Just days after World Rugby banned South Africa director of rugby Rassier Erasmus for his public attack on Australian referee Nic Berry, Wallabies coach Dave Rennie has blasted the officiating during his side’s 29-28 defeat to Wales.
A 83rd minute penalty to Rhys Priestland gave the home side a controversial one-point victory to send a packed Principality Stadium into raptures.
Rennie, however, was less pleased, having watched his side finish the year with three straight defeats to cap a miserable spring tour after a Rugby Championship campaign of hope.
It was the Wallabies’ third straight defeat to Wales.
Speaking in his post-match interview on field just minutes after the heartbreaking defeat, Rennie labelled the officiating “horrendous” and said a World Rugby apology would not make up for the result.
“I thought some of the decision making tonight was horrendous, and played a big part in the result,” said Rennie, who saw the Wallabies forced to play with 14 men for 65 minutes after Rob Valetini’s red card for an ugly head-on-head collision on lock Adam Beard.
“We’ll get an apology next week but it won’t mean anything.”
Rennie had no issues with the red card, as he quite rightly pointed out that his back-rower put himself at risk for failing to drop his tackle height and put his opponent at risk.
“I don’t have an issue with the red card because that’s the way it’s been refereeing these days,” Rennie said in his post-match press conference.
“Rob’s responsibility is to drop his height in the tackle and he didn’t and had a head clash, so you’ve got to take that on the chin.”
But the usually calm and dry New Zealander was not having a bar of two separate deliberate knockdowns, a law in the game which is often vexed.
Wallabies fullback Kurtley Beale was shown a yellow card for a deliberate knockdown in the 22nd minute, while Nick Tompkins’ 47th minute try stood for an action that was worse than the Australian’s who wrapped in the tackle.
Yet former Scotland sevens player turned referee Mike Adamson, as well as TMO Marius Jonker, said Tompkins didn’t knock the ball on because it did not go forward.
“I wasn’t happy with Kurtley’s yellow card, he’s making an effort to wrap two arms, it clips his hand on the way through and they find a yellow card for that,” Rennie said.
“Tompkins slaps the ball down, somehow they say that didn’t go forward when he’s facing forward and they get seven points out of it instead of us getting a yellow card and a penalty out of it.
“There were lots of decisions today, I’m not going to go into them all, but I felt it had a massive bearing on the game.
“I make a real point not to criticise referees.”
Rennie’s angst came a fortnight after his side’s 15-13 defeat at Murrayfield, where Allan Alaalatoa was controversially yellow carded and Michael Hooper denied a try for an illegal clean-out at the breakdown.
The Wallabies coach said World Rugby admitted they got the decision wrong in the days after the match, but added the apology did little to change the result and their mood.
“We have reports in and we seek a bit of clarity around things, but we did that after the Scotland game, got a lot of apologies during the week in a game that was a two-point ball-game,” Rennie said.
“The same TMO (Jonker) who made a made a massive decision in that game as well.
“I just think our boys deserve better than that and that’s the reason why I spoke up after the game. It’s not going to help us getting apologies during the week, the game’s gone.”
Rennie’s comments come just days after World Cup-winning Springboks coach Erasmus was banned for two months for hitting out at World Rugby’s officiating during their 2-1 series victory over the British and Irish Lions.
But Rennie said his comments were “not emotional”, nor an “over-reaction” and enough was enough.
“No doubt (I run the risk of getting fined), but how do I support our team? By biting my lip again and us getting apologies throughout the week?” Rennie said.
“It doesn’t change the result and the boys emptied out the tank and we deserved a better result than that, so I think it was important I spoke my mind. I’ve been a professional coach for over 20 years, I’ve never gone into the media and had a crack at a referee or a referee coach but I felt I had to tonight.
“It’s not emotional, it’s not overreacting but I felt it was important to state our feelings.”