RICHARD White, Swindon St George touchline assistant, said his side’s 32-28 grand final loss to Gloucester Warriors turned on two key decisions.
Swindon had roared out of the blocks in the first half and looked to have established an insurmountable 20-plus points lead over the Warriors. To Gloucester’s surprise St George had changed their game-plan from their semi-final win over Cheltenham and were playing a more expansive style in the first half, regularly finding hands with moving the ball well.
In the second half the game turned on its head as St George suffered almost back-to-back sin bins to Reece Kinnett and James Newton with Gloucester taking over on the scoring front and St George falling back on crash-ball rugby league.
Even a man down and with Gloucester on the front foot it took two controversial calls from the referee and touch judge to take the game away from the underdog Swindon side.
Firstly, deep into the second half Warriors were awarded a crucial try when it appeared two St George defenders had got underneath the ball. Then, whilst still 24-18 ahead, St George appeared to score to again to take their lead into double figures, only for the referee to disallow it for an obstruction.
White had issues not just with those two calls but also with the sin bins that left St George short-handed for almost the entire second period.
“Unfortunately I do think the game was decided on those two key decisions,” said White. “From where I was stood I couldn’t see any obstruction but you just have to get on with the game.
“One of the sin bins was farcical, you had far worse coming in from the Gloucester lads, spear tackles and gouging etc. The yellows were no worse anything else going on.
“The sin bins took their toll a bit, our try line defence got a bit sloppy, which was down to fatigue mostly.
“We started really well, had them pinned down, every move was on point, finding hands with every pass. In that first 40 minutes they (St George) were unreal, Swindon didn’t give Gloucester a chance.
“I think one of the of the problems was they got too many points, too soon. Perhaps some of the guys thought they had done enough to win.
“They’ve never had to close out a game before, you could say they cracked under a little bit of pressure, but I don’t want to take anything away from them.
“The whole team did nothing wrong, even when the game was going towards Gloucester, for a bit of naivety and ill discipline they could have won.
“Swindon will take far more out of the loss than Gloucester will out of the win. This team might not might not have the best players St George have ever had but it’s definitely the best squad.”