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'That is appalling': Outrage among fans as another referee decision blights Super Rugby Aotearoa

By Sam Smith
(Photo / Sky Sport)

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Fans have taken to social media to express their outrage over a ludicrous penalty reversal during Friday’s Super Rugby Aotearoa clash between the Highlanders and Hurricanes in Dunedin.


A couple minutes after it ticked over the 30-minute mark, the Hurricanes earned themselves a penalty for a breakdown-related infringement inside their own half.

However, after referee Brendon Pickerill awarded the visitors with the penalty, a minor, run-of-the-mill push by Hurricanes lock Isaia Walker-Leawere on Highlanders prop Ethan de Groot, who was standing over Du’Plessis Kirifi, led the whistle-blower to overrule his initial decision and hand the hosts the penalty.

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Highlanders co-captain Ash Dixon speaks to media ahead of Hurricanes clash
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Highlanders co-captain Ash Dixon speaks to media ahead of Hurricanes clash

The overturned decision appeared to draw the ire of Hurricanes captain Ardie Savea, who was seen speaking to Pickerill, while returning hooker Dane Coles was reportedly heard telling the official he was “taking the fun out of the game”.

Adding insult to injury, the Highlanders used the penalty to kick for touch and formed a rolling maul just shy of the opposition tryline, allowing lock Bryn Evans to crash over and score their first try of the match.

While it was a well-taken try by the Highlanders, who had blown multiple opportunities to score in the lead-up to Evans’ try, questions have been asked regarding how valid Pickerill’s decision was.

Long-serving Hurricanes halfback TJ Perenara, who is currently on sabbatical playing for the NTT Docomo Red Hurricanes in Japan, led the onslaught of criticism on Twitter.


Others used the platform to express their frustration at such a bizarre decision, with many using expletives to criticise the questionable refereeing that has plagued the Kiwi-based competition this season.

One viewer, perhaps distastefully, referenced the decision to question why referees don’t understand why they “get abused”, while another suggested any “self respecting Highlander” shouldn’t take the points that came as a result of the penalty.


The controversial call comes a fortnight after the officials came under immense scrutiny for an array of wayward calls in round three of the competition, which had been preceded by further questionable decisions in the opening weeks of the season.

Despite the Hurricanes’ misfortune, the visitors took a 17-7 lead with them into half-time.



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