France captain Dupont unhappy with ref after Les Bleus fall to Boks in World Cup quarterfinal
France captain Antoine Dupont was critical of referee Ben O’Keeffe after his side lost the Rugby World Cup (RWC) quarterfinal 29-28 to the Springboks at Stade de France on Sunday.
A disconsolate Dupont questioned whether O’Keeffe was up to the task, although he didn’t reference specific incidents.
One issue might have been when Bok lock Eben Etzebeth knocked the ball down when France had a two-man overlap. He appeared to knock the ball back towards his own goal line, which was why O’Keeffe allowed play to continue. But the referee never reviewed it.
“I’m not sure the refereeing was at the level of what was at stake,” Dupont said.
“There are few clear things where the whistle could’ve blown. We could’ve had some crucial penalties, but I don’t want to be a bad loser.”
Coach Fabien Galthié stepped in to stop the matter going further and probably landed Dupont in trouble with the powers of the game.
“I’m not going to go there. We worked with the refs to try to play along with them and will continue to work with them,” Galthié said.
‘There is a lot of frustration and emotion after the game. We all watched this game. We’d like to congratulate the South African team and wish them well.
“There are so many key moments. When you’re leading 7-0 and Etzebeth cut off the ball. That was a strong moment for us and we weren’t able to finish off. Soon afterwards it was 7-7. Those are key moments … which add up. So many things went on.”
Boks skipper Siya Kolisi was nonplussed by the suggestion they had been favoured by the ref.
“It was an amazing game, it was tough, physically it flowed,” Kolisi said.
“The way the two teams played outshines everything else. It was an amazing atmosphere. The French team have been building for four years so we knew it would take something special for us to win this game.
“For a leader like Antoine to come back and play like he did, we give credit to him and France, and all the French people who made this World Cup so special.
“When we heard the anthems, we knew how loud it was going to be. The people of France can be proud of their team. The French team and Antoine can hold their heads up high.”
Bok coach Jacques Nienaber praised O’Keeffe, who was under pressure from a wildly partisan crowd.
“I thought Ben was good on the day. You would say we won and that’s why I’m saying that,” Nienaber said. “We tried to take the referee out of the game — we scored four tries, and missed one or two, and one from the tee. We managed it well. I thought his communication on the day was excellent in terms of the decisions he made.”
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France fullback Thomas Ramos took a slightly different view to his skipper, admitting that it was small things that had cost the home team.
“There were a few set pieces that allowed them to stay in our half. It’s always annoying to play in your own half,” Ramos said.
“I think we did some good things in this match, but it wasn’t enough. We knew they were a powerful team. They were very strong in the rucks and tackles. Our half-backs couldn’t get clean ball. Tonight was tough. We lost to a team stronger than us.”
Flyhalf Matthieu Jalibert added: “South Africa should also be congratulated for resisting our attacks and scoring when they had the chance.
“We’re disappointed and frustrated. When you see the atmosphere today, the support from all our supporters, we’re disappointed.
“We were in good shape physically, we managed to set up a fast-moving game, we had quite a lot of space but we weren’t able to capitalise. We made a lot of little mistakes, we were probably too hasty in trying to go too fast.
“They stuck to their plan, scoring three tries on the counterattack in the first half, playing a lot of pressure games and feeding off our mistakes and the referee’s whistle to score at the right moment and with success.”
Kolisi said that the match turned on fine margins, one of them being when Bok left wing Cheslin Kolbe charged down Ramos’ conversion of France’s third try. In the final analysis, those two points were crucial.
“It was a one-point game. Things like the charge-down from Cheslin, you don’t see that every day. It was going to take something special for us to win.”
But the Boks also had to defend manically in the 10 minutes after halftime while Etzebeth was in the sin bin for making head contact with Uini Atonio.
“We scrambled a lot and scrambled hard, especially when we were short of numbers. We did our research and worked as a team to stop them,” Kolisi said.
“That’s who we are. We never give up. You can lose, but you never give up — and we knew it would take something special, and it did.”
Nienaber singled out Kolbe’s little moment of magic.
“Cheslin’s charge-down was special and you don’t see that often. That was someone chasing a lost cause, which is what we want,” Nienaber said.
“We were opened up a couple of times, but the scrambling, the effort the players put in, was enormous.” DM