Currie coach Ally Donaldson struggled to contain frustration with referee Greg MacDonald on several counts after British and Irish Cup qualification hopes were crushed by a 16-23 defeat against Nottingham at Malleny Park.
MacDonald finished an erratic display by blowing early for full time moments after a string of curious decisions had left players looking confused.
Donaldson can be relied upon to take the slings and arrows of our Premiership arbiters in his stride – publicly at least – but breaking that habit he rightly raised the issue of a Twickenham aligned referee being appointed to the fixture in a tournament where Welsh and Irish teams are also participating.
Among the points made by Donaldson was that it would have been fairer on Mr MacDonald in sparing him being put in any invidious position.
Time keeping though was another matter and Donaldson, perhaps even underestimating the time remaining when the game abruptly ended, said: “The second half lasted 39 minutes . . .there were quite a few strange decisions from the referee. Maybe it was an English ref refereeing an English team?
“I’m not suggesting for a minute there was any favouritism but maybe some of the interpretations, particularly at the scrum . . . just because a scrum wheels doesn’t mean it’s a penalty.”
The coach went on to rue the fact his side were denied the chance to mount a late rally in the wake of Barry Mansfield’s try.
“A try was the least we deserved and it gave us the sniff of a draw but then the referee blew his whistle after 39 minutes and that was 39 minutes where there were a lot of injuries. I’m not saying we would have won but it adds to the frustration.”
An Achilles’ heel for Currie was their scrummage but they appeared to be doing no more than legitimately wheeling to ease pressure when incurring wrath.
“Any time the scrum wheeled we got penalised. Nobody was breaking off (an offence). There wasn’t much in the scrums, we never lost any, but we must have been penalised five times. That gave them the opportunity to kick to touch and then drive mauls which is where their three tries came from.
“I don’t think he refereed the scrum at all well. Also, Chris (Leck) got a yellow card and when their scrum half did the same thing in the same position it was not a yellow card. He kicked the ball (in the ruck) which was exactly what Chris did.
We were disappointed with that but I don’t want that to sound like the reason we lost; they are a very powerful team.
“They had backs as big as our forwards, a huge team. Hopefully we will have learned and take those lessons back into the Premiership.
“Nottingham didn’t do anything particularly subtle; they just ran at us really hard and we dealt with that really well.”
Currie angst can be eased by some strong individual contributions including from Jamie Forbes although the full-back must have been kicking himself at squandering two easy penalty chances.
Dougie Fife and James Johnstone are maturing into outstanding three-quarters and young prop Colin Phillips would have learned plenty.
Significantly, though, Ross Weston, who is normally potent charging from set-pieces, had virtually no opportunity and that spoke volumes about the way the game unfolded.
Donaldson admitted: “We are producing guys. Jamie Forbes is coming on.”
Referring to how a couple of members of the successful Edinburgh side were at Currie last season, he added: “Look at Tom Brown and Matt Scott. They got an opportunity to play good rugby and I like to think we are producing these players from the Premiership.
“What we take from the B&I Cup is the intensity of playing at this level and the necessity to do the basics well.
“At the moment we are very disappointed not to have won and well take that on to a cup match versus Lasswade then a league match with Boroughmuir. It is an interesting league and last year after the break we won all seven games. If we do that this year we will not be far away.
“We can play some great rugby.”
This was best shown when Mansfield went outside the cover for a converted try.
Alas it came too late with two penalties from Stokes outscoring one from Forbes after a half which saw Edinburgh guest Steve Turnbull stretchered off but quickly recover.
Turning round, Nottingham surged ahead with tries from winger Jack Cobden and hooker Oli Taylor before a Forbes penalty acted as a prelude to a try by Jonny Baird.
Scorers: Currie: Try: Mansfield. Conversion: Forbes. Penalties: Forbes (3). Nottingham: Tries: Jack Cobden, Taylor, Baird. Conversion: Mama. Penalties: Stokes (2).
Currie: J Forbes, B Mansfield, D Fife, A McMahon, J Johnstone, G Hunter, C Leck, J Cox, F Gillies, C Phillips, S Marcell, S Turnbull, S Burton, R Weston, M Cairns (captain). Subs: A Kelly, R Merrilees, G Temple, M Peacock, R Snedden, J Houston.
Nottingham: J Stokes, A Savage, D Mama, J Munro, Jack Cobden, Joe Cobden, F Barnham (captain), M Parr, O Taylor, M Shields, M Todd, L Morley, R Cooper, P Eggleshaw, J Baird. Subs: R Olive, J Duffey, B Prescott, C Hammond, S Romans, J Bradford, R Hough.
Referee: G MacDonald (English RU).