Ex-Lions skippers Brian O’Driscoll and Sam Warburton were left furious after what they described as the “reddest of red cards” was missed during Toulouse’s Champions Cup semi-final victory over Bordeaux on Saturday.
Toulouse secured a first European final since 2010 with a 21-9 win but a blatant shoulder charge by Toulouse captain Julien Marchand to the head of Romain Buros was missed by the officials in the second half, leaving BT Sport pundits O’Driscoll and Warburton incensed.
The French giants were only leading 11-6 at the time and a red card for Marchand could easily have swung momentum the way of Bordeaux.
Speaking about the incident, former Wales captain Warburton said post-match: “It’s Julien Marchand here, they show a replay and he is standing bolt upright and that is a right shoulder to the head and we were, ‘are they not going to look at that?’
“You look at that from a refereeing perspective, I don’t expect Wayne Barnes to see everything, he needs help. He needs someone to say, ‘hang on, Wayne, you need to look at this again’. But that is a red. That is a right shoulder to the head. Is there force? Yes. Is it to the head? Yes. Is there mitigation? No.”
At which point, O’Driscoll chipped in: “That is the reddest of red cards. He almost has to spring to get the collision shoulder to the impact point.
“There is no bend of the body from Buros. He is fully straight and Marchand has hit high. For me, would it have been the difference in changing the game? Potentially. It’s still only a five-point game.
“You think about the galvanising effect and that momentum swing – 23 minutes in a semi-final is a huge amount of time and Toulouse could have tightened up and it could have given that energy to Bordeaux that they needed. They needed something to act as a catalyst for a better performance.”
Two-time Lions skipper Warburton backed up O’Driscoll’s claim that it was a clear red card, saying there was “nothing going” in Marchand’s favour.
“It’s their captain as well, it would have been a big turning point in the game,” said Warburton.
“Another point worth mentioning is there was no wrap at all, it was pure tuck of the right arm. There is nothing going in his favour in that example. Like you say it is the reddest of reds.”
While Marchand escaped punishment on the field, there is every chance he will be cited in the coming days and face a possible suspension which would rule him out of the May 22 final at Twickenham against either La Rochelle or Leinster.
O’Driscoll added: “What happens in that case [if it was spotted during the game], you get sent off so he would get a three-week ban.
“I don’t know is that a citing issue? I would imagine it will be. If Tom Foley, who is a very good TMO, has managed to miss that, but I am sure the citing commissioner will be having a look at it.
“Sometimes when you don’t see multiple replays referees can miss them and they are human like the rest of us. But it seemed like a big moment with lots still to play on the clock.”