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Liam Messam's 'unlucky' penalty against the Boks that shows how much the game has changed

By Sam Smith
(Source/SuperSport)

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The 2014 Springboks victory over the All Blacks ended a two-year winning streak for the men in black as flyhalf Pat Lambie stepped up to slot a heroic long-range game-winning penalty.

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The All Blacks held a one point lead in the dying stages when Schalk Burger was hit high by a swinging arm tackle by Messam as he fell to the ground.

However, in what would be a certain and unquestionable red card under today’s rules, there was plenty of conjecture over whether the infringement by Liam Messam even warranted a penalty.

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The contact to the head was clear with Messam leading with the shoulder and failing to get a decent wrap on the Springbok flanker.

The match officials missed the incident and were even reluctant to yellow card the All Black flanker on review of the tackle.

The decision by Wayne Barnes to award a penalty to the Springboks was labelled ‘very harsh’ by current USA Rugby Sevens head coach Mike Friday while fans said it ‘wasn’t Messam’s fault’ as Burger fell.

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Reporter Ben Coles of The Telegraph called the penalty ‘contentious’ while former England international Mike Catt said ‘slow mo made it worse’ and that it did not deserve a yellow.

The referees only looked at the incident once replays were shown on the big screen, igniting a response from the Ellis Park crowd.

Reliving the game in an interview with SuperSport, the Springboks hero Lambie recalled the period of play leading to his famous kick.

“The play actually continued quite far up thereafter, we were actually up on the All Blacks’ 22, and play stopped,” he said.

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“And they showed a replay of that hit on the big screen which actually caught the ref’s eye, and then the ref went back to that incident.”

All Blacks captain Richie McCaw described the contact as “bad luck” in his post-match interview, while Hansen also absolved Messam of any blame and called the incident ‘unlucky’.

“Liam was pretty unlucky but I’ve got no problem with the penalty, because he made contact with the head. But it’s certainly not Liam’s problem either,” Hansen said.

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