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'When you are sitting in my seat, you think everything is a red': Clayton McMillan's take on controversial yellow cards

By Sam Smith
Codie Taylor and Sevu Reece. (Photo by John Davidson/Photosport)

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There were a few heart-in-throat moments for the Crusaders in Saturday evening’s Super Rugby Aoteraoa final, which the home side won 24-13.

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Chiefly were the two yellow cards, dished out to Codie Taylor and Sevu Reece, which had the potential to change the face of the game.

For 10 minutes, the Crusaders had to cope playing with a man down. For a further five minutes, they were reduced to 13 men.

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The champion side rallied, however, and ultimately ended the 15-minute period in a better position than when they started it, taking the score from 15-10 to 19-13.

While referee Ben O’Keeffe ultimately decided that a sin-binning was the appropriate response for both Taylor’s and Reece’s dalliances, there were many who thought that cards of a darker shade would have been justifiable.

Taylor, in the 54th minute, charged into an airborne Damian McKenzie – who had leapt into the air to take an overthrown lineout ball.

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There were no mitigating circumstances in the dangerous tackle; Taylor had travelled some distance to contest the catch but still had plenty of time to pull out, instead colliding with McKenzie’s feet – sending the diminutive playmaker clattering to the deck.

No damage was done, but the tackle was recklessly dangerous at best and red cards have been issued for more circumspect challenges in the past.

Reece’s was an entirely different kettle of fish, with the All Blacks winger making a high shot on Chiefs reserve Chase Tiatia.

While it was hard to conclusively say that Reece’s shoulder had connected directly with Tiatia’s jaw as opposed to just slipping up from the chest, TMO Brendon Pickerill suggested the contact was direct to the head. Under most circumstances, the result would be a red card – but O’Keeffe opted for yellow, perhaps due to the inconclusive evidence.

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Following the match, Chiefs coach Clayton McMillan was asked whether O’Keeffe had been too lenient on the Crusaders’ infringers.

“It’s fairly subjective, eh,’’ McMillan responded. “When you are sitting in my seat, you think everything is a red. But when you have a decent look, I think they made the right decisions.’’

Had McKenzie been injured by Taylor’s challenge, the outcome may have been a different story. Given the No 15’s clean bill of health, however, McMillan was able to crack a joke at his young playmaker’s expense.

“The one with Codie Taylor looked nasty, but I almost thought Damo should have taken one for the team there and landed on his head. It would have been a different story.

“The other one, I didn’t really get a clear angle. So I couldn’t really see with Sevu. But I thought the referees controlled the game really well tonight.’’

Crusaders coach Scott Robertson also had no qualms with the referee’s decision throughout the game, suggesting that anything more serious than a yellow card would have perhaps been too extreme.

“[Taylor] just saw [McKenzie] late, went to go and turn out of it,” he said. “Lucky [McKenzie] fell okay and that was probably the mitigating side of it.

“Sevu sort of hit lower and went up, it wasn’t full contact.

“They made the calls and we rolled with it.”

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'When you are sitting in my seat, you think everything is a red': Clayton McMillan's take on controversial yellow cards

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