Chiefs star Brad Weber has labelled some of the refereeing decisions that have cost his side Super Rugby Aotearoa victories in recent weeks as “laughable”.
It comes after his side were subjected to their sixth loss in as many games on Sunday after a controversial refereeing decision late in their 21-17 defeat to the Blues at Eden Park denied them their first win of the campaign.
The frustration among Chiefs players was clear to see when No. 8 Pita Gus Sowakula looked to have scored under a pile of bodies in the dying minutes of the clash, but was denied by referee Brendon Pickerill, who instead handed a penalty to the Blues.
The New Zealand Herald reported skipper Sam Cane, first-five Aaron Cruden and midfielder Anton Lienert-Brown all surrounded Pickerill after the as they took issue to the game-changing call.
Cruden could be seen questioning Pickerill’s decision when the call was made, while Lienert-Brown didn’t hide his emotions post-match as he was adamant Sowakula had scored what would have been the match-winning try.
“We’ve been on the wrong side of a lot of calls this whole year and when it counted, when we needed it, why not go upstairs? I was a little bit frustrated. In a massive moment I think we’ve got to use the TMO.”
The recent behaviour of Super Rugby Aotearoa stars sparked comments from New Zealand Rugby’s referees boss Bryce Lawrence, who called into question the “hostile” nature in which players are reacting to refereeing decisions.
“I definitely have an issue when other players who aren’t the captain come running in and asking the referee to do things and telling the referee how to referee the game,” Lawrence told Stuff.
“And demanding the referee do things. And I personally don’t like the way some players are challenging the referees in quite a hostile body language and verbally.”
“That’s something we will review at the end of this competition because I know there’s a wide range of rugby people that aren’t that thrilled with the way some of that behaviour is going at the moment,” he added.
New Zealand Rugby's referees boss Bryce Lawrence is urging players to show more respect for those who hold the whistle.https://t.co/0HoXKd63bN
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) July 27, 2020
Lawrence said he had consulted with Pickerill about Sowakula’s denied try, with Pickerill determining that the loose forward was short of the line and that the Blues deserved a penalty as he didn’t release the ball.
He was therefore satisfied that he didn’t need to consult with the TMO.
Speaking to RugbyPass, Weber shared Lienert-Brown’s exasperation at a string of calls that have gone against the winless Chiefs in recent weeks.
“To be honest, it’s kind of getting a little bit laughable at times,” he told the Aotearoa Rugby Pod.
“For three or four weeks running we haven’t had the rub of the green in key moments, so we’re certainly learning how to deal with it pretty quickly.
“It’s getting pretty frustrating and really emotionally draining.
“[We] put so much into a week to try and get a result, and then to come up short like the way we have, particularly the last couple of weeks, is pretty draining.”
It’s the second week running where the Chiefs have had a significant officiating call go against them after star playmaker Damian McKenzie was wrongly denied a try that would have secured victory over the Highlanders in round six.
McKenzie appeared to have scored after slicing the opposition defence apart, but, upon referral with the TMO, an accidental offside call from earlier in the sequence of play was made against first-five Kaleb Trask.
Lawrence admitted after the match that the wrong outcome had been reached, as the infringement had occurred more than two phases before the try was scored.
He said that while the right decision was made, as Trask had committed an accidental offside offence, the wrong process was carried out by the officials.
The Chiefs went on to lose 33-31 thanks to an injury time try to Highlanders midfielder Sio Tomkinson.
Weber said that although the Chiefs were appreciative of the referees admitting they made the wrong calls, it doesn’t change the outcome of the match.
“There’s a lot of fight in the group, so we certainly aren’t folding over or anything,” the five-test All Blacks halfback said.
“We’ll certainly give the Crusaders a heck of a crack this weekend, but it’s frustrating getting apologies from referees saying they got key moments wrong.
“At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter for us, because we still get a loss in the loss column.
“So, as much as we appreciate them admitting that they might have got something wrong, that sort of doesn’t help our fortunes at the moment.
“You’d almost rather they didn’t say anything.
“I guess they know that they were wrong, and that confirms our thinking, that we’re not just complaining at nothing, it’s just frustrating that we’re not getting any of those calls run our way.
“One week it’s a try pulled back, and then the next week they don’t even check, and it’s pretty tough to take after a while.”
Veteran Blues hooker James Parsons sympathised with Weber and the Chiefs after having endured a multitude of luckless results since debuting for the Auckland franchise in 2012.
While the Blues are currently enjoying a good run of results to emerge as title contenders this season, Parsons has been part of squads in years gone by that have finished deep in the bottom half of Super Rugby standings.
“I’ve been where they are, it’s tough,” the two-test All Black, who missed the Chiefs clash on Sunday through injury, told the Aotearoa Rugby Pod.
“The littlest decisions feel like the weight of the world when you’re wanting something so bad.
“It’s exactly that – it’s more emotional, and it just drains you because every you week, you start, you build yourself up and say ‘Right, this is the week, this will turn it around’, and you put a hell of a lot into it, and then it comes down to something so simple as that in the 81st minute.
“I’ve been on the other side of it many a time, and you do feel like – because they do mount up and you do get the emails from refs saying they got it wrong and they do mount up – it does become frustrating.”
Parsons added that the Chiefs should remain undeterred from the recent lack of results, highlighting Saturday’s clash against the Crusaders in Hamilton as a prime opportunity to prove their worth.
“Being a proud team like the Chiefs, being at home against the Crusaders, where they’ve already done a job on them, the teams haven’t changed so much [from] earlier in the year, it makes for an exciting clash this weekend,” he said.
“A Chiefs side with nothing to lose, there’s plenty to fear.”
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