Leicester Tigers boss Steve Borthwick was left fuming after his side’s defeat to Bristol Bears on Saturday afternoon.
A miscommunication regarding a half-time substitute ultimately proved advantageous for Bristol but saw Borthwick accuse his opponents of lying.
Leicester lost a tight affair 26-23 despite being camped on the Bristol line in the latter stages.
The Bears were down a man and giving away regular penalties as they looked to keep the Tigers out.
It looked as if they would go down to 13 men when Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro was sin-binned.
The Bears needed a replacement prop or else they would go down to 13 due to the laws surrounding uncontested scrums.
John Afoa, who had supposedly been taken off for “tactical” reasons, was the only man capable of playing in that position, but the Bristol boss Pat Lam claimed the ex-All Black was injured.
He then performed a u-turn upon realising they would lose an extra man and allowed Afoa to go on as Borthwick lamented the decision.
Referee Ian Tempest tried to resolve the situation and said: “I’m asking the team manager – is this player injured? He’s on the card as tactical.”
He continued: “I’m being told he’s come off tactically. On the card, it says tactical. He’s tactical on the card which has been given in by your team manager, which is quite clearly here.
“You’re now telling me this player is injured and cannot return to the field of play.
“In that case, the yellow card has caused the uncontested scrums, you will lose an additional player, so you need to pick someone else to lose from the field of play. You will play with eight in the scrum. You need to call someone else off, please.”
Afoa though took matters into his own hand and said he was able to return, a decision Lam allowed to occur, which was ultimately to Bristol’s benefit.
Borthwick though was furious and said: “He [Lam] just said he was injured. Don’t lie Pat, don’t lie! Just don’t lie.”
Afoa came on for the game’s final scrum which saw Bears scrum-half Andy Uren steal the ball and kick it into touch before tempers flared at full-time.
After the contest Lam revealed that Afoa ultimately took matters into his own hands, which was ultimately within the rules as he was not listed as injured, despite Lam saying he was.
“John Afoa got injured in the Gloucester game, was due back next week, been training with the guys,” Lam told BT Sport.
“Kyle Sinckler, he trained on Thursday, just felt a twinge in his hamstring.cWe said if we’re going to play Johnny we might as well start him, and then get him off at half time.
“That’s what we did. You all know I never take John off at 40 minutes.
“When that happened at the end there and he needed to go back on, I didn’t realise that he was on a tactical sub. I thought it was on injury, so with that they wanted him to go back on.
“My concern was that we’d driven up here because of Covid, he’s nearly 40 and he sat there the whole half.
“Although they’ll say that’s down as tactical, I’ll say ‘well, look at the safety of John’. Then the Leicester boys started coming in and accusing us of stuff, and Johnny just said ‘bugger it, I’m going’.
“I wasn’t happy but John said ‘no, I’ll just do it’. He went and did the job.”