Australia’s rugby community has reacted furiously to the red card shown to Wallabies winger Marika Koroibete in the fifth minute of Saturday’s 33-30 win over France in Brisbane.
Koroibete was sent off after he charged through following a kick and smashed French No.8 and captain Anthony Jelonch with a big tackle.
Jelonch spilled the ball but fell to the ground clutching his face.
Replays seemed to show the contact being shoulder to shoulder, but one indicated there may have been some contact to Jelonch’s head.
After watching a number of replays, referee Ben O’Keeffe agreed with the television match official that Koroibete’s shoulder had made contact with Jelonch’s head, and he was shown the red card.
The Wallabies recovered to win 33-30 and win the series 2-1, but the reaction, from Wallabies coach Dave Rennie down, was one of disbelief at the severity of the punishment.
“It was terribly milked wasn’t it?” Rennie said.
“He obviously feels he’s got some head contact, then he’s grabbed his face, which is nowhere near the point of impact, and it’s delayed by five seconds.
“Every time there is anything like a headshot these guys [looked like they] had been shot by a sniper.
“The issue for us is, do we get to the stage where we’re telling our players to lie on the ground like the French did every time there’s any head contact?
“I don’t think it’s in the spirit of the game.”
Injured Wallabies flyhalf James O’Connor agreed with his coach in an halftime interview.
“It’s pretty frustrating – if you’re playing in the spirit of rugby, that’s not something you do,” he said.
“To me, it looked like blatantly he’s been hit and because he’s dropped the ball, he’s reacted to that.”
Former All Black flyhalf Andrew Mehrtens said the decision was a “travesty”.
“I reckon Anthony Jelonch has tucked down into that,” Mehrtens said while commentating on the game.
“I don’t think the target or the contact was ever higher than the shoulder.
“That’s an absolute travesty and we need to hear more about this.”
Former Wallaby winger Lote Tuqiri called the decision embarrassing, while a host of rugby media said red cards like those were destroying the game.
“World Rugby have allowed refereeing to reach this point due to a complete lack of accountability and it’s hard to envisage what will have to happen for something to change,” tweeted Sydney Morning Herald’s Sam Phillips.
The Daily Telegraph’s Jamie Pandaram said a yellow card would have been sufficient.
“That’s a really tough call on Koroibete – I understand the contact was high but yellow card would have been fair,” he said.
But Jelonch, unsurprisingly, insisted the red card was warranted.
“The red card was logical. I don’t think there is any dispute,” he said.
“[But] it maybe galvanised them afterwards.”