Edinburgh coach Richard Cockerill said “respect for the game starts to fall away” if the alleged playacting of Munster lock Tadhg Beirne in Saturday’s Heineken Champions Cup quarter-final becomes the norm.
Beirne went down theatrically after minimal contact from home prop Pierre Schoeman to see a late penalty award to Edinburgh, who were leading 13-10 at the time, reversed by the TMO and Munster profited by moving down the field and eventually scoring through Keith Earls in the 71st minute before holding on for a 17-13 win in a tense match at BT Murrayfield.
Ireland and Lions legend Brian O’Driscoll agreed with the Edinburgh coach yesterday, saying the incident wasn’t “a good look for the sport”.
Cockerill was not absolving Schoeman of blame, insisting that it was a rash piece of indiscipline from the South African loosehead at a crucial time in the game, but believes the footage speaks for itself in terms of Beirne’s actions.
“There is no need for [Schoeman] to get involved with Beirne. It has been well documented you don’t want guys diving and making a fuss of things because you are going to get it right across the game,” said the former England hooker. “Pierre could have avoided it. It was a huge point in the game. We kick that goal it is 16-10 and it is different. Pierre must learn that lesson.
“There is a bump of shoulders. There is a player who is 6ft 5in and 18 stone or so. It doesn’t look good for Beirne from that point of view. We can all do it. Maybe that is the way forward in any big game? If you get slightly hit lie on the floor, pretend you are injured, and then you bring the TMO in and you have different actions.”
Referring to an incident in the run-up to Munster’s opening try earlier in the game, when home scrum-half Henry Pyrgos was taken out off the ball by Lions No.9 Conor Murray, Cockerill added: “Maybe I ask Henry to lie on the floor and pretend to be injured? We go to the TMO and maybe it is not a try. Where does rugby end up? It ends up down a different route. I don’t want that.”
Cockerill was supported by O’Driscoll, who told Irish media: “If he is your team-mate you are saying ‘thanks for milking us the penalty’ and if you are looking from outside you are saying ‘get up’ and in the words of Nigel Owens, ‘this is not soccer’.
“I saw some stuff on social media and people are not happy with the manner he threw himself to the ground. There was no doubt he gets impacted but it’s a big sell.
“The dramatics of the fall is definitely what caught the TMO’s eye. Ultimately it probably is a penalty but I don’t think you have to sell it that way. I don’t think it’s a good look for our game.”
Cockerill added: “Without sounding too old. If that happened 15 years ago you would be embarrassed wouldn’t you?
“Even your own team-mates would be laughing at you telling you to get up. It is happening all the time now.
“Because of the way the high tackle is refereed anybody who gets touched around there they make more of a fuss than they should sometimes. If you are injured stay down. I get it. I completely understand that. If you are not get up and get on with the game. The respect for the game starts to fall away if you don’t.”
Cockerill now switches his focus to the crunch Guinness PRO14 clash away at Scarlets on Saturday as the push to make the play-offs gets down to the nitty gritty.
“We’re playing good teams, two away from home [with Glasgow on the final week of the regular season, one at home [to Ulster],” said the coach.
“Apart from Glasgow, who will qualify easily, both ourselves, Ulster, Scarlets are all fighting for that top two, three, four, along with Benetton as well. That’s why we’ve got to learn quickly.
“Our experienced players have got to step up and in the big moments they have to get it right. Simple as that. We’re not going to shy away from that.”
The coach hopes the events of Saturday, which were played out in front of a bumper 36,385 crowd, will galvanise his players to push on in the next few weeks.
“We should have won on Saturday. We had a real opportunity to win, and it’s not good enough to go ‘We played really well, but we just lost out’. That’s not good enough,” he said.
“I expect better from the team, and I think that’s why we’re disappointed – because we had opportunities to take it and the reality is that we should have and we didn’t. And we’ve got to be better. We’ve got to get better at what we do, and that might happen in the next three weeks, or four, three games, or it might be into next season and we might need some more work. But that’s the nature of what we’re doing and how we’re trying to get better.
“Scarlets will have all their internationals back. They will have steel and flair. They are a good side at home and we have been a pretty poor side away from home. We have to make sure all the moments go our way and are at the same level we were last weekend.”