"I have never experienced such decisions that affected the score so blatantly" - Smith

Wanting answers: Esher coach Ollie Smith believes  he and Ricky Nebbett are being made examples of by the RFU    	SP70848

Wanting answers: Esher coach Ollie Smith believes he and Ricky Nebbett are being made examples of by the RFU SP70848

First published in Sport Croydon Guardian: Photograph of the Author by , Sports Editor

Esher head coach Ollie Smith is calling on the RFU to investigate referee Terry Hall after being suspended for verbally abusing the match official.

Smith, although contrite over comments made to Hall after his side’s narrow 21-20 defeat at Old Albanians on February 9, also believes he and assistant Ricky Nebbett are being made examples of by the RFU.

Smith received a three-week ban – up to and including March 17 – from coaching on matchdays, attending Esher matches home and away and making contact with the team, while  Nebbett was handed a 12-week suspension on similar terms – six weeks of which are suspended until May 2014,  allowing him a touchline return on April 15.

Smith said: “I understand why we’ve been banned, although the terms are harsh.

“My comments to the ref were wrong, but it was only two swear words in front of ‘bad’ and ‘terrible’, and they were only said in passing.

“I feel we’re being made an example of by the RFU. But in my 14 years in rugby I have never experienced such decisions as the ones the referee made in the last five minutes that affected the score so blatantly.

“I have been through the decisions on video with the RFU assessor, and they are so bad  you have to question the ref’s integrity – or he is highly incompetent.

“I shouldn’t have said what I said, but my frustration was not about his performance. The issue was I don’t feel he wanted Esher to win that game. Why, I don’t know.”

Smith has asked the RFU to investigate Hall’s performance, but the RFU confirmed it would not be investigating the referee over and above the normal review process all referees go under.

Steve Savage, the referee manager for level three/four who met with Smith, said: “The RFU refereeing department has a good working relationship with all the clubs, and this meeting was an example.”

But Smith said: “If we come up three or four points short at the end of the season, it could cost us the best part of £1m in promotion and sponsorship.

“If my job rests on promotion, I could be sacked and will the referee pay my mortgage? That’s the frustrating thing. I’ll get on with the ban, I just hope the RFU considers the ref’s actions too.”

Esher return to National League One action at Cinderford on Saturday.

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