England legend left baffled as Saracens star escapes red card after just 15 seconds - Ruck

England legend left baffled as Saracens star escapes red card after just 15 seconds

Referee Karl Dickson’s decision not to card Saracens winger Sean Maitland for his collision with Northampton Saints’ George Furbank in the first minute of the Gallagher Premiership semi-final has drawn criticism.

Maitland went on to score two tries as Sarries ran out comfortable 38-15 winner against Saints.

Furbank, the Saints full-back, went up to catch a high ball but was struck by Maitland while in mid-air. It appeared that Maitland's elbow made contact with Furbank's face as well.

Referee Dickson and TMO Stuart Terheege engaged in a discussion before ultimately deciding not to issue a card to Maitland, opting for a penalty upon review instead.

During the BBC Radio commentary, former England fly-half Paul Grayson expressed his views, saying, "OK, it's the first minute of a semi-final, but clearly Sean Maitland, who was highly charged and eager for his first aerial contest, completely misjudged it. He didn't even look at the ball and collided mid-air, knee to the chest with George Furbank. The referee, for whatever reason, chose not to take any action and allowed play to continue."

Grayson added, "Regardless of your stance on red cards and their impact on the game, this was a clear act of foul play that warranted more than just a penalty. Would it have influenced the outcome of the game? Perhaps, we can't say for sure. But if you fail to officiate such incidents properly when the necessary tools are available to review and assess them, then what's the purpose of having those mechanisms in place?"

One fan also wrote on Twitter: "Seeing that replay, Sean Maitland should’ve been sent off. Completely mistimes his jump and makes contact with the head of Furbank, with a high level of danger."


Fullback: Israel Folau (Australia)

Owens said: "For me, it’s nip and tuck between Halfpenny and Folau, next to nothing to choose between them. Leigh is brilliant because under the high ball and with his kicking at goal under pressure. He may not always break the line when running but puts his body on the line in defence and is a top-notch match-winner.

"But I go for Folau - only just, I should stress - because of his ability to seemingly beat his man every time he gets the ball in his hand. He’s such an exciting player and like Leigh he is one of the best under the high ball.

"It’s a toss of a coin for me... and it’s come down in Folau’s favour."

Winger: Stuart Hogg (Scotland)

Owens said: "How can you fail to be impressed when watching Hogg play. He’s so exciting as he burst into that line and, of course, was named Six Nations player of the tournament.

"I know he’s a full-back for Scotland, but he is so quick and direct he could easily play on the wing. He reminds me a bit of Shane Williams with some of the things he does.

"When you see who is on the other wing in my team, you’ll see how they would work brilliantly in tandem."

Fixtures for the Six Nations - Round 1

Outside-centre: Brian O'Driscoll (Ireland)

Owens said: "Not only is he one of the greatest centres in the history of rugby union but he’s a fantastic man off the field as well. O’Driscoll has been a wonderful ambassador for the sport and a real leader. He always respected referees and set the right example for others to follow.

"A legend of the game who conducted himself superbly, on and off the pitch."

Inside-centre: Ma'a Nonu (New Zealand)

Owens said: "He’s another brilliant player and after every game, win or lose, he would come up and give me a hug. Ma’a has always found time at after-match functions or at breakfast if we’ve been staying at the same hotel to come over and have a chat.

"What a player, mind, too. One of the stalwarts of the New Zealand side for so many years."

Winger: Shane Williams (Wales)

Owens said: "When people ask me who is the best player I have refereed it’s pretty much an impossible task to pick one because I’ve been lucky enough to take charge of so many greats.

"But if I’m pushed, I would pick Shane for what he achieved after coming from football at 17 or 18 years of age.

"He was in the mould of Gerald Davies in how he left defenders gasping for air as he beat them with those dazzling sidesteps. Nobody would fancy defending against a back three of Shane, Hogg and Folau, I can tell you that."