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Paul O'Connell and Ronan O'Gara leaving the pitch on Saturday.
Billy Stickland.
Close Call Decides It.
6 June 2009, 4:53 pm
By Chris Byrne
Close calls and hard yards determine outcomes but, as Paul O'Connell and his Lions/Munster/Ireland colleagues know only too well, in the end, the margin between losing and winning is measured more in inches.
Remember back to the Millennium Stadium in March and the few inches that separated Ireland from Grand Slam glory or gloom when Stephen Jones' last gasp penalty dipped just below the crossbar ?

Or what about the 2002 Heineken Cup semi final when Llanelli Scarets, thanks to four Stephen Jones penalties looked home and hosed - to set up a final tie with Munster - before Tim Stimpson's last minute penalty from five metres inside his own half, that bounced off crossbar and upright before going over shattered their dreams.

Then, closer to Munster hearts was the penalty attempt from Ronan O'Gara right at the end of the 2000 Heineken Cup final against Northampton in Twickenham. It looked right on the money then drifted metres ?, inches ?, wide.

Mike Phillips and Ugo Moyne came within inches of scoring tries in the first Test in Durban. On Saturday how close was Jacque Fourie's try from being ruled out for foot in touch ? Inches ?

And how close were the red cards to the yellow in Christophe Berdos' shorts pocket when he dipped in, in the opening minute after the Schalk Burger incident on Luke Fizgerald ?

Probably much less than the few inches that separated Berdos from touch judge (or assistant referee as they are now called) Bryce Lawrence who advised that the offence deserved, "a yellow card at least." In fairness, Berdos didn't have the clear view Lawrence did, nor the benefit of TV replay, but the very clear 'at least' bit from the man who reffed the first Test, should at least have elicted the question, "What do you mean Bryce, does the offence warrant Red,"

And the response in the affirmative would have seen the Springbok rightly reduced to fourteen for the remainder of the match. Close Call ?

Wrong Call.

Then the final call of the day. The penalty award that allowed Morne Steyn nail the winning kick. O'Gara never tackled the ball carrier Fourie du Preez. He never attempted to. In fact he attempted to pull out of it.

He raced up to be under the dropping ball and du Preez's momentum caused the collision as much as anything O'Gara did. Close Call ?

Very Close.

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