Nigel Owens has recalled the day All Blacks legend Sean Fitzpatrick told Welsh refereeing great Derek Bevan to ‘f**k off’ during a historic defeat for New Zealand rugby back in 1994.
Three years after taking charge of the 1991 Rugby World Cup final between England and Australia, Clydach official Bevan was handed New Zealand’s two-Test series in their homeland with France.
Les Bleus won the first Test in Christchurch 22-8, a day that marked the international debut of rugby superstar Jonah Lomu, and France headed up to Eden Park, Auckland, seven days later with an historic first series win in New Zealand within their grasp.
But they trailed 20-16 with just seconds remaining before pulling off one of international rugby’s great length of the field tries from Jean Jean-Luc Sadourny, with Philippe Saint-Andre more than playing his part in the build-up.
It was after Sadourny had touched down beneath the All Blacks posts to seal the series win and a 23-20 victory that led to New Zealand skipper Fitzpatrick’s outburst at Bevan.
“New Zealand had been in control all game and Grant Fox had kicked to the corner late on,” fellow Welsh referee Owens told the House of Rugby podcast.
“They were now going to win this game – the series would be drawn – and France were never going to get their first series win in New Zealand.
“There’s a lineout, France win the ball and run it from behind their own posts.
“Philippe Saint-Andre starts it and France score this brilliant, brilliant try that’s out of this world.
“New Zealand are have now lost the series and Sean Fitzpatrick is captain.
“He’s totally deflated after being in control all game, they’ve lost it.
“Derek has given the try beneath the sticks and as he’s walking back, Fitzpatrick and a few forwards are trudging back to get behind the posts for the conversion.
“As Derek passes Fitzpatrick, he says to him ‘what a wonderful try that was’.
“Fitzpatrick turns to Derek and says ‘why don’t you just f**k off Bevan’.
“You couldn’t say that now, but back then you could.”
It was one of two stories 2015 World Cup final referee Owens told in his long association with fellow top whistleblower Bevan.
The second was from their time together as referee and TMO in the Heineken European Cup – a partnership that spanned a 100 or more games.
“Derek was one of the greatest referees and a great character,” added Owens.
“When he finished at the top level of the game and retired in 2000, I actually took his place on the panel in Wales.
“He was my coach then until the World Cup in 2015 and in the 120 or more Heineken Cup matches I’ve done, he was also my TMO for a 100 or more of them.
“We had this little code word ‘Trigger’ (a character from hit BBC comedy Only Fools and Horses) if we’ve missed something in a match like a blatant knock-on.
“He would use it, if us as officials on the field had totally missed it, and Derek saw it in the truck when it as absolutely clear for everybody, except for us.
“He did it twice in the whole time ‘Trigger, Trigger’ that’s all he would say because you’re not supposed to say anything like that, it’s out of protocol.
“He only used it twice in all the years together. I was refereeing a final round Heineken Cup pool match Clermont v Leinster.
“Leinster needed to win to qualify and Clermont needed a win to finish top of the group. We were 20 minutes into the game and all I heard was ‘Del Boy, Del Boy’.
“I couldn’t do anything because I didn’t know what the hell he was on about. At half-time, down he comes from the TMO truck. I said ‘what the hell does Del Boy mean’?
“Derek said ‘haven’t you heard the news? Trigger has died today and I can’t say Trigger now as he’s just died’.”
This content was originally published here.