Super Rugby Aotearoa has kicked off with penalty-ridden affair between the Highlanders and the Chiefs.
Four tries were scored in total while both sides nailed a drop goal in the final minutes – but it was the sheer number of penalties that had tongues wagging through the game.
All in all, referee Paul Williams whistled up 30 penalties – 17 against the Highlanders and 13 against the Chiefs, primarily due to the decreased leniency that officials have been asked to show in the new competition.
The new law interpretations have been issued in order to increase the pace of matches but the changes had the opposite effect, with either side only once managing to put together more than 10 phases in a row.
The Highlanders eventually emerged victorious – courtesy of a drop goal to Bryn Gatland, son of Chiefs coach Warren Gatland, which added a bit of excitement to the final minutes, but it will be the excessive penalty count that will keep fans talking for the next few weeks.
Some were glad that the referees were clamping down on players’ indiscretions while others simply wanted to see the game flow:
— EK Rugby Analysis (@ek_rugby) June 13, 2020
Finally we are seeing the ball carrier being penalised for not releasing – Rugby will be better for it #HIGvCHI
— Brent Graham (@BrentGraham) June 13, 2020
Let’s not moan when a ref decides to follow the laws of the game. Will make rucks a great battle. So much harder when you can’t get an angle on someone to clear out. #HIGvCHI
— Chris Everest (@EvieEverest) June 13, 2020
How can anyone criticise the referee for this? This been a near perfect ref display! Players haven’t adapted? Keep pinging until they learn #HIGvCHI
— Ben L (@purplebenny) June 13, 2020
What a wonderfully tight game for the first one back. Shame about the ref. #HIGvCHI
— Jarrod Gilbert (@JarrodGilbertNZ) June 13, 2020
The ref doing his best to win man of the match #HIGvCHI
— ¯_(?)_/¯ (@Vinsanity275) June 13, 2020
Feeling a bit for the ref in this first game back. Having to ref under new rules and 98% of the rugby viewing public are throwing their remotes at the telly. He does however give a new meaning to the word pedantic … #SuperRugbyAotearoa #HIGvCHI
— Lainey ? (@NZLainey) June 13, 2020
Wrong decision for me, and the refs are clearly rushing to make the decision. Another example of why rugby can't be "speed up the game" at all costs #HIGvCHI
— Jack Leahy (@jackwleahy) June 13, 2020
Sunday’s match will see the Hurricanes travel to Auckland to take on the Blues, with tickets for all of Eden Park’s 43,000 seats all sold out.
Fans will be hoping that the match flows a bit more smoothly than Saturday’s game.
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