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'Did you guys see that?': Brumbies coach McKellar unhappy with semi-final officiating

By Tom Vinicombe
Dan McKellar embraces Nick Frost. (Photo by Brett Phibbs/Photosport)

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Brumbies coach Dan McKellar has expressed his displeasure with the officiating in his side’s Super Rugby Pacific semi-final loss to the Blues and questioned the game’s overall approach to foul play.

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The Brumbies came within an inch of tipping up the Blues at Eden Park with prop Ofa Tuungafasi managing to charge down a last-minute Noah Lolesio drop goal that would have given the visitors the win. With the Blues ahead 20-19, had Lolesio’s kick sailed true the Brumbies would have become the first Australian side in the competition’s history to get the better of a New Zealand side at home in a play-off fixture.

Just moment’s before Lolesio’s 40-metre effort, however, it looked as if Brumbies super-sub Luke Reimer had done enough to win his side a penalty, with replacement Blues lock Luke Romano failing to release the ball at the breakdown after a prolonged effort from the replacement flanker.

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Picking an All Blacks squad to take on Ireland.
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Picking an All Blacks squad to take on Ireland.

Eventually, the ball came loose and after a mad scramble on the deck (during which at least two players looked to have knocked the ball on), the Brumbies managed to get possession of the ball and referee Ben O’Keefe waved play on.

Had the breakdown indiscretion come at any other point of the game, O’Keefe would have likely awarded a penalty in the Brumbies’ favour but with time almost up on the clock, it appeared that O’Keefe didn’t want to decide the game with a penalty in the final moments.

 

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Speaking to media after the match, Brumbies coach McKellar strongly implied he believed a penalty should have been given.

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“There were a couple of decisions there that will be interesting to review,” he said. “Luke Reimer appeared to be well and truly on the ball directly in front of the posts. Did you guys see that?

“I saw Luke Reimer on the ball, surviving clean out directly in front of the posts.

“When you’re playing at Eden Park and an Australian team hasn’t won here forever and a day, you need a bit of luck, don’t you? And we just didn’t get that tonight.”

Ironically, in the Brumbies’ previous fixture against the Blues in Canberra they were penalised in the final seconds of the game for an indiscretion at the ruck while the Blues were camped out in front of their posts, despite appearing to have been perfectly placed for a legitimate turnover. Beauden Barrett kicked a simple drop goal to steal a victory from the home side but had he missed, the Blues would have had a penalty kick in front to secure the win.

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McKellar – who will now depart the Brumbies to link up with the Wallabies as an assistant coach – also expressed his frustrations at how yellow and red cards are dished out.

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Centre Len Ikitau was sent off in last weekend’s win over the Hurricanes for a high tackle and has subsequently been handed a three-week ban for the shot. In Saturday night’s game, Blues hooker Kurt Eklund and flanker Adrian Choat were both yellow-carded for dangerous play but McKellar evidently felt the punishments could have been more severe, given Ikitau’s ban.

“I’ve got 23 players and 15 staff in there [asking] what is the game doing around cards,” McKellar said. “I’ve got Len Ikitau sitting in the grandstand for an accident last week – hasn’t been able to play, possibly won’t play against England in the first test match. We had a guy tipped on his head, we’ve got head-on-head contact. One’s a yellow, one’s a red.

“And I’m not complaining just about tonight but as a game… Last night [it was the same] as well with the Crusaders and the Chiefs. What direction are we going here because players don’t know what’s yellow, what’s red. I don’t know what it is. How’s Joe Public going to have any idea?

“I sat in on Len Ikitau’s hearing during the week and to me there are just so many accidents that happen in a collision sport. I’m not sitting here saying Blues boys should have been red-carded or whatever but as a game, it’s really hard to follow at the moment in terms of which way it may go.

“Common sense, isn’t it? If someone throws a stiff arm or punches someone or eye gouges someone or stands on someone, throw the book at them. No one wants players getting concussed and that sort of thing but there’s accidents.

With the Blues claiming victory, they’ll host the Crusaders at Eden Park next Saturday in what McKellar suggests will be a mouth-watering clash between two top sides.

“All the best to the Blues next week against the Crusaders, they’ve been an outstanding team all year and are worthy grand final hosts,” he said. “It’ll be a great game. It’ll be a really good contest. It’ll be a tough one that’ll come down to the toss of a coin really.

“I just hope it’s not decided off the back of a card. Let the 46 footballers sort it. There’s no grubs or dirty players amongst those boys. They’ll go out there and they’ll play hard and they’ll contest hard. I just hope that it’s a really good spectacle and that the players decide the outcome.”

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