England legends tear into Six Nations referee for 'soft' call in France defeat

Ugo Monye and Jonny Wilkinson questioned referee Angus Gardner for giving France a ‘soft’ penalty after England‘s narrow defeat to Les Bleus in Lyon. A last-gasp Thomas Ramos penalty saw the hosts claim a dramatic 33-31 triumph to earn a second-placed finish in the final Six Nations table.

England raced into a healthy lead after the break thanks to a flurry of tries, with Ollie Lawrence scoring twice and Marcus Smith crossing once. France went on to reply with a couple of their own tries before Ramos was given the opportunity to seal victory when Ben Earl was penalised for a no-arms tackle.

With just over a minute left to play, Ramos split the posts from close to the halfway line to claim the spoils for France in the dying seconds. Monye was left furious with the decision to penalise Earl in the first place, with the former England back not mincing his words in a brutal assessment of what happened in the closing stages.

Speaking after the final whistle on ITV, Monye said: “Angus Gardner is a top referee, but what a soft decision to decide a game like this. I’m sorry, he offers his arm. I think we see that type of tackle lots of times in games.

“Credit to Thomas Ramos for putting it over, but as a decisive decision to decide the game? I don’t know, it’s soft for me. He offers his arm! He doesn’t wrap because the guy is 23 stone coming through him. I’m disappointed in myself for discussing this. It is the moment that created a penalty for Thomas Ramos.”

Meanwhile, fellow ITV pundit Wilkinson admitted that it was a ‘tricky’ decision for Gardner to make and suggested that it could have been another story on a different day.

“I wouldn’t want to be Earl in that situation,” said Wilkinson. “You almost feel like he’s trying to find a way to get under there, but I guess if you put it down to the letter of the law, maybe the arms aren’t there. It’s a really tricky situation, maybe one that went the other way today.”

Benjamin Keyser, who earned 47 caps for France between 2008 and 2015, added that he thought it was the correct call from Gardner despite agreeing with Monye that it was ‘harsh’ on England.

He said: “It’s harsh. If you take the person, he had an incredible tournament and you see those tackles a lot. If you have such a powerful ball carrier running at you… His elbow is on the floor but I do agree with you. I think it’s shoulder first but it’s a soft decision.”