Things could barely have gotten off to a worse start for the Highlanders in the opening 20 minutes of their Super Rugby Aotearoa clash against the Chiefs in Hamilton.

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Tries to Lachlan Boshier and Anton Lienert-Brown in the first 10 minutes left the southerners stranded by 14 points, and their issues were compounded when referee Mike Fraser paused play to assess a high tackle made by Rob Thompson on Tupou Vaa’i.

The experienced midfielder looked to have connected his shoulder with the young second rower’s head, which is almost always considered a yellow card-worthy infringement in any referee’s books.

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Upon referral with TMO Brendon Pickerill, Fraser took no exception to that rule, reaching into his pocket to sent Thompson into the sin bin for the ensuing 10 minutes.

During that passage of play, the Chiefs scored a further 10 points thanks to a Bradley Slater try and the boot of Damian McKenzie, putting the hosts into a seemingly unassailable lead.

The decision to hand Thompson a yellow card caused a stir online, though, with a raft of Twitter users expressing their disbelief at the call.

One pundit even went as far to say that Fraser’s decision was “the most pathetic yellow card” he had ever seen in rugby, comparing the softness of union’s officiating to that of rugby league’s.

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Fraser did have a couple of supporters in his corner, however, who voiced their approval in seeing Thompson banished to the sin bin for 10 minutes.

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