Patrick McKendry

Patrick McKendry is a rugby writer for the Herald.

Rugby: Henry lets rip at poor calls by match officials

Coach says Blues deserve more of a fair go in scrum and maul.

There was humour and there was profanity. When Sir Graham Henry is in this form he is thoroughly entertaining, but the Blues will hope a few Super rugby match officials listen to the serious messages in their assistant coach's comments yesterday.

The former All Black head coach had one eye on the Blues' potentially difficult match against the Brumbies at Eden Park on Saturday night when he let rip at the decision-making by the officials in his team's 23-3 defeat to the Crusaders in Christchurch.

It was, variously, "ludicrous" and "bulls***". Henry suggested television match official Keith Brown might be "blind", adding that wing Frank Halai scored an obvious try only to be denied by Brown. "I could see it and I'm blind," Henry added.

Henry was just as blunt in his message that officials are failing to police the offside line, and he also hoped they would give his team more of a fair go in the scrum and maul areas.

Officially the Blues' defence coach, Henry stepped in to fulfil the media duties as Sir John Kirwan was unavailable. Deliberate or not, the substitution and subsequent blast could be a masterstroke.

How is Sanzar going to sanction a World Cup-winning coach who added in a tongue-in-cheek parting shot that he was "just trying to keep a low profile and not be controversial"?

For the Blues, stopping the rolling maul has been a problem this season. Heavily penalised against the Reds in Brisbane, Kirwan looked for clarity from referees' boss Lyndon Bray before the victory over theStormers at North Harbour Stadium and they did well.

A man down after Culum Retallick's sinbinning at AMI Stadium, though, and the Blues had little chance. They gave away three penalties before Owen Franks was awarded the try.

The Blues believe they stop mauls legally and hope South African referee Lourens van der Merwe thinks likewise on Saturday.

"I think it's inconsistent," Henry said of the officials' ruling on mauls. "I don't think the referees know what they are looking for and they just go out there and hope they get it right. I think there needs to be a lot of education around the refereeing of the maul, also with the scrum.

"I think Wyatt [Crockett] got away with murder. I thought there were a couple of scrum penalties which were frustrating, to be frank, but after 40 years you get used to it."

Henry called the decision by referee Glen Jackson to sinbin Blues lock Retallick for an intentional knock-on unfair, saying the player "is not that good, he's not that capable [of doing that], all due respects to Red, and he'll understand what I'm saying".

Referring to Halai's attempt to score among a tangle of Crusaders, Henry said: "It was obvious to me. I don't know, he's probably a blind TMO is he?

"Then you had a situation where we attacked under the sticks. Frank went very close to scoring under the sticks and Andy Ellis is standing in front of the ball. It's a penalty try, isn't it? Those sorts of things frustrate you but it's part of the game.

"They were better than us, I accept that, they deserved to win the game. But I don't think it's all bad from a Blues side."

Henry suggested that rather than looking for reasons to send players off, referees should "just do the basics right".

- APNZ

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