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Ex-teammate says Leicester Fainga'anuku should have seen red against Ireland

By Sam Smith
(Photo by MARTY MELVILLE/AFP via Getty Images)

A former teammate of Leicester Fainga’anuku says the All Blacks rookie was “really, really lucky” to have avoided a red card during his side’s loss to Ireland in Dunedin last weekend.

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Fainga’anuku was one of three All Blacks carded by referee Jaco Peyper during New Zealand’s historic 23-12 defeat to Ireland when he was sin binned for clattering into Irish wing Mack Hansen while attempting a charge down last Saturday.

The two-test wing was soon followed into the naughty chair by All Blacks prop Ofa Tu’ungafasi after he was pinged for an early tackle on Ireland midfielder Garry Ringrose deep inside his own half.

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Aotearoa Rugby Pod | Episode 21

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Aotearoa Rugby Pod | Episode 21

Tu’ungafasi’s temporary replacement Angus Ta’avao was then sent off six minutes later for an accidental head clash with Ringrose.

Ta’avao’s red card and the two yellow cards brandished by Peyper left the All Blacks bereft of at least one player for the majority of the match, helping pave the way for Ireland to clinch their first-ever win over the Kiwis on New Zealand soil.

According to former Crusaders halfback Bryn Hall, though, the All Blacks were fortunate to have avoided a second red card.

Speaking on the Aotearoa Rugby Pod, Hall said Fainga’anuku was lucky to have escaped with only a yellow card on the basis that fellow All Blacks wing Caleb Clarke was red-carded for a similar offence during Super Rugby Pacific earlier this year.

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Clarke was sent off and given a three-week ban in April after he accidentally collided with Moana Pasifika wing Tomasi Alosio while attempting a charge down during their round seven cross-town derby at Eden Park in Auckland.

In that instance, Clarke’s thigh connected with Alosio’s head, which differed slightly from Fainga’anuku’s indiscretion, which saw the 22-year-old brace for impact before the side of his body made contact with Hansen’s torso.

However, secondary contact was made between Fainga’anuku’s shoulder and Hansen’s head, which Hall viewed as enough to warrant a red card given the punishment Clarke was handed three months ago.

“I thought Leicester was really, really lucky not to get a red card,” Hall, who won four of his six Super Rugby titles – including this year’s Super Rugby Pacific – with Fainga’anuku at the Crusaders, told the Aotearoa Rugby Pod.

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“I thought it should have been a red card. From what I saw, it was pretty clear that it was straight to the head, it was shoulder straight to the head.

“Obviously it’s an unfortunate situation, he was in the air, wasn’t meaning to do it, but from what I’ve seen previously in the last 12 months, that’s probably a red card. They were lucky to get away with that.”

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Former All Blacks hooker James Parsons added that he was “really worried for Leicester” as he saw the similarities between Fainga’anuku’s infringement and that of Clarke.

However, Parsons had no complaints about the decision-making of Peyper and his fellow officials with regard to Ta’avao’s red card.

“Unfortunately not. It’s pretty clear, the system,” Parsons told the Aotearoa Rugby Pod when asked whether there were any mitigating circumstances that could have prevented Ta’avao from being sent off.

“Jaco didn’t want to do it. You almost felt for him because he knew Angus was caught against a midfielder versus as prop. There was no intent there, but it’s very clear.”

Likewise, Hall – who will soon link up with the Shizuoka Blue Revs in Japan – agreed with Peyper’s call to send Ta’avao off.

“For probably the last 12 months, we’ve seen similar pictures of that happening. There’s no mitigating factors.”

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Although he questioned whether Ireland could have been awarded for Tu’ungafasi’s early tackle, Hall reaffirmed that Peyper made the correct decision while considering the front rower’s foul play.

“Possibly a penalty try? Maybe. Nobody was in front,” Hall told the Aotearoa Rugby Pod.

“For me, I didn’t think it was a penalty try because I think Ofa would’ve actually been in a position, if he hadn’t tackled, he actually would have got him [Ringrose], so I thought that was the right call.

“I thought those calls were actually pretty fair. Lucky, I thought Leicester was probably one who was touch-and-go and could have been a red card, and we were lucky to get away with that.”

Parsons, meanwhile, implored the All Blacks to fix their discipline, which he identified as a major shortcoming in last weekend’s defeat, ahead of this week’s series-decider at Sy Stadium in Wellington.

“I’ve waxed lyrical about how good the defence and the effort was, but discipline will need to be sorted. I think 14 penalties, game one and two, and then the amount of cards, which caused a lot of confusion, it was a rolling door there at some point.”

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