Sanzar referees boss Lyndon Bray says he pulled Steve Walsh from Saturday’s Brumbies-Reds Super 14 clash in Canberra in the best interests of the game, and not because of the pressure caused by Matt Giteau’s comments.
And Bray has added further fuel to a fiery situation by calling for Brumbies and Wallabies playmaker Giteau to face a Sanzar disciplinary hearing and be held “accountable” for his inflammatory comments on Walsh.
Marc Hinton writes for Rugbyheaven Aus that Bray confirmed Sydney-based Kiwi ref Walsh had been withdrawn from Saturday’s Brumbies-Reds game and replaced by New Zealand’s Chris Pollock because of the controversy created by Walsh’s handling of the Brumbies-Waratahs clash in Sydney last Saturday night. The Tahs won the game 19-12 to put a severe dent in the Brumbies’ semifinal hopes.
Walsh made a number of contentious calls in the match, many of which appeared to go against the visiting side, and had a running battle with Brumbies skipper Stephen Hoiles throughout. Late in the piece he also ruled against what looked like a legitimate Adam Ashley-Cooper try without even consulting the video ref.
In the aftermath of the game several Brumbies complained about Walsh’s performance, with star playmaker Giteau being the most vocal.
“I don’t know if we will turn up,” Giteau told reporters on Monday when asked how the Brumbies would react if Walsh was not replaced this week. “What’s the point?”
Giteau was equivocal Walsh had made a major error when he turned down Ashley-Cooper’s late score. “Like everyone who knows rugby, that was a try,” he added.
Brumbies coach Andy Friend was a little more restrained in his criticism. “I thought the first 30 minutes wasn’t a very even contest,” he said after expressing his hope Walsh would be replaced for this week’s match.
But Bray has refused to condemn Walsh’s performance – though he did concede the Kiwi ref had an “average” game — and said the decision to pull him from Saturday’s match was because of more far-reaching implications.
“We have to look at what’s in the best interests of that game and what’s in the best interests of Steve as a ref,” said Bray on Radio Sport today. “We think it would be remiss to ignore what sort of environment is likely to happen if we left Steve refereeing the Brumbies and Reds.
“They’ve made it very untenable for Steve to be able work in that environment and we’re only being responsible to the game in saying this week should be all about the Reds and the Brumbies who both fighting for semifinal spots, and the last thing you want is this week being all about the referee.
“I think if we left Steve on that game that’s exactly what the outcome would be.”
Bray said Walsh had taken the decision well and had agreed that “you don’t want to be put in a situation where the environment is extremely negative even before you walk on the paddock”.
But Bray told Radio Sport that this should not be perceived as a victory for intimidation via the public and inflammatory comments from Giteau.
“That’s exactly why we have to bring the hammer down in my opinion,” he said. “I think [Giteau] definitely needs to face a disciplinary hearing on the comments.”
Bray said it would be “nice” if Giteau was suspended at least for this week’s match, but was happy to leave that decision to the appropriate judicial process.
“I just want him to be answerable for his comments and be accountable for that,” added Bray. “I’m not emotive about what happens to him just pragmatic about it, and the realty is he’s quite out of line.”
Bray said he had no issue with Giteau’s comments on the no-try decision, though he stoutly defended Walsh’s call saying analysis showed the whistle-blower had made the right assessment.
What was unacceptable, he said, was the personal attack on Walsh as a referee. “Where Giteau stepped over the line in my opinion is he’s gone on to a whole emotional aspect about not turning up.”
Bray conceded Walsh, who’s making a return to top refereeing after overcoming a battle with the bottle, had an “average day” in the Tahs-Brumbies match, mostly around game management.
“He would have loved to have had far better outcomes at scrum time… and unfortunately he lost Stephen Hoiles and that’s partly about Mr Hoiles and partly about Steve and he’ll address why that happened.”
But Bray was emphatic Walsh got it right on Ashley-Cooper’s scramble over the line – ruled a double-movement.
“The ruling was absolutely correct. He was four and a-half metres short when he lands in the tackle, rotated once which is fine (that’s momentum), then in order to get across the goal-line has got off his knees and launched over the tackler to force the ball.
“I don’t think you can for a second in law criticise Steve’s decision.”
Bray also backed his referee who he said will return in week 13 to control the Chiefs-Waratahs game in what is essentially a straight swap with Pollock.
“We think he’s done a pretty admirable job this year in getting back on the horse at this level,” said Bray. “Yes, he’s had a couple of games, like every ref has, where he hasn’t been at his best… but we back him and he’ll certainly be there in week 13.”Tweet