Johannesburg: Australian coach Michael Cheika conceded his side did not take their opportunities in a 35-17 loss to South Africa but said Taniela Tupous second-half yellow card was absolutely the wrong call as former Wallabies captain Phil Kearns labelled the decision "disgraceful" and questioned the overall standard of elite referees.
The replacement Wallabies prop was given his marching orders in the 54th minute for a hit that referee Paul Williams deemed to be a dangerous clean-out.
Australia had just been awarded a scrum feed but right as the whistle blew Tupou belted South African back-rower Rynhardt Elstadt with a forceful hit. The TMO said he believed it was "clearly a shoulder charge to the chest", while Williams said on the field: "The guy is sitting there and he's come running in with the shoulder. It's clearly dangerous, it hit him in the chest after the whistle. Away you go."
Many thought a penalty would suffice but Australia were reduced to 14 men and it proved to be a pivotal moment in the game as South Africa ran away with the result to continue an eight-year winning streak on home soil against the Aussies.
"I make it as the wrong call," Cheika said. "The other guy should have been sent to the sin bin. The fourth official said he focused on the green player who came in with a shoulder charge. Taniela then came in after that to get him with his arms wrapped at the right height.
"Im not sure if big contact is a penalty these days but thats a wrong decision."
Fox Sports commentator Kearns certainly did not hold back, saying after the match how shocked he was Tupou was sent from the field.
"It was a disgraceful decision," Kearns said. "So many times we put referees that are out of their depth into these games.
"Weve all talked privately about the World Cup referees and theres a whole bunch of guys there that are totally out of their depth. In big games like that, that is a game-changing moment. Some of these guys are out of their depth."
"It was late but it was a legitimate clean-out. I could understand a penalty."
Cheika admitted his men squandered first-half chances that proved significant in the context of the match as Australia began their 2019 campaign on a losing note.
Samu Kerevis forward pass to Lukhan Salakaia-Loto was pulled up after a try had been awarded, while there was also Dane Haylett-Pettys knock-on when all he had to do was plant the ball over the line.
It was a shame for Haylett-Petty, who moments earlier had scored an excellent individual try before falling away throughout the rest of the match with a number of other errors.
"We created a lot of good opportunities and we gave a couple away as well but sometimes youve got to be able to react," Cheika said. "A lot of small things went against us in that period as well that turned the momentum away. I was happy that a lot of the things weve been working on we were able to bring out there.
"I know [they scored] five tries but our defence was good in a lot of the phase plays as well. In that second half when we didnt have a lot of the ball, we were just a bit loose with it when we did have it and that gave the momentum back to the other team."
The Wallabies had just 29 per cent possession and 29 per cent territory in the second half.
Asked if the 18-point margin was a fair representation of the match, Cheika replied: "The scoreline is irrelevant, there is a winner and a loser. We lost, they won.
"[It is] difficult to use the word happy when you lose a Test match. I believe we showed a lot of good signs tonight."
Captain Michael Hooper said he was impressed with the skill set of Australias forwards, who had to navigate their way through a Springboks line that regularly rushed up.
"We created a lot of opportunity in that first half even from deep in our own zone that was really pleasing," Hooper said. "We capitalise on that and it looks a bit different. We couldnt get those [forwards] into the second half.
"To go down a man was unfortunateRead More – Source