Western Force coach John Mitchell has called on SANZAR to drop Marius Jonker from its Super 14 match officials panel after their bid for a semi-final berth was ended by an astonishing non-decision by the South African referee.
Wayne Smith writes for The Australian Newspaper that nine minutes from full-time in Cape Town on Sunday, Jonker let stand a stunning 70-metre Stormers try finished off by young fullback Joe Pietersen, despite the fact Force outside centre Ryan Cross was knocked over in a gridiron-style block by opposite number Dylan des Fountain just as he was about to make a tackle.
That touchdown boosted the Stormers’ lead to 25-17 and meant that Matt Giteau’s 78th-minute try to pull the Force up to 24-25 had no bearing on the outcome, and leaving them stranded in eighth place on the ladder, six points adrift of the top four.
Not even a bonus-point victory by the Force over the Highlanders at Subiaco Oval next Saturday would make up the lost ground.
Mitchell was ropeable after the match, labelling the non-decision “horrendous” and pointing out that des Fountain’s cynical block was so obvious that a number of players stopped running, anticipating the referee’s whistle.
“Something has to be done about a decision like that (when it) is so costly,” Mitchell said. “That person (Jonker) shouldn’t referee another Super 14 game or he should be disciplined or suffer some consequence.
“That is not acceptable at this level of football. It really needs to be looked into. It shouldn’t just be swept under the carpet.”
Mitchell said he had confronted Jonker, a senior Test referee, about his non-ruling. “He said ‘sorry’. We’ll deal with this from a club point of view. It shouldn’t just be my point of view,” Mitchell said.
The Force’s controversial elimination from the playoffs race has robbed Giteau’s farewell to Perth of all its drama and significance.
Rugby WA had been hoping that the Force would return from its two-match tour of South Africa with at least a mathematical chance of figuring in the semi-finals if it could beat the Highlanders in the final round.
In a season when crowd numbers at Subiaco Oval have dwindled, officials had hoped the prospect of seeing Giteau orchestrate one last heroic effort in his farewell appearance for the Force might have mobilised the Blue Army.
Of course, it is not just Giteau who is departing but also four other Wallabies – Drew Mitchell, Josh Valentine, Scott Staniforth and Tai McIsaac.
It may have been that Jonker was unsighted but until that point his assistant referees had been eagle-eyed to the point of match – making the non-decision even more frustrating for Force fans.
Yet neither du Preez nor the other assistant referee, Willie Roos, spotted des Fountain’s blatant interference on Cross to clear a path for a flying Pietersen in the build-up to his try.
It might not just be the chance to play for a place in the finals that is missing on Saturday, with hooker McIsaac an unlikely starter because of a calf muscle strain.
It will be a cruel irony if the former Test hooker misses his last game for the Force because he is the only player to have featured in all 51 matches since the club came into being in 2006.Tweet