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Controversy in historic match: 'They told us that we had to live with the decision'

By Tom Vinicombe
Sam Cane and Jaco Peyper. (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)

Ireland may have scored a historic victory over New Zealand in Dunedin but it was not a match without controversy.


Four players were sent from the field throughout the match. NZ’s Leicester Fainga’anuku and Ofa Tuungafasi, and Ireland’s Peter O’Mahony were all handed yellow cards by referee Jaco Peyper while Angus Ta’vao – who had entered the fray to cover Tuunfagasi’s absence at scrum time – was shown a red after just three minutes of action for a dangerous tackle on Ireland centre Garry Ringrose.

It was what happened at the scrum following Ta’avao’s ejection that has attracted significant controversy post-match, however.

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Although Ta’avao had only come onto the field due to Tuungafasi’s absence, the All Blacks had to take an additional player off the field to ensure they were still playing with a man down. Blindside flanker Dalton Papalii was the unlucky man in this case.

At the first scrum following Ta’avao’s dismissal, the All Blacks were required to bring an additional prop onto the field as, under Law 3.18, a team must operate with three front-rowers at scrum time, if possible.

As such, test debutant Aidan Ross entered the game but as he wasn’t capable off playing at tighthead prop, uncontested scrums were required.

Under Law 3.17, if ‘golden oldies’ scrums are forced due to players being sent from the field, the team that’s caused the issue is effectively required to send an additional player from the field as punishment. When Ross joined the game, Ardie Savea left the park as a direct swap – but that still left the All Blacks with 13 men when they should have been operating with 12.


With uncontested scrums in play, both sides are also required to put eight men into the contest – which would have seen the All Blacks defending with just four players in the backline.

The scrum that forced all the changes was an Irish put-in inside the All Blacks’ 22 and while NZ were able to shut the attack down, it’s questionable whether they would have been able to do the same with one less defender on the pitch.

While New Zealand got the run of the green on that occasion, the opposite was true when Ofa Tuungafasi’s time in the sin bin came to an end and the prop returned to the field.


Under the laws of the game, Papalii – the man who initially temporarily departed the game for Ta’avao, should not have been allowed back on the pitch.

Law 3.30 stipulates that “if a temporary replacement is sent off, the originally replaced player is not permitted to return to the playing area” – with front-rowers being the exception. Papalii was the ‘originally replaced player’.

The officials, however, ruled that it was Savea who was not allowed to return – despite law 3.20 ruling that “if a front-row player is sent off, and the team cannot continue with contested scrums with players already on the field, then the team nominates another player to leave the playing area to enable an available front-row player to come on. The nominated player may act as a replacement.”

All Blacks coach Ian Foster indicated after the match that while they had challenged the officials’ ruling, the were unrelenting.

“My understanding was the opposite of the officials’ understanding,” Foster said.

“They told us that we had to live with the decision.”

Savea, one of the All Blacks’ most experienced players – and one of the top performers throughout 2021 – would have undoubtedly preferred to remain on the field and the selectors would have certainly opted to keep the 28-year-old half-centurion in the game instead of his younger counterpart.

At the end of the day, however, the two sides were both positively and negatively impacted by the officiating on Saturday night, and it was Ireland who held strong to claim their first-ever victory in New Zealand.


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Tana 699 days ago

WRC is killing our game..bring back rucking...

Michael 704 days ago

This issue is relatively simple - the ABs have been blowing hot & cold since 2017. In Hansens latter years he failed to evolve the gameplan and style from what had been successfull in 2012-2016. Sadly Foster who was a deputy during this period FAILED to change the gameplan and structures when he took over in 2020. Instead he replicated the same mistakes as Hansen, compounding them with his insistance to play certain players out of position, and being too loyal to Cane.

If you take away the test matches in 2021 vs Fiji, Tonga, USA, Italy - you have to look at Fosters record is a 63% win rate and that's only that high because we played Argentina 4, Australia 7 and Wales 1 with a Win Ratio 72% - however, if you look at countries in Top 5 World Ranking in South Africa x2 (50%), France x 1 (0%), Ireland x 3 (33%) = Win Ratio 33%

Xade 705 days ago

BB was horrible at 10. Jordie can't catch high balls. When he's the tallest player in the team and now people are talking about him playing 12??? Scott is the only consistent Barrett but he made quite a few errors and missed tackles. I tend to agree with Fozzie in that individual skillets were what let us down. Refs always ruin games but the things we can control have to be a lot more focused. The attitude was poor. The worst player on the night was Tu'ungafasi. He missed the first tackle of the night and that set the tone. He then had to play 70mins in crap form. Man that was a hard watch.

Sunny 705 days ago

Jaco Pyper is not up to international standard as a referee "FULL STOP!"
When The International Referee's Board Stripped Craig Joubret Of His Referees' Certificate, Or Whatever They Call It, They Sacked The Wrong Person, That Person Should Have Been, 'JACO 😤🤒😡 PYPER!'

DP 706 days ago

...Yeah its really tough when your team has to adhere by the same rules as your opposition... welcome to a level playing field All Blacks.. it's not going to get any easier from here on in...

IAN 706 days ago

Congratulations. Rugby nowadays is as unwatchable as it is nonsensical. The rules are so intricate and pedantic they have strangled the game. Honestly, that's it for me. Jaco Peyper and his sycophantic crew has sapped any intention for me to ever watch a live game again. I'll just check the score and watch 10 minutes of highlights on YouTube instead. Thanks for killing the game you asshats.

chris 706 days ago

When the first prop had a yellow card Dalton Papalii had to leave in order to bring on a replacement prop. When the second prop was red carded the player to leave to enable a further prop to come on was Savea.
He therefore effectively replaced a red carded player and so could not come back on. The officials therefore got it right. They were wrong not to temporarily reduce NZ to players because of uncontested scrums.

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