It was a big moment in the game and Blues coach Pat Lam struggled to hide his disappointment in the aftermath of a referee shocker that cost his side dearly at Eden Park last night.
Marc Hinton writes for Stuff.co.nz that the key moment in the Super 14 heavyweight clash, won 35-31 by the Sharks, came a dozen minutes from the end, when referee Marius Jonker ignored what the Blues camp were adamant was a touch-judge’s call for offside and the Sharks went from hard on defence to hot on attack to complete a 10-point turnaround that effectively decided the contest.
At the time the Blues were trailing by nine, and All Black Joe Rokocoko looked like he was on to a certain try wide on the left. But big Sharks lock Johan Muller made a key hit to dislodge the ball as the wing lunged for the line.
Replays showed the big second-rower was well offside and it appeared the referee got exactly that call from his touch-judge. The Blues were certain that’s what they heard.
The upshot was the ball was booted upfield, the Sharks established prime field position and were able to score a bonus point-clinching try to replacement prop John Smit as he powered through tiring Blues defence.
So, instead of being either five, or even three, behind, the Blues went into the final 10 minutes trailing by 14, with too much to do to haul in the clinical Sharks.
“We almost and probably should have scored in the corner there with Joey,” said a clearly exasperated Lam afterwards. “That was a little bit frustrating.
“We had the comms on and you could clearly see he was offside, the touch-judge called it, the ref overruled it and 80-90m down the field… they scored that try and it was a 10-point turnaround. For the boys to come back from that and salvage a bonus point was pleasing.”
Lam clearly had to tread carefully over any criticism of the match official, but made it obvious he wasn’t happy.
“You’d have to ask him. The touch-judge called it, we heard it, we could see it and it was over-ruled. You’d have to check with the referee.”
Only problem is that Sanzar doesn’t allow us to ask him to explain his calls after a match.
Given that there’s been plenty of criticism about refs not getting enough help from their “assistants” it clearly peeved Lam that accurate advice was ignored on this occasion.
“At this level they’ve got quality people. Chris Pollock is one of the top refs, and you’d hope they’d work as a team and they’d trust each other.”
It was a frustrating sort of day all-round for the Blues who lost Paul Williams to injury in the warmups, had to call up Lachie Munro from a day out at the races to join their bench mid-match and also saw Josh Blackie go down with an ankle sprain.Tweet