Andrew Gourdie: Test match ruined by impulsive ref reaction

Opinion 10/06/2018

OPINION: I really admire referees in any sport.

I'd never be one. They have a tough job. 

Thankfully, in this day and age, their job is made a whole lot easier by the fact there's someone sitting in the stands with access to replays from multiple angles, thanks to television cameras stationed all around the stadium.

That's what makes the performance of referee Luke Pearce in Saturday's test at Eden Park completely unacceptable.

At 11-all, 51 minutes gone, we had a fantastic match on our hands. The French were up for it and were making the All Blacks work hard for victory. 

Then Paul Gabrillagues makes a tackle on Ryan Crotty that, on first look, appeared high. Then we saw the replays - it wasn't.

If only Pearce allowed himself a chance to look at the screen. He didn't and his immediate decision to produce a yellow card ruined the game.

That sort of impulsive reaction to a player being snapped backwards and flung to the ground is not what's required of an international referee taking charge of a match of this standard.

One mistake was bad enough, but the second was inexcusable. A high shot from Sam Cane on Remi Grosso, who then copped a shoulder to the face from Ofa Tuungafasi.

It deserved a trip to the bin - it needed a second a look. Pearce didn't bother.

Penalty France. That's it.

It's just not good enough. In both instances, a referral to the television match official, who's there for this specific reason, would have given us a very different outcome in this match.

While other sports like football, rugby league and cricket are being slated for allowing the cumbersome use of video technology to ruin the game, rugby matches like this one are being ruined for failing to use the replays available to the men in the middle. 

You just know what international followers of the game will say. They'll say that Pearce's decisions only add to the perception that there’s one set of rules for the men in black and another set of rules for everyone else.

Don't bother checking social media. I have, they are. 

And while that conversation kicks off around the world, what are All Blacks fans left with? They’re left with no accurate sense of where this side is at.

They scored three tries while Gabrillagues was in the bin and the last half an hour was a blowout. They showed off their skill against a French side whose spirit was completely broken, unable to recover from such an injustice. 

With two matches remaining in this series, that won't change. We've seen this film before and we all know how it ends.

Plucky tourists, written off prior to the series, who show great endeavour early in the first half of the first test, before getting blitzed. Repeat, repeat. 

You can trace it all back to what happened in the 51st minute at Eden Park. 

Luke Pearce made headlines in January when he stopped mid-match, after blowing for a penalty in a European Champions Cup game between Montpellier and Leinster.

He told the players, 'It's quite obvious I made a mistake there', before reversing the decision.

It was an admirable moment of honesty. 

Everyone makes mistakes and mistakes are fine - as long as you learn from them.  

Andrew Gourdie is a Newshub sports reporter/presenter and host of RadioLIVE's Sunday Sport from 2pm.