It only took four minutes for the spotlight to be cast on a refereeing decision from the Hurricanes’ clash with the Highlanders in Wellington on Sunday.


With both sides exchanging possession through the boot as they accustomed themselves to each other and the blustery conditions at Sky Stadium, Highlanders first-five Mitch Hunt looked to have opened the game up with a blistering counter-attack from inside his own half.

Fielding the ball from a Jordie Barrett in-field kick about 30 metres from his own line, Hunt sized up the opposition before spotting an opening in the defensive line to exploit.

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Roger Tuivasa-Sheck for Blues U18

With that gap in sight, Hunt accelerated and burst through into the hosts’ half virtually untouched, leaving him just TJ Perenara to beat with Aaron Smith on his inside shoulder.

The ex-Crusaders pivot drew and passed the ball in a textbook manner to set free the veteran Highlanders co-captain, who cantered in under the posts with aplomb.

Or that’s what the Highlanders thought, but referee Brendon Pickerill had a different say in the matter as he referred the scoring play to the TMO for review.

Upon second inspection, the officials discovered an innocuous piece of shepherding by Highlanders co-captain Ash Dixon on Du’Plessis Kirifi as he tried to move out of Hunt’s way.


As the video replays showed, Sky’s commentary team unanimously agreed was out of reach of Hunt regardless of where Dixon was placed.

Their thoughts paled in contrast to the TMO and referee, though, as the duo combined to rule out the try to leave the Highlanders scoreless.

Whether or not the try should have stood is up for debate, but there’s little doubting that the Highlanders will have felt aggrieved by the call.


None more so than Dixon, who must be wondering what more he could have done to have removed himself from the situation.

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