Rugby: Pollock '90 per cent happy' with his calls

By Dylan Cleaver

Pollock stands by decision-making in Lions-Wallabies test but concedes second O'Driscoll penalty was tough.

Brian O'Driscoll, here tackling Wallaby Michael Hooper, was reportedly too scared to contest the ball after his first penalty. Photo / Getty Images
Brian O'Driscoll, here tackling Wallaby Michael Hooper, was reportedly too scared to contest the ball after his first penalty. Photo / Getty Images

Under-fire New Zealand referee Chris Pollock said he was "probably 90 per cent happy" with the calls he made during his contentious handling of the opening Lions test against the Wallabies.

Pollock dished out 21 penalties in the Suncorp Stadium thriller with 13 in favour of the Wallabies, including a scrum penalty near the end that would have won the game for the home side had Kurtley Beale not slipped while attempting the kick.

But it was Pollock's handling of the breakdown that caused most consternation among the Lions camp and their press collaborators. Brian O'Driscoll, the closest thing to a sacred cow in Northern Hemisphere rugby, was penalised twice in the early minutes by the New Zealander.

Lions coach Warren Gatland said they had been "crucified" at the contentious tackle-ball area and that O'Driscoll was too scared to contest for the ball for fear of a yellow card, but Pollock is adamant that while he explained his decision-making to the centre, he never gave him a yellow card warning.

"In New Zealand, we're hot on players being in a position to support their own weight when attacking the ball," Pollock told the Herald last night, the implication being it was not seen as such a flashpoint by Northern Hemisphere referees.

It will be cold comfort to the Lions now, but Pollock said that although he was sure he got it right the first time with O'Driscoll, on review the second penalty was a tough call. "I'm probably 90 per cent happy with the decisions I made," the 40-year-old said. "There's a couple of decisions I've looked at and thought that's either a tough call or it's wrong. You know, it's such an intense atmosphere ... The margins are so fine and at some points you're going to have to make judgment calls."

One of those was the scrum penalty at the death that gave Beale a chance to win the match. In similar situations, many referees are loath to make a call that could decide the match. But Pollock said: "If I was happy to make that call in the fifth minute, I'd want to be making it in the 75th. You've got to be consistent."

Ironically, a lack of consistency was one of the faults by which the British and Irish press hanged him.

Pollock said the vitriol had neither dented his confidence, nor soured his appetite for the remainder of the series, for which is a touch judge.

- NZ Herald

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