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Anything Aaron Smith can do, TJ Perenara can...

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Anything Aaron Smith can do, TJ Perenara can do too – including change the ref's mind

Convincing a referee to change his mind was long thought to be impossible, but on Saturday TJ Perenara became the second lippy New Zealand halfback to talk Australian ref Angus Gardner around in the space of a year.

These days it seems that anything Aaron Smith can do, TJ Perenara can do just as well. Passing, running and decision making are all pretty even for the two halfbacks, and now TJ can add the rare feat of convincing referee Angus Gardner to change his mind to match Smith’s effort last year.

That’s right, the same ref has now successfully been talked around by two separate All Blacks halfbacks.

In 2016, Smith achieved what was previously thought to have been impossible when he presented the flawless logic to Gardner that an exceptionally tight game between the Highlanders and Brumbies had hit full time.

Saturday night’s match between the Hurricanes and Reds at Suncorp Stadium saw Perenara inform the Australian whistleblower that a penalty that been awarded before a disallowed try still stood, prompting Gardner to reverse his original decision. The ‘try’ in question deserves mention too, given that Perenara deceived everyone by taking a cheeky quick tap without actually tapping the ball.

This is both a huge development for loudmouth halfbacks and a setback for coaches and parents who try to teach kids to accept bad officiating with grace and humility. Perenara’s frustration was quite evident and arguably justified, as at that point the TMO had almost earned himself a bonus point for disallowing tries – all against the Hurricanes (not that it mattered as they eventually won comfortably, 34-15).

Angus Gardner has carved himself out a pretty good reputation this year, most notably following the game he controlled between Perenara’s Hurricanes and Smith’s Highlanders. He is getting a bit of grief over the fact that he actually awarded three tries and had them overruled by the TMO in the Reds vs Canes game, but to put a positive angle on it, at least that proves that the system works. Plus, one wasn’t even his fault – one of his assistants decided to check out Mark Abbott’s rear-end rather than his foot landing on the touchline.

Meanwhile, although the All Blacks have depth at halfback that’s comparable to the Mariana Trench, the battle for the starting jersey this season looks likely to come down to Smith and Perenara specifically.

While all the talk after this game has been about Perenara’s verbal jousting with Gardner, the Wellingtonian is clearly taking no chances when it comes to providing the All Blacks coaching staff evidence that he demands inclusion. Due to the injury Ardie Savea picked up with 10 minutes to go, he jumped at the chance to pack down at flanker.

Let’s just say it went better than the last time a back attempted to get involved in a scrum.

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Anything Aaron Smith can do, TJ Perenara can do too – including change the ref's mind