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Ref Watch: Why Wallaby boss Dave Rennie is well wide of the mark

By Paul Smith
Wales v Australia – Autumn International – Principality Stadium

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Wallabies head coach Dave Rennie went on the record to blast TMO Marius Jonker following his team’s last-minute defeat to Wales on Saturday.

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The normally considered Kiwi was clearly infuriated by a number of decisions which went against his team and it was the experienced South African official – a former international referee who was part of the 2007 World Cup – who bore the brunt of his ire.

“I thought some of the decision-making tonight by the officials was horrendous and played a big part in the result,” Rennie said.

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Ian Foster
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Ian Foster

“Kurtley Beale got sin-binned for slapping the ball down. They did the same thing, clearly goes forward and they get seven points out of it.

“If we’re going to have a TMO, there’s no excuse for not getting the decision right, and we saw another example of that tonight. Everyone’s accountable – or they should be. We’re accountable as players and coaches, and we’ve got to make sure officials are also accountable.

“Marius’ decision a couple of weeks ago decided the game, and yet he was appointed again. There isn’t any accountability around guys who are making errors that are deciding Test matches.

“The reason the TMO was brought in to the game was to get the right decision.

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“After the Scotland game, Marius’s decision to sin bin Alaalatoa, we were told, was the wrong decision, it wasn’t a yellow card. These are big moments – and getting an apology during the week after is not good enough.”

Jonker played a prominent part on six occasions during the match – here RugbyPass refereeing and laws specialist Paul Smith gives his verdict on each incident.

14 minutes – Rob Valetini red card

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Jonker drew referee Mike Adamson’s attention to the incident which caused Adam Beard to leave the field with a cut to the head.

After the on-field officiating team watched a replay the referee needed no assistance from his TMO to reach a simple verdict.

“There’s a high level of danger, he’s come from distance with force,” former Scotland Sevens representative Dickson summarised.

“The tackler is upright I see no mitigation, it is a red card.”

Verdict: Spot on from the officials.

21 minutes – Kurtley Beale yellow card

Jonker again drew Adamson’s attention to Beale knocking a pass forward to prevent Louis Rees-Zammit getting possession around ten metres from the Australia line and around seven metres in from touch.

The discussion between the officials focused on the Wallaby full back’s arm being in an “unnatural” position while replays showed his eyes to be on the ball rather than a potential tackle.

Clearly Wales were denied the opportunity to continue an attack in a promising position by Beale’s illegal intervention.

The presence of cover in the form of Andrew Kellaway meant a try was not a probable outcome which removed any possibility of a penalty try award.

Verdict: A yellow card was consistent with how this type of offence is now typically handled and the process followed by the officials followed the textbook.

32 minutes – Penalty against Andrew Kellaway

Jonker was again called into action when the big Wallaby winger mis-timed his jump and in the process clumsily flattened Josh Adams.

In the subsequent phase of play Wales knocked the ball down much as Beale previously had.

After a big screen review Adamson awarded a penalty against Kellaway but deemed the collision short of a yellow card. He also explained to Wallaby captain James Slipper that the subsequent technical offence became irrelevant following this penalty award.

Verdict: Again, impossible to fault the officials

39 minutes – Tom Wright high tackle penalty

This time Adamson asked for a review of Wright’s grab of Adams’ collar from behind.

Verdict – There was no doubt about the penalty and Wright was perhaps fortunate to escape ten minutes on the naughty step.

47 minutes – Nick Tompkins knock down

This was the match-turning decision which really riled Rennie but despite his protestations in truth its similarities with the earlier Beale incident were only passing.

In real time everyone – including referee Adamson and the Wales centre – hesitated immediately following the knock-down and it was apparent from the reaction of both sets of players that few thought a try would be awarded.

Indeed, had the knock-down been shown to have gone forward it would probably have resulted in a yellow card because, while it was 50 metres from the Wales line, Australia had a number of players in the wide channel which meant it stopped a developing attack.

However, once Adamson told Jonker that his on-field view was that the ball went backwards from Tompkins’ outstretched hand, the TMO had to find conclusive evidence with which to overturn the referee’s decision.

Video replays then showed Wales no.13 got his hand beyond the ball, meaning it dropped directly down rather than going forwards, meaning no such evidence existed.

“I believe that ball has gone backwards,” Adamson told the TMO after viewing various slo-mo angles.

The direction in which the ball bounces once hitting the ground is irrelevant and despite Slipper’s protests the try stood.

Verdict – The process followed was fine; this is all about the lack of clear evidence with which a 50-50 onfield call could be overturned. Tough on Australia but not incorrect.

57 minutes – Gareth Thomas yellow card

Following replacement prop Allan Alaalatoa’s marginally high tackle Wales replacement Thomas attempted a clear-out on the ground and in the process hit the Wallaby no.18 on the head with his right arm.

“A wrap rather than a swinging arm,” was how Adamson saw the incident according to the conversation he had with Jonker.

“I am not seeing a high degree of danger,” he added.

Verdict: On another day with another referee (who deemed the force more substantial) this could well have been a red card under the existing protocol. It will be interesting to see if a citing follows.

A lucky escape for Wales perhaps, but unlike last week’s Fijian sending off, this was not a situation which the TMO had reason to challenge the referee’s judgement based on the reasoning provided and available evidence.

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