Magazine article The Spectator

Spectator Sport: Roger Alton

Magazine article The Spectator

Spectator Sport: Roger Alton

Article excerpt

Not since Walter Palmer, a cudddly Minnesota dentist, put down his drill and vanished off the face of the earth having made sure that Cecil the Lion took a crossbow bolt for the team, has there been a disappearance quite like it. I refer of course to Craig Joubert, the hapless Durban-born referee last seen leaving scorch marks in the Twickenham turf as he sprinted for safety after mistakenly (as it turns out) awarding the Australians a penalty in the last minute of the Rugby World Cup quarter-final against Scotland.

Now Joubert has been chucked under the bus by World Rugby, the governing body, who agree that he shouldn't have given the penalty. But poor guy: who hasn't made a mistake? Just ask Franz Beckenbauer. Anyway, spare a thought for Craig, a man who spent his teenage years volunteering to referee and who was only doing his best. He's actually a damn good referee. You assume he legged it to the nearest departure lounge and is probably even now roaming the veldt on a hiking holiday. Keeping an eye out for anyone wearing a kilt and holding a crossbow.

Personally, I think he did a service to world peace, being the first person alive or dead to make the English feel sorry for the Scots. Quite an achievement. Like that master of snoot Martin Amis making you vaguely warm to Jeremy Corbyn because he didn't get very good A-levels. Anyway, think what Joubert could do on assignment to Jerusalem, say, or Raqqah. A trip to Oslo can't be far off.

It's a good job he did give that penalty. Had he not I'd have fancied those brave and brilliant Scots to beat the Argies and reach the final. Which would have meant blasted 'Flower of Scotland', a modern and violently anti-English folk song, cascading down the Wimbledon stands for hours. Too much to bear.

Rugby is full of bish-bash, but every-one gets on in the end. Not so all sports. Some compelling film from the drivers' room after last weekend's US Grand Prix in Austin shows Lewis Hamilton calm himself before picking up the second-place cap and flinging it to Nico Rosberg. …

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