England legend Lawrence Dallaglio claims referee Ben O’Keeffe “won” South Africa the Rugby World Cup semi-final. Steve Borthwick’s side suffered late heartache in Paris but Dallaglio says the officiating let them down.
South Africa beat England 16-15 at the Stade de France following a late rally from the Springboks. England led for the majority of the match but a RG Snyman try sparked a comeback.
The converted try saw the deficit between the two teams reduce to just two points. South Africa were then given a penalty by O’Keeffe after Ellis Genge went down in the scrum.
Handre Pollard was handed the responsibility to kick for the posts from long range and he didn’t let his team down under extreme pressure. England were unable to fight back in the closing stages and sunk to their knees at the final whistle.
2003 World Cup hero Dallaglio was not impressed with O’Keeffe’s decision to punish Genge, claiming the wrong decision condemned England to defeat. But he admits South Africa ultimately were the better side overall.
Dallaglio said on ITV: “I just think in the final analysis we couldn’t build scoreboard pressure. We had a couple of opportunities in the 22, one scrum, one line out that went missing.
“The bomb squad came on, four penalties given away in the last 10 minutes. I’ve got to say, not as a sore loser but independently, that’s a questionable penalty that wins the game.
“Ellis Genge goes down on one knee. Ben O’Keeffe is going to be the talking point because he’s won them the game, rather than South Africa.
“So I think England can feel heartbroken but South Africa deserved because, a bit like France, the quality in depth on the bench was enough to get them over the line.”
Former England flanker Maggie Alphonsi disagreed with Dallaglio and felt O’Keeffe made the right decision. She also paid tribute to South Africa’s never-say-die attitude.
She said: “It’s hard, I’m listening to Lawrence but I have to say I thought it was a penalty. It’s really difficult because of the big before that really.
“England took the punches and at no point did they look like they were going to score in that last bit. South Africa for me, talk about being resilient and showing the character, they did that against France.
“It was the same situation in the sense they really had their backs against the wall and they knew how to close out that game. They went back to that emotional mentality and that’s what got them through this game.”
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