The Wallabies have claimed a 24-22 win over the All Blacks in a face saving victory at Suncorp Stadium.
But while the epic comeback from the 43-5 loss in last week’s Test which decided the Bledisloe Cup for an 18th year, a controversial first half delivered the talking points from the game.
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In the 22nd minute the All Blacks’ Ofa Tu‘ungafasi become the fifth All Blacks player of all-time shown a red card in a call that has divided the rugby community.
Social media was quick to react to the 22nd minute incident where the Wallabies‘ Tom Wright dummied a kick from inside the 22 and began to step around All Blacks players.
That was until he came to Tu‘ungafasi, who flattened the winger in what looked like a strong shot.
But on replay, it became clear his shoulder contract Wright’s jaw.
On Channel 10, the discussion was around whether it would be a yellow or a penalty, but referee Nic Berry saw it much more black and white.
“OK, so based on those factors, direct contact to the chin, there‘s no mitigating factors, so it is going to be a red card against black three. Everyone agree?” he said to the TMO before showing Tu‘ungafasi the red card.
The decision was consistent with the World Cup in Japan but it has been a controversial ruling since the event.
Tu’ungafasi joins Cyril Brownlee in 1925, Colin Meads in 1967, Sonny Bill Williams in 2017 and Scott Barrett in 2019 as the only All Blacks to be red carded.
Social media exploded with comments with many believing it was a tough call but the right one under the rules.
Former Wallaby turned media personality Peter FitzSimons tweeted: “Very tough red card for All Black prop, yes? No evil intent on his part?”
Incredibly, the All Blacks were next to score through a penalty goal to make it 8-all.
But it soon became duelling red cards when Wallabies debutant Lachlan Swinton was given his marching orders for a very similar incident in the 34th minute.
Swinton hit Sam Whitelock with a big hit, flattening the big New Zealander but it was quickly under review.
Swinton was also the fifth Wallaby to be given a red card, joining David Codey in 1987, Drew Mitchell in 2010, Tevita Kuridrani in 2013 and Sekope Kepu in 2017.
Wallabies legend Matthew Burke said he believed both were worthy of red cards.
“It is red, absolutely. I thought it could have been a yellow because of the mitigating circumstances of Wright going down and then at the back end of it there is another one there and look at it, it is a heavy shot and just a missed shot and they spoke about that beforehand, about controlling that aggression and we said it as well at the start there,” he said on Channel 10.
But on Fox Sports, fellow Wallaby greats Justin Harrison and Phil Kearns took aim at the rulings at halftime.
“We talk about the framework of the rule changes that safety is the intent, but both of these players who received direct shots to the chin weren‘t directed to go to the HIA for assessment so lets talk about mitigating factors,” Harrison said.
“We know that players don‘t go out with the intent to take people’s heads off, what they do go out with through is with the intent to hit people as hard as they can. When you are moving as fast as you can as hard as you can and you’ve got 125kg that commits to a target, it’s very difficult to change that framework of decision.
Kearns added: “There‘s got to be a better way. For me, yellow card, put them on report and then go to the judiciary afterwards. Ruining the game, ruining the spectacle.”
Australia were then down to 13 men when Marika Koroibete was yellow carded after the halftime siren for having his hands all over the ball after a warning from the referee.
The All Blacks also went down to 13 men in the second half when Scott Barrett saw a yellow card after reaching out of the ruck to knock the ball out of Nic White‘s hands.
Post-match, Harrison said “you cannot be allowed to get away with foul play because of clumsiness”.
Kearns also reiterated his comments from the first half, admitting that the red cards were correct under current rules.
“But in my view, it takes a lot away from the game to have the red cards,” he said. “Perhaps a better option is yellow card first, put them on report and deal with the judiciary process later so you can maintain the integrity of the game. I think there’s very little doubt in both of them.”
Wallaby great Tim Horan also argued for a red card seeing a player sent off but able to be replaced after 10 minutes.
Nine Test veteran Greg Martin added that while it might be part of the rules, passive fans would are left scratching their heads with some calls.
“That’s a joke,” he said. “If we’re here in Australia competing with rugby league, and that’s what we are, but getting run from someone sitting in an office in Dublin deciding that that’s a red card, that’s nonsense, we can’t win that fight.”
All Blacks coach Ian Foster didn’t want to be drawn into a discussion of the issue.
It is what it is right now,” he said. “I don’t think now is a great time to debate the accuracy of the decisions. We were probably more unhappy with some of the TMO decisions last week than this week. Both teams got dealt with the same cards dare I say it.”