England coach Eddie Jones slammed referee Ben O’Keeffe for the “bizarre” sending off Manu Tuilagi late in a 33-30 win over Wales in the Six Nations at Twickenham on Saturday that clinched the Triple Crown.
The outspoken Australian boss, risking disciplinary action, even suggested the match had ended as a contest of “13 against 16”, implying New Zealand official O’Keeffe was biased in Wales’ favour, with England two men down after replacement Ellis Genge was sin-binned and Tuilagi shown a red card.
World Cup finalists England were 33-16 ahead on the hour mark when Tuilagi scored their third try, but he saw red with five minutes remaining when he was deemed to have committed an illegal “no arms” tackle that stopped Wales wing George North scoring a try in the corner.
“I find it bizarre, I usually don’t comment but I don’t see how you can tackle a guy, how else are you supposed to tackle him?,” Jones told reporters when asked about the powerhouse centre’s challenge on North.
“It’s absolute rubbish. I’m sorry, I’ve broken my rule. This bit about where your arms are — what a load of rubbish. I think there’s no common sense applied in that situation.”
The former Australia and Japan coach added: “Clearly the guy’s falling, there’s a good chop tackle, Manu’s coming over the top to kill the tackle and doing everything he’s supposed to be doing –- come on.”
With England two men down, Wales scored tries in the closing minutes through fly-half Dan Biggar and Justin Tipuric, the flanker crossing for a second time.
“When you have a three-man advantage, it’s going to do some damage so I thought we were exceptional,” said Jones.
Returning wing Anthony Watson scored England’s opening try as early as the fourth minute and full-back Elliot Daly crossed before half-time, with captain Owen Farrell landing all six of his goal-kicks in a match haul of 15 points.
– ‘Positive direction’ –
AFP / Adrian DENNIS
Referee rage – England coach Eddie Jones
Grand Slam-chasing France are in pole position to be crowned Six Nations champions but this win kept England in title contention.
However, England’s scheduled tournament finale against Italy in Rome on March 14 has been postponed due to the deadly coronavirus and no new date has been set for the Stadio Olimpico fixture.
Jones says his focus is now on their summer tour opener against Japan in Oita on July 4.
England’s bid for a clean sweep this Six Nations fell at the first hurdle, with a 24-17 loss away to France last month.
“We don’t want to be that team that just wins at Twickenham,” said Jones. “That’s our goal. We’re not there at the moment but we believe we’ve made some strides this tournament and we’re in a positive direction.”
Saturday’s result meant Wales, the reigning Grand Slam champions, had lost three successive matches in the same Six Nations campaign for the first time since 2007.
But Jones urged Welsh fans to be patient with new coach Wayne Pivac, who succeeded the long-serving Warren Gatland after his fellow New Zealander stepped down following Wales’ run to the semi-finals of the World Cup.
“They’ve been through a fantastic period under Warren,” said Jones. “Look at their side today: 850 caps. It’s a very mature team. Once you get to 850 caps you know there’s some regeneration coming. That’s the difficult part.
“Goodness me, if you’re a Welsh supporter today you’d be pretty pleased with the spirit they showed. I thought they were outstanding.
“Pivac’s doing a good job there. He’s probably feeling the heat a bit, but he’s doing a really good job and you need to be a bit kind to him.”