RFU apologises for Irne Herbst sin bin error but Harlequins win stands

The Rugby Football Union has upheld Harlequins’ narrow win over Bath despite apologising for an officiating error that saw lock Irne Herbst return to the field early after a yellow card.

Herbst was sent to the sin bin in the 63rd minute of a Premiership clash that ended 40-36 in Quins’ favour, but came back on after only seven minutes.

With Bath in the midst of a rousing comeback, which saw them score 33 unanswered points, the South African made at least one important tackle during the time he should have been out of action.

Bath coach Johann van Graan complained to the referee after the match but, after assessing the issue, the RFU’s professional game match officials team declined to take any further action over the mistake.

A statement read: “The RFU Professional Game Match Officials Team (PGMOT) acknowledge and apologise for an error during the Gallagher Premiership match between Harlequins v Bath where a yellow card sanction resulted in Irne Herbst returning to the pitch approximately three minutes too soon.

“We would like to apologise to both teams for this mistake. As is the usual process the PGMOT will review all games to ensure continued improvement and learnings. The result of the match remains final.”

Speaking after the match Van Graan touched on his side’s dissatisfaction, while accepting there was no axe to grind with the man in the middle, Anthony Woodthorpe.

“I flagged it with the referee after the game. There’s not a lot that he can do, on the pitch he wasn’t even aware of it.

“We went through our team manager and we made the fourth official aware. On a yellow card, you’re supposed to be off for 10 minutes, not seven.”

The PA news agency has contacted Bath for comment on the RFU ruling.