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Opinion

'The very definition of dangerous': How on earth did Matera escape red when Gilbert got five weeks?

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Expert
27th May, 2022
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Red and yellow cards have been thrown around like confetti all season yet a blatant flip and dump copped a meagre yellow in Christchurch tonight.

Kiwi referee Ben O’Keeffe won’t be refereeing a quarter-final if there is any discussion about his feeble effort on the Pablo Matera tackle.

The picture: Crusaders flanker Pablo Matera grabs Queensland Reds centre Jordan Petaia between the legs to clean him out at a ruck.

The intent is to just tumble him away from the ruck. The result of so many careless grips is what happened next with Petaia’s upended body going beyond the horizontal.

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Petaia is fighting the hold and the end result is Petaia landing on the turf in a combination of shoulder, neck and head.

It was the very definition of dangerous… a lifting tackle and a player landing on his neck among other contact points with the ground.

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The most certain point in this debate is this. The Matera tackle and the Sam Gilbert tip tackle are a lot closer in penalty than a yellow card and a five-week ban.

I hate the pile-on from televised footy these days. Because the game is policed so hard, as soon as there is a hint of a high tackle, a shoulder charge, a tip tackle or a bony torpedo cleanout everyone is in uproar.

There are now so many prior examples that you can’t escape inconsistency.

O’Keeffe was trying to find a way not to red card Matera and that’s probably what we all want.

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Pablo Matera receives a yellow card from referee Ben O'Keeffe

(Photo by Peter Meecham/Getty Images)

The fact is, the hardline laws have been set and leniency is a hard thing to show.

The match itself was not a spectacle in any sense and the Crusaders won’t put a single play from the 28-15 win in their season’s highlights reel.

The Reds kicked 30 times and half the time, at least, it was aimless rubbish. There were few contestable kicks and very few kicks that made you gasp like a long 1980s Grant Fox kick that finds grass and then touch 50m downfield.

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Remember Grant Fox? Don’t tell me fields have halved in width and finding the grass is so much harder. The former All Black had craft and picked the right times.

The Crusaders hoofed it 29 times.

The Reds were staring at real trouble when down 21-3 at half-time because it could have become a blowout.

They deserve great credit for the ongoing trait of coach Brad Thorn’s teams… they fight to the end.

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The Reds had a 12-7 edge in the second half when they actually played more rugby.

They still don’t take all the chances they need to beat a top Kiwi side. A misfire at a 5m lineout and nothing made of a Lawson Creighton step through the line were costly misses early in the second half.

Where do you put Harry Wilson in the Wallabies backrow?

He has so much go to him. He made 12 tackles to go with his 18 ball carries, saved a try and scored one.

Rob Valetini powers through the line with the best post-contact metres in the country. That’s why he’s in the Test backrow ahead of him at No.8.

Including Wilson ahead of Rob Leota as a blindside flanker? Some will agree but maybe Wilson is a bench weapon. It’s an interesting selection area.

We get to do this dance all over again next Friday.

The Reds and Crusaders will meet in a quarter-final.

“We were always going to fight. You expect that from this team,” Thorn said.

“We have everything still to play for. It’s a new comp (in the finals).

“Treasuring possession (more) is the big one for us. When we do we can put pressure on.

“I have a lot respect for the Crusaders and this place (Christchurch) means a lot to me. I think I played for them 92 times and another 30 for Canterbury.

“I’m here with my team, the Reds, and in this ruthless mission of trying to achieve something.”

The Reds have an outside shot but only if they kick far better, play their best game of 2022 and remember Jordan Petaia is on the field to use far more.

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