momentum shifters".

Munster were penalised three times at the scrum in the first 30 minutes, and Penney was quick to point out that he felt these calls cost his side.

Speaking to RTÉ Sport after the match, Penney said: “In the first minute we had a scrum and got penalised and after about five or so minutes we had another scrum, we got penalised again, that cost us three points.

“They’re big momentum shifters. Instead of us potentially getting three or maybe even seven [points] in the first couple of minutes, we’re three-nil down and haven’t even had an opportunity to play.

“Half an hour later all those decisions are going the other way. I felt it was very disappointing to see that outcome from those events.”

The Munster coach was also keen to point out that his side were also the architect of their own downfall as a result of their high error count.

“The end of the tale is that we made too many unforced errors,” he said.

“We had opportunity and we didn’t capitalise. The boys are heartbroken. I think the scrum penalties, there were three of them in the first 30 minutes, weren’t justified.

"It’s difficult for a referee at scrum time and he was seeing some things. They become costly with small margins at that level.

“We lost a bit of momentum at those times due to those events. We didn’t help ourselves with our handling at crucial times.”

“We just didn’t have the ability to build pressure well enough, and we lacked that accuracy at times” - Rob Penney

The New Zealander also felt his side let up at 18-16 behind and failed to dominate Toulon when they had them on the rack.

“We thought at half-time 'If we can get our composure back, and control possession and build pressure, that we were in this',” said Penney.

“And we proved that. There was a ten-minute spell where we looked like a really classy rugby team, put them under pressure, and got back into it.

“We then took our foot off the pedal.”

Also at five points down Munster opted to kick for the corner, rather than the sticks, which ended in the Irish province spilling the ball and gaining no points.

It proved crucial in the end, but Penney refused to put too much blame on the decision, believing it was right to go for the try.

He said: “We were looking good. We got a penalty and pushed into the corner and we would back ourselves every day of the week with the great maul that we’ve got. There’s always discussion about whether we should have had a shot at goal or pushed with the maul.

“We wouldn’t be having the discussion as we are if we’d managed to score off it.

“But again they took down the maul and did a good job of disrupting it. We put two phases together and spilt the ball again ten metres out.

“We just didn’t have the ability to build pressure well enough, and we lacked that accuracy at times. In big games you can’t do that.”

Penney highlighted Munster’s error count as the key difference between the teams, saying: “Our error rate gave them the opportunity to score points by getting into our half.

“You take away some of those indiscretions, certainly at half-time there were nine points that were gifted to them as opposed to making them work, and all of a sudden we’re looking at a different score sheet.”

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