Star Hurricanes halfback TJ Perenara believes his side were on the wrong side of the referee’s whistle after a last-minute error by match official Nic Berry during their semi-final clash against the Crusaders in Christchurch cost the Wellington franchise a spot in next week’s Super Rugby final.
Berry pinged Perenara in the closing stages of the match for what he believed to be a knock on as the Hurricanes, who trailed 30-26, ventured into the Crusaders’ 22 metre mark in search of what would have been a match-winning try.
However, replays show that the ball was swatted loose from Perenara’s grasp by Crusaders captain Sam Whitelock, who forced the ball out of his All Blacks teammate’s hands as he competed at the breakdown.
If the play was picked up on by Berry or his assistants, Whitelock and the Crusaders would have been penalised, but the Crusaders were instead handed a scrum feed, which they used to close out the contest and book a meeting with the Jaguares at Orangetheory Stadium next Saturday.
“I guess it was pretty clear and obvious,” Perenara told reporters in the aftermath of the match.
“We all probably know, we have seen it.
“We know it’s a penalty. The ref can’t see everything. He makes a call, and calls it a knock on.
“Sometimes we expect a penalty, there, for a deliberate knock down; but it is what it is in a game of footy.”
Hurricanes head coach John Plumtree was similarly disappointed by Berry’s decision.
“Yeah, look, we all saw it from the big screen. So, yeah … anyway,” he said when asked if he thought his side deserved a penalty in the final minute and a half of the match.
It was a controversial way to end such an enthralling encounter, with the Hurricanes putting immense pressure on the reigning champions throughout the clash.
Trailing just 13-7 at half-time, the Hurricanes came out firing in the second half, with Ben Lam, Ngani Laumape and Perenara all dotting down as the Crusaders’ defence was stretched in ways that hadn’t been seen in Christchurch all year until Saturday night.
Perenara, Laumape and Beauden Barrett were all outstanding for the makeshift Hurricanes side, which had to deal with two late backline changes, as Matt Proctor and Jonah Lowe came into the starting side for Peter Umaga-Jensen and Salesi Rayasi at the 11th hour.
As for the Crusaders, the likes of Richie Mo’unga and Sevu Reece continued to shine, as they have done all season, and now just one match and six days stands between them and a second-ever hat-trick of Super Rugby crowns.
Watch – Scott Robertson post-match press conference:
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