Paul Honiss hangs up his boots

The New Zealand Rugby Union today paid tribute to referee Paul Honiss, who has announced his retirement from all refereeing after a professional career that has spanned 11 years.

45-year-old Honiss made history in 2007 when he became world rugby's most capped Test referee, surpassing Welshman Derek Bevan's record of 44 Tests, and retires with 46 Test appearances. Honiss' last Test was the game between Australia and France last weekend.

In all, Honiss refereed in 211 first class matches, including 49 Super 14 fixtures and 71 Air New Zealand Cup games. He also refereed in three IRB Rugby World Cup tournaments in 1999, 2003 and 2007.

Honiss started his international career in 1997 when he refereed the international between Tahiti and the Cook Islands. At provincial level he started and finished his career in Waikato but over the years was also a representative referee for Canterbury, Southland and Taranaki.

In 2005 and 2006 Honiss was named New Zealand Referee of the Year.

His career has not been without controversy - although, some may say, what rugby referee's hasn't? (Although you'd be hard pressed to find too many Paddy O'Brien gaffes.)

Here's a list of some of the moments when the ref has found himself just where he shouldn't be - in the spotlight:

* World Cup, 2007.
Honiss' shocker of a decision to disallow Samoan second-rower Joe Tekori's try against the Springboks not only penalises the gallant Pacific Islanders, but leads directly to a South Africa try when the Boks take a quick tap while Samoa captain Semi Sititi and others are remonstrating with the ref about the call. The match, which was heading towards a potential thriller, now turns into a blowout to South Africa on the basis of that 14-point swing.

For this, and several other questionable first-half decisions, Honiss' performance is labelled "one of the worst-refereed matches in history." Samoa coach Michael Jones doesn't go quite that far, but expresses 'disappointment'. A debate follows about prejudice among officials when one of the smaller "minnow" nations is up against one of the major test-playing nations.

* England v Wales, Six Nations, 2005
Honiss awards Matt Dawson a late try during England's 47-13 win over Wales at Twickenham, despite television replays showing the scrum half clearly knocked the ball forward out of a Welshman's hands. (This is before the age of the "video ref".) In the same match, Lawrence Dallaglio picks the ball up from a scrum only to find Honiss standing in front of him, barring the path of Stephen Jones, the intended tackler. By the time Honiss was out of the way, Dallaglio was in his scoring dive, reducing Jones to apoplexy.

* South Africa v Ireland, Lansdowne Rd, 2004.
In what was almost an exact reversal of the above incident, this time the Boks get the short end of the stick from Honiss as he makes a decision to award the Irish a try while the Boks captain, John Smit, was obeying the referee's own instruction to warn his players about repeated infringements. While Smit's back was turned, Irish fly-half Ronan O'Gara took a quick tap and ran in for a five pointer. It was the game's only try - the Irish went on to win 17-12.

* World Cup, Sydney, 2003
Honiss was in charge of the World Cup opener between Argentina and Australia when his refusal to allow the Pumas to scrummage aggressively allowed the hosts a much more comfortable evening than their play merited. Australia wins 24-8.

* Otago v North Harbour, NPC, Carisbrook, 2001
In an extraordinary match, Honiss is a major contributor to the locals' tense 39-37 victory when he awards not one but THREE penalty tries (two to the victors) in the last 20 mins of the game, setting the scene for a Brendan Laney penalty to win it for the blue-and-golds in injury time.

- NZHERALD STAFF

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