'Ridiculous, frankly': Outcry after All Black's red card

NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Sun, 8 Nov 2020, 9:00AM
Ofa Tuungafasi was given the fifth red card in the history of the All Blacks. (Photo / Photosport)
Ofa Tuungafasi was given the fifth red card in the history of the All Blacks. (Photo / Photosport)

'Ridiculous, frankly': Outcry after All Black's red card

NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Sun, 8 Nov 2020, 9:00AM

Prop Ofa Tuungafasi has become the fifth All Black to be sent off in a test match following a tackle which contacted the head in the fourth Bledisloe Cup test in Brisbane.

The incident occurred in the 23rd minute when Tuungafasi hit Wallabies player Tom Wright in the jaw with his shoulder.

Referee Nic Berry said the tackle was enough for a red card.

"The initial point on contact from what I seeing here is on his chin. For me I don't think there's a significant drop to the body of the ball carrier," Berry said to TMO Mike Fraser.

"Based on those factors it's a direct contact to the chin and there's no mitigating factors so it's going to be a red card against black three."

Cyril Brownlie, Colin Meads, Sonny Bill Williams and Scott Barrett are the only previous All Blacks to be sent off.

Newstalk ZB commentator Elliott Smith called the decision "Ridiculous, frankly".

Sky commentator and former All Black Justin Marshall also disagreed with the call.

"I can't agree with that. Having played the game and understanding the contact areas and how there is that tiny microsecond intent and contact," he said.

"The intent was never to hit him there from what I saw. I certainly feel the player carrying the ball, Tom Wright, didn't help the situation."

"A slight error in judgement. Nothing more than a penalty." Marshall said.

Lachlan Swinton is sent off in his test debut. Photo /Sky Sport

Lachlan Swinton is sent off in his test debut. Photo /Sky Sport

An even worse tackle saw Wallabies flanker Lachlan Swinton get his marching orders six minutes before halftime to force the home side down to 14 men.

Swinton hit All Blacks lock Sam Whitelock with a shoulder to the head and was sent from the field on his debut.

It's just the 24th time in test rugby that multiple players have been sent off in a game.

Australia were then left with 13 men when winger Marika Koroibete was yellow carded for a repeat infringement after the Wallabies were warned by Berry for multiple penalties while defending on their line.

Here's how the world reacted:

'Tough' red card

On Channel 10, the discussion was around whether it would be a yellow or a penalty, but referee Nic Berry saw it much more black and white.

"OK, so based on those factors, direct contact to the chin, there's no mitigating factors, so it is going to be a red card against black three. Everyone agree?" he said to the TMO before showing Tu'ungafasi the red card.

The decision was consistent with the World Cup in Japan but it has been a controversial ruling since the event.

Tu'ungafasi joins Cyril Brownlee in 1925, Colin Meads in 1967, Sonny Bill Williams in 2017 and Scott Barrett in 2019 as the only All Blacks to be red carded.

Social media exploded with comments with many believing it was a tough call but the right one under the rules.

Former Wallaby turned media personality Peter FitzSimons tweeted: "Very tough red card for All Black prop, yes? No evil intent on his part?"

Incredibly, the All Blacks were next to score through a penalty goal to make it 8-all.

'Ruining the game, ruining the spectacle

But it soon became duelling red cards when Wallabies debutant Lachlan Swinton was given his marching orders for a very similar incident in the 34th minute.

Lachlan Swinton of the Wallabies is sent from the field for foul play during the 2020 Tri-Nations match between the Australian Wallabies and the All Blacks. Photo / Getty Images.

Swinton hit Sam Whitelock with a big hit, flattening the big New Zealander but it was quickly under review.

Swinton was also the fifth Wallaby to be given a red card, joining David Codey in 1987, Drew Mitchell in 2010, Tevita Kuridrani in 2013 and Sekope Kepu in 2017.

Wallabies legend Matthew Burke said he believed both were worthy of red cards.

"It is red, absolutely. I thought it could have been a yellow because of the mitigating circumstances of Wright going down and then at the back end of it there is another one there and look at it, it is a heavy shot and just a missed shot and they spoke about that beforehand, about controlling that aggression and we said it as well at the start there," he said on Channel 10.

But on Fox Sports, fellow Wallaby greats Justin Harrison and Phil Kearns took aim at the rulings at halftime.

"We talk about the framework of the rule changes that safety is the intent, but both of these players who received direct shots to the chin weren't directed to go to the HIA for assessment so lets talk about mitigating factors," Harrison said.

"We know that players don't go out with the intent to take people's heads off, what they do go out with through is with the intent to hit people as hard as they can. When you are moving as fast as you can as hard as you can and you've got 125kg that commits to a target, it's very difficult to change that framework of decision.

Kearns added: "There's got to be a better way. For me, yellow card, put them on report and then go to the judiciary afterwards. Ruining the game, ruining the spectacle."

Foul play and clumsiness

Australia were then down to 13 men when Marika Koroibete was yellow carded after the halftime siren for having his hands all over the ball after a warning from the referee.

The All Blacks also went down to 13 men in the second half when Scott Barrett saw a yellow card after reaching out of the ruck to knock the ball out of Nic White's hands.

Post-match, Harrison said "you cannot be allowed to get away with foul play because of clumsiness".

Kearns also reiterated his comments from the first half, admitting that the red cards were correct under current rules.

"But in my view, it takes a lot away from the game to have the red cards," he said. "Perhaps a better option is yellow card first, put them on report and deal with the judiciary process later so you can maintain the integrity of the game. I think there's very little doubt in both of them."

Wallaby great Tim Horan also argued for a red card seeing a player sent off but able to be replaced after 10 minutes.

'That's a joke'

Nine Test veteran Greg Martin added that while it might be part of the rules, passive fans would are left scratching their heads with some calls.

"That's a joke," he said. "If we're here in Australia competing with rugby league, and that's what we are, but getting run from someone sitting in an office in Dublin deciding that that's a red card, that's nonsense, we can't win that fight."

All Blacks coach Ian Foster didn't want to be drawn into a discussion of the issue.

It is what it is right now," he said. "I don't think now is a great time to debate the accuracy of the decisions. We were probably more unhappy with some of the TMO decisions last week than this week. Both teams got dealt with the same cards dare I say it."