Owen Farrell’s 81st minute assault on André Esterhuizen at Twickenham on Saturday would have done any thug proud.
Had Farrell’s shoulder crashed into Esterhuizen’s jaw‚ with the most cursory suggestion of a tackling arm applied by the England flyhalf‚ in a dark alley somewhere‚ where it belonged‚ no-one else would have been any the wiser.
But it happened under some of the best floodlights in rugby‚ in front of 80 369 people‚ and with millions more watching worldwide.
And‚ from the hollow moan that mooned around the vast stands after referee Angus Gardner asked for a replay of the incident‚ which unfolded in all its slow motion ugliness on the giant screen‚ the English knew Farrell had lost them the game.
With time up‚ they led 12-11‚ but the penalty that surely had to result was well within Handré Pollard’s range.
Then Gardner did the unthinkable and decided Farrell had not committed what‚ had it happened in Rugby Road just outside the stadium and not on the field‚ would have been grounds for Farrell’s arrest.
Despite plenty of bulletproof evidence to the contrary‚ Springbok replacement winger Esterhuizen had been hit neither too high nor by a shoulder charge.
England were the victors‚ South Africa were left wondering how the hell they had lost a game they had almost won in every respect.
“The only thing that counts is that one point on the scoreboard‚” Rassie Erasmus said in admitting that the match had been “frustrating‚ but it is what it is”.
How bout that alleged tackle‚ Eddie Jones?
“Aw well‚ it’s not for me to adjudicate‚” England’s coach said‚ and who could blame him‚ he had burgled a victory and he was happy with that.
“If it was a shoulder charge the referee would have penalised him‚ and we [would have] had a chance to win the game‚” Erasmus said.
“It was a good tackle — well done.
“I haven’t seen André Esterhuizen being tackled back like that in a while.
“If it was all legal‚ and I haven’t had a good chance to look at the replay‚ then we should start tackling like that.
“It’s obviously very effective‚ and if that’s allowed we should all execute it like that.
“If it was legal we just have to latch on and do it the same way.
“To tackle a guy like André Esterhuizen like that and stop him in his tracks is unbelievable.