'Lost the plot': Fans fume as Pablo Matera escapes red despite Sam Gilbert-like tip tackle
Fans have been left questioning the consistency of Super Rugby Pacific officials after Crusaders flanker Pablo Matera managed to escape a red card despite tip-tackling Reds centre Jordan Petaia on Friday.
The Crusaders scored a 28-15 victory over the Reds in Christchurch to cement their second-place finish in the competition’s regular season and lock-in a quarter-final clash against the Queenslanders at Orangetheory Stadium next weekend.
The result was marred by controversy, though, as Matera was fortunate to avoid being sent off after dumping Petaia on his head during a clean out at a ruck.
Matera’s actions mirrored those of Highlanders first-five Sam Gilbert, who was last week red-carded by referee Nic Berry for the same infringement when he landed Waratahs star Michael Hooper on his head from a breakdown clean out.
Gilbert was subsequently handed a five-week suspension by SANZAAR, bringing an end to his Super Rugby Pacific campaign, leaving fans to question why Friday’s official Ben O’Keeffe didn’t send Matera off for such a similar incident.
Instead, the Los Pumas loose forward was given only a yellow card, with O’Keeffe and television match official Shane McDermott determining that Matera had dangerously lifted Petaia before landing him on his back and shoulder.
That’s in spite of the fact that replays appeared to show that Petaia had landed on his neck, as highlighted by Sky Sport commentators Justin Marshall and Taylah Johnson.
Nevertheless, O’Keeffe and McDermott ruled that Matera’s actions only warranted a yellow card, which the O’Keeffe said was an upgraded from the penalty he was initially set to hand out.
That resulted in spectators being confused over rugby’s laws and consistency of officiating, especially in the wake of Gilbert’s red card last week.
🟨 vs 🟥 🤔
If Matera isn’t cited for this on Petaia, in comparison to Gilbert on Hooper, it would be good to hear from someone in charge as to why not. pic.twitter.com/Pz66RqiOKg
— Steve Lenthall (@steve_l15) May 27, 2022
One fan brought into question how Matera’s infringement wasn’t worthy of a red when England lock Charlie Ewels was sent off for an innocuous head knock against Ireland in the Six Nations earlier this year.
Others said rugby had “lost the plot” and that the sport’s current laws “have replaced any semblance of common sense”, while some were sceptical as to whether Matera would have been red-carded if he was playing for a team other than the Crusaders.
bang heads accidentally = red
pick some one up and chuck them to the deck on purpose so they can break their neck = yellowADVERTISEMENT
i give up with this game sometimes
— J.B. Claims (@jbclaims) May 27, 2022
It’s mental and can’t be defended. We’ve lost the plot. Laws have replaced any semblance of common sense
— Rugby Report Card (@rugby_podcast) May 27, 2022
— Kapil (@KapilJekishan) May 27, 2022
World Rugby and SANZAAR need to sort this shot out. Similar tackle last week occurred on McReight and Hooper.
What’s it going to take, a broken neck???
— rob (@rob47138671) May 27, 2022
Pablo Matera with one of the dirtiest pieces of play and its a yellow only
Super Rugby is a joke
— Rugby Digest (@RugbyDigestSA) May 27, 2022
Sick of this where does he land. It is the action that should be punished. That is no different to Hooper a week ago. So Petaia need to dive to the ground head first for Matera to get a red. Punish actions not outcomes. #CRUvRED
— Bart Willis (@bartinoheat) May 27, 2022
The game continues to baffle me. How was that not red card for Matera. His action lead to Petaia landing dangerously on his head/neck regardless of whether it was the 1st part of his body that makes contact with the ground 🤦🏻♂️ @SuperRugby #cruvred
— Eoin Toolan (@Toolan82) May 27, 2022
How was that red last week and a yellow this week? Matera should have got sent for picking Petaia up by his ballbag anyway…
— Jamie Wall (@JamieWall2) May 27, 2022
I swear this would have been a red card in the 90s.
Matera protected by the Crusader’s cloak here, had it been in a Pumas jersey… https://t.co/VTV2TAbeMu
— Jared Wright (@jaredwright17) May 27, 2022
Just put tv on. Crusaders v Reds. Saw Matera dump a guy on his head, which on another day could’ve paralyzed him. Red card all day. But no, yellow. If Matera were in Pumas or jaguares colours, would it have been yellow? #Rugby
— Craig Ray (@craigray11) May 27, 2022
How he lands shouldn’t be mitigated down to a yellow. Matera lifts him past horizontal and then dumps him.
These need to be straight red!
— Big Will (@BigWill_Rugby) May 27, 2022
Despite the outcry spurred on by call that the officials made, O’Keeffe and McDermott did receive some support, with one punter offering some sympathy to the referees.
Bit of discussion around the Matera YC and whether it should be red.
Definitely one that could go either way, but I have some sympathy for O’Keeffe, due to the judiciary being so lenient lately and overturning a number of reds.
That has to play on a ref’s mind#CRUvRED
— Ryan Nixon (@NewYorkNixon) May 27, 2022
Matera may not yet have escaped the wrath of the SANZAAR judicial committee, who may view his indiscretion differently to that of O’Keeffe and McDermott.
Should he be cited for the incident, Matera would run the risk of ending his one-season spell with the Crusaders earlier than expected through suspension.
However, Crusaders head coach Scott Robertson defended his star man, whose services he said he was hopeful of retaining ahead of next week’s playoffs.
“We’re pleased with a yellow. He tried to stop and he knew when he got to that point, he didn’t go through with it, which is probably a saviour for him,” Robertson said post-match.
“It’s taken out of his hands now, in a lot of ways. He’s in such a rich vein of form and he’s been so good for us. Hopefully that’s just it, that’s happened on the field.”
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