Referees are favouring New Zealand, says Stuart Barnes
The All Blacks are receiving a "disturbing" number of favourable decisions, says Stuart Barnes.
Last Updated: 16/09/13 11:18am
It was one of those games. Powerful and pulsating throughout, this could have been one of the most memorable internationals of recent years.
Unfortunately déjà vu struck and for all the excellence of so much of New Zealand's game, it will be remembered - certainly in South Africa - for yet another refereeing display where the key decisions again broke the way of the All Blacks.
Australia were on the wrong end of some atrocious refereeing a few weeks ago in Wellington and the Springboks found their more realistic hopes of a first win in Auckland since 1937, undone by Romain Poite.
The Frenchman is one of my favourite referees, but like the majority of his colleagues who blow down south, somehow the whistle always goes New Zealand's way.
Maybe it is time for All Blacks fans and coaches to forget about 2007 and Wayne Barnes; time to accept that the wheel has turned full circle in their favour.
Bismarck Du Plessis was yellow carded for a beautifully timed tackle that took Dan Carter out of the game. It was neither a shoulder charge, like Ma'a Nonu's dangerous late hit on Jean de Villiers later in the game, nor was it high. It appears he was sin binned for having the temerity to flatten the great fly half.
In the second half Du Plessis was yellow carded for dangerous play with a forearm that was high - this would be given as yellow card in possibly one in five games. Two yellows make a red and the game was all but over with the Springboks trailing by just seven at the time.
The breaks going the way of New Zealand are becoming too familiar a pattern in New Zealand. They are the world's leading team and the best benefit from sympathetic officiating in all sports but this pattern is disturbing.
Justin Marshall, a distinguished All Black, was struggling for words when Jannie Du Plessis was penalised for what Marshall saw as a decision of pure pedantry but minutes earlier, when Ruan Pienaar rightly charged a free kick as Beauden Barritt advanced forward, the referee simply sent the South African backwards when the scrum half was within his rights to play the man and ball.
Every small decision seems to be interpreted New Zealand's way. Even when the All Blacks suffered two indisputable yellow cards in the last 10 minutes when the game was won the referee took their side. Nonu went for the aforementioned late charge, but Conrad Smith escaped a cynical hand in the ruck metres from the line.
It was pure yellow and de Villers quizzed the French referee as to whether Smith too should be sin binned. Poite disregarded him when the New Zealanders should have been down to 12 men for the misdemeanours. But that was a correct decision too far for the Frenchman.
It is difficult to beat New Zealand anywhere and anytime, let alone in New Zealand, but when the referees are subconsciously leaning their way it becomes all but impossible. South Africa, with some even breaks, fifteen men and the Johannesburg altitude will believe they can turn this result around. They will take the field believing they were hard done-by in Auckland which is going to make this match something else.
Fire and fury in Auckland, but in Perth the affair was altogether lower key. The match was damp, tight but nothing memorable - with a far from packed Perth house a concern for the Australian union.
The sport lacks powerhouse national teams and, whilst many who have suffered at the hands of Australian sporting excellence in the past may gloat at their current travails, the sooner the Wallabies are competing with the best the better. Union is fragile in the land of league; victories in style are needed and fast if Australia is not to fall from their perch at the top of the game where they have been throughout the professional era.
Rugby needs more not less competitive teams if it is to continue to grow as a global sport. That is a lesson to be learned and reiterated in both hemispheres in these troubled times.
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Why does Richard Cockerill think that only Premiership Clubs should have been consulted over the new laws? There are hundreds, sorry thousands of clubs playing the game of rugby union each week. If any referendum or consultation should take place then surely this would involve each club taking part? It is typical of the man and his over-rated opinion of himself that he thinks that the game revolves around a very small proportion of rugby union clubs.Howard Cooper
STUART REPLIES: Howard, Coaches at the higher end of the game have a greater financial interest in laws, not for the sake of the game but the sake of their team's prospects. There is nothing wrong with consultations - and there have been many - but the lawmakers should make the laws and the coaches should stick to coaching their teams. I don't suppose many coaches would like administrators interfering with the way their team is coached. The laws are for the benefit of the game not specific teams and styles. Right now we are witnessing some serious overreach in the sport. This is perhaps symptomatic of the current mood.
Hi Stuart. Following the injury to Brad Barritt, who do you see as next in line for the England No.12 shirt? Could Kyle Eastmond jump ahead of Billy Twelvetrees in the queue? Dirk
STUART REPLIES:Dirk, it is possible. It depends upon the style England wish to adopt. The centre who is catching my eye is Henry Trinder. Fully fit (although he did limp off at Saracens) he is looking fabulous. I don't think England can win a World Cup with Brad Barritt and Owen Farrell in the same midfield so a change needs to be made somewhere and with the World Cup two years away, sooner rather than later.
After our big win over Leicester, do you think Bath can break into the top four this season? And can George Ford, with his ability to play on the gainline and drop deep to control a game, jump ahead of Burns and Farrell for England?Ally
STUART REPLIES: Ally, Early days. I was in the press box at the Rec and enjoyed the atmosphere and the game, but remember Leicester had nearly half of their best team missing and were closing in on Bath at the end. I don't think Bath will overtake Leicester this season but they are contenders for the top four (probably the fourth spot) and they look very promising for the longer term future.
Before I discuss Ford, a quick mention for Anthony Watson; the full back could be one of the most spectacular talents ever seen in Bath. The glimpses I saw in the flesh were enough to convince me that the 19-year-old is destined for great things. As for Ford; I'm very impressed. Calm, composed, a rugby brain; there is a lot to like. If he keeps improving from the foundations set Saturday, he has to be taken seriously.
He might not have Farrell's iron will and Burns' flair, but his ability to see the whole field is a priceless edge that he seems to possess. Very exciting times for Bath fans, although I don't see the championship returning to the Rec this season.