Blundering referee costs Wallabies at Twickenham

Jack Quigley Columnist

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    While the 30-6 scoreline may look convincing, the Wallabies can feel very, very hard done by after an extraordinary afternoon at Twickenham.

    Credit to England for the win, though three tries in the final few minutes blew the scoreline out and it could have been a very different story had the Wallabies not (once again) been on the receiving end of some pretty awful officiating.

    Michael Cheika cops a lot of his for his theatrics in the coaches’ box during games, unfairly so in my opinion.

    Often labeled a ‘whinger’ or a ‘bad sport’, the reality is that he rides every tackle with his players and emotions run high – and television directors know it makes good TV.

    Last week Eddie Jones apologised for being caught on camera swearing after an England error against Argentina. There were no cameras in Jones’ face this week as the host broadcaster, Sky Sports instead focused all their energy on capturing every mastication from the Australian box. Coincidence? No chance.

    The cameras only ever show Cheika when the Wallabies are on the end of a dud refereeing decision because it serves to further the narrative that all he does is complain.


    (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)

    He had plenty to complain about on Saturday night. The Wallabies were on the end of a royal screw-job in London which included incorrect and inconsistent officiating from a referee, Ben O’Keefe, who was far out of his depth.

    It was farcical that such an under-qualified referee should be given the biggest rugby match in the world for that weekend. The referee is supposed to facilitate the game and administer the laws, not decide who wins.

    O’Keefe’s inability to correctly and consistently apply the laws of the game went a long way towards ensuring the home side did not lose.

    The headline blunder was the non-awarding of Marika Koroibete’s try which would have leveled the scores with over 10 minutes to play, but there were a number of other controversial moments which went against Australia.

    Michael Hooper was the first Australian to have a try disallowed, with replays showing the flanker ahead of Tevita Kurindrani after the centre had grubbered the ball ahead before Koroibete scuffed an attempt to soccer it into the in-goal and Hooper dived on the loose ball to score.

    The ruling was correct in black and white, but the reality is that Hooper was run on-side by Koroibete two seconds after the ball was kicked.

    According to the law, an offside player must not advance – but when a player is running full tilt it’s impossible to stop dead on the spot, and by the time Hooper had even adjusted his stride to attempt to slow down he had already been played onside again.

    Hooper later fell victim to the referee’s warnings of repeated infringement, and was shown a yellow card for the 8th time in Test rugby.

    That one is hard to argue with – rightly or wrongly the Wallabies had been repeatedly penalised in the first half and when that happens, it’s fair enough for the referee to take further action.

    What frustrated the Wallabies was that in the second half Ben O’Keefe warned England captain Owen Farrell after a string of penalties that any more in their half would be deserving of a yellow card – only to renege on that threat two minutes later when Chris Robshaw was penalised for not rolling away with the Wallabies on the attack in England territory.

    That wasn’t the only inconsistency with regards to yellow cards – Kurtley Beale was binned for a deliberate knock-down on the half-way line just before halftime.

    The call seemed harsh given the location of the supposed infringement, which lead to Beale laughing incredulously at O’Keefe as he produced the card.

    A penny for Cheika’s thoughts when early in the second half England’s Maro Itoje was penalised for deliberately knocking the ball down. On the half way line. But unlike Beale, was not shown a card.

    Hooper Beale

    (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)

    Then came the kicker – the Koroibete no-try. After some terrific attacking play from the Wallabies, Koroibete crashed over the line (after colliding with teamate Stephen Moore who did his best to get in the way).

    Unsure of whether the ball was grounded, O’Keefe sent the matter upstairs to the TMO. Incredibly, not only did the officials not manage to apply common sense and award the try, upon the clearly audible requests of the England players who were standing beside O’Keefe, the decision was made to penalise Australia for Moore obstructing Chris Robshaw as he attempted to tackle Koroibete.

    Robshaw would not have stopped Koribete, that’s just a fact. Far from aiding the Wallabies, Moore’s clumsy intervention actually prevented Koroibete from getting over the line faster and gave Robshaw a chance.

    The complete cock-up from the dynamic officiating team reached critical mass when they failed to check if Robshaw was actually even onside for the phase where he would supposedly have made the try-saving tackle – he wasn’t.

    He was still retreating from the previous phase and had come from an offside position. What a farce.

    As if to rub salt in the wounds of the Wallabies, England then scored a sensational try which will never be repeated in a million years of rugby.

    A clearing kick headed for the sideline seemed to defy the laws of physics and tip-toe along the sideline just long enough for England to get a foot to it and incredibly keep it in play before streaking away to score the clincher. Upon review, it appeared that the tip of the ball may have touched the chalk, but in reality it was not conclusive enough to overturn the decision – it just seemed to be in keeping with the theme of the game and the feeling of injustice that the Australians were suffering from.

    The Wallabies did plenty wrong against England. Ball security was terrible as Australia refused to adapt to the wet conditions and continued to try and play fast and loose. The lineout suffered in Adam Coleman’s absence. At one point England stole a throw without even having to lift a jumper.

    Reece Hodge became the latest Wallaby to kick the ball dead while trying to find touch from a penalty. The inconvenient truth is that the best teams in the world just don’t make those sorts of mistakes and that’s why the Wallabies are still that half step behind the All Blacks and England.

    For Michael Cheika and the Australian squad it’s on to Scotland who ran New Zealand close at Murrayfield for another tough test and if the coach should even sigh throughout, the cameras won’t miss it.

    Jack Quigley
    Jack Quigley

    A long time sports writer and podcaster, Jack has spent the majority of his media career covering football and rugby. He recently joined The Roar on the back of penning a viral Facebook rant aimed at the Wallabies which attracted 60,000 likes and more than 6,000 shares. You can follow him on Twitter @Jack_Quigley.