‘Worst call in rugby history’ or ‘brave, correct and necessary’? World reacts to Bledisloe controversy, ref torched
The controversial decision by referee Mathieu Raynal to ping Bernard Foley for time-wasting in the last minute of the Wallabies’ clash with New Zealand, allowing the All Blacks to win the game with a last-play try, has met a typically restrained, understanding and tolerant reaction from Australian fans.
Nah, just kidding – everyone has gone absolutely troppo.
Fair warning, too – there’s some salty language ahead.
After Jordie Barrett made the most of the All Blacks’ awarded scrum feed to score in the corner and seal a 39-37 win in a Bledisloe Cup epic, and secure the trophy yet again, social media quickly became a firestorm.
Leading the charge was former Wallaby Matt Giteau, the incensed 39-year old describing Raynal’s decision as ‘the worst I’ve seen’.
Giteau wasn’t the only prominent Australian athlete to take issue with the call – fittingly considering the game was played in Melbourne, prominent AFL players Mason Cox and Nic Naitanui joined in the growing tirade.
Cox’s description of the decision as ‘insane’, and mild accusation of corruption on Raynal’s part, quickly proved one of the tamer reactions to the last-minute controversy.
Raynal’s performance was subject to a barrage of criticism, with the Frenchman accused of taking centre stage with the extremely ware time-wasting penalty against the Wallabies.
Former Wallaby Tim Horan added his voice to the host of furious Australians, telling Stan Sport that Raynal’s decision was ‘disgraceful’, and saying the ref ‘cracked under pressure’.
“It was a disgraceful decision, and World Rugby need to look at it,” Horan fumed.
“Even if that was against the All Blacks, I’d still be disagreeing with the decision. We’ve got to move on, but I tell you what, a lot of people were stung by it.”
Even New Zealand commentators and former players were aghast by the decision, with Morgan Turinui and Sky Sport broadcaster Karl Te Nana admitting that the All Blacks had got extremely lucky.
“I’m actually on your guys’ side – that’s a shocking call!” Te Nana exclaimed alongside Aussies Drew Mitchell and Sean Maloney on Stan Sport, while Turinui called for Turinui to face consequences.
“That referee should be sanctioned,” he said.
“If I’m Hamish McLennan, I’m the chairman, if I’m Andy Marinos at Rugby Australia, I am on the phone to World Rugby right now.
“Dave Rennie will probably get an apology on Monday morning… when a Victorian crowd who probably don’t know everything about rugby are throwing golden cushions onto the field at the end of the game in disgust, I think it shows that the referee’s got it completely wrong.
“That situation at the end of the game is not part of rugby. That shouldn’t be able to decide a Test match.”
Other fans were quick to throw their support behind a looming Rennie press conference tirade, with calls quickly emerging for Australian rugby fans to ‘pitch in’ should he be fined.
Others quickly made joking comparisons to Australia’s infamous submarine deal stoush with the French government last year, suggesting Raynal and France president Emmanuel Macron had worked together to get revenge and that the whole thing was really Scott Morrison’s fault after all.
Between calls to let the players play, criticism of Raynal’s over-zealous umpiring and despair that the call had cost the Wallabies a famous win, the fire burned on and on throughout the night – and it wasn’t only Australians incensed.
All Blacks coach Ian Foster also attracted criticism for his post-match reaction to the call, describing it as ‘clear cut’ and defending Raynal.
“They were delaying the kick. He said time off,” Foster said in his media conference.
“He warned him then he said time off and then he said to speed up then he said time on. Then he asked him twice to kick it.
“I understand there is a contentious nature about it but it was very clear cut from the opposition.”
However, not all the criticism was directed at Raynal’s decision. Many took to social media to defend the call, instead laying blame on Bernard Foley for taking too long to kick.
Praise also came for Raynal’s boldness in making such a massive decision in the last minute, with the call described as ‘brilliant’ and ‘ballsy’.
Whatever side of the debate you’re on, perhaps the only universally agreed truth out of the match was the shame that such a brilliant match – without doubt one of the finest Bledisloe Cup clashes in many a year – could be so completely overshadowed by the controversy of the final moments.