Following the positive commentary that surrounded Amy Perrett’s performance as the first female to referee a game of Super Rugby in Friday night’s match between the Western Force and Brumbies, the response to Graham Cooper’s showing on Saturday was much frostier.
The Waratahs were counting on a win in order to give themselves a chance at topping the Rebels on the overall ladder and earning a spot in the finals.
They accomplished that, triumphing 38-32, but the Rebels’ bonus point for remaining within one score of the winners still gives them a good chance at pipping the Waratahs next weekend.
Still, few would have been left feeling overly happy with the way the contest was officiated on Saturday, with referee Cooper falling silent at crucial times throughout the match.
To start with, The Waratahs could probably feel aggrieved at the awarding of the Rebels’ final two tries of the game.
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) August 30, 2020
Wallabies-hopeful Billy Meakes knocked Waratahs centre Joey Walton over in the build-up to Marika Koroibete’s touch down, which created a massive gap in the midfield for the Rebels to race through, with Koroibete sliding into the corner seconds later.
Perhaps the try would have been awarded even following a look by the TMO, but Cooper evidently felt that there was nothing to check and promptly awarded the score.
Then, in the final 10 minutes of the game, Isi Naisarani busted over for his second try of the game but only after Meakes had clearly been taken into touch. While assistant referee Angus Gardner probably should have caught the error, Cooper was still within his rights to check with the referee but again made a decision without consulting the man upstairs.
Don't want to be that salty Tahs fan, but how is this not at least reviewed? He's EASILY out.
— Mark Anderson (@theworldofando) August 29, 2020
Had those two calls not gone the Rebels’ way, the Waratahs would perhaps be feeling considerably more confident that they’d be involved in the finals in two weeks’ time.
On the other hand, the Rebels were certainly handed the short end of the stick when it came to players being disciplined, with lock Matt Philip sidelined for 10 minutes following a relatively minor offence at lineout time. Philip was yellow carded for taking out the Waratahs jumper – but it was minor interference, at worst. While a penalty was probably justifiable, given Philip did infringe, sending him to the sin bin seemed a harsh response.
Contrast that with the dangerous tackle made by Waratahs flanker Lachlan Swinton on Naisarani in the late stages of the game which saw the Rebels loose forward pulled from the field for a concussion check.
From a Waratahs kick-off, Swinton contacted Naisarani with a shoulder to the head. It was the exact type of offence which would have certainly been a red card during the World Cup when new framework was introduced to assess dangerous tackles – and was applied to the letter of the law.
While the framework is ostensibly still being applied in the Northern Hemisphere, with Kiwi Melani Nanai sent off in last week’s match between Worcester and Gloucester, it appears to have been dropped in Super Rugby.
Cooper did award the Rebels a penalty but that was the only punishment handed out and while the Rebels were stripped of arguably their best player of the night, the Waratahs continued with a full contingent.
It would come as somewhat of a surprise if Swinton escapes further sanction for his tackle.
Unsurprisingly, social media was amok with questions about the refereeing decision made on the night.
Imagine that shoulder at the World Cup. Would be a straight red a miss the comp then they would take your kids from you. #REBvWAR
— Rugby Report Card (@rugby_podcast) August 29, 2020
Why isn't that a yellow card?#REBvWAR
— Brett McKay (@BMcSport) August 29, 2020
That should be a card if we’re consistent…#REBvWAR
— Steve Lenthall (@steve_l15) August 29, 2020
How is a shoulder to the jaw not a yellow card? Rebels lose their best forward for the last 5 mins because of it. This ref has been pretty good tonight but only calling a penalty and not YC is disappointing. #WARvREB
— Roy Ward (@rpjward) August 29, 2020
— Chris Elston (@ChrisElston1912) August 29, 2020
That is a very poor non-call on Swinton. Wipes out Rebels’ best player and doesn’t even get a yellow. #REBvWAR
— Paul Cully (@paulcullystuff) August 29, 2020
To the neck/head, lucky to only be a penalty #REBvWAR
— Steve (@littlesteve) August 29, 2020
While it’s difficult to suggest that the officiating on Saturday impacted one team more than the other, both sides will be left frustrated following the match.
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