Patrick McKendry is a rugby writer for the Herald.

Rugby: Referee's rulings frustrate Tana Umaga

Blues coach and captain Tana Umaga and Jerome Kaino after their draw with the Reds. Photo / Getty
Blues coach and captain Tana Umaga and Jerome Kaino after their draw with the Reds. Photo / Getty

It was a draw rather than a defeat, but the Blues' woeful run away from Eden Park continues and coach Tana Umaga allowed his frustration to show after the match at Suncorp Stadium last night.

Umaga has been diplomatic about the match officials this season - including after the Hurricanes defeat in which his team found themselves on the wrong end of a couple of border-line decisions by the television match official - but following the 25-25 draw with the Reds he vowed to query a few of the calls made by referee Andrew Lees.

"We've got to ask some questions about some of those decisions and we will," Umaga said in the post-match press conference.

One area of concern was the scrum, with reserve prop Sione Mafileo finishing the match in the sinbin. The Blues, who conceded 14 penalties to the Reds' seven, were penalised several times at the set piece despite appearing to have the upper hand, with Umaga saying: "It's a pretty contentious issue with the scrummaging.

Sometimes we felt we were dominant and still didn't get any reward. We've got to have a look at that."

Another was the Reds' tactic of getting in the way at the breakdown, which Umaga suggested was "cynical".

"Cynical is lying in the ruck and just staying down and trying not to roll away, taking the ball out of a ruck which you're not allowed to do," he said.

To make matters worse for the Blues, who have not won an away game since June 2014, skipper Jerome Kaino will be ruled out for up to four weeks with a sprained AC shoulder joint.

The Blues have a bye next weekend, but he won't be available for the match against the Jaguares at North Harbour Stadium the week after.

Umaga defended his decision to go for the draw via Ihaia West's penalty after the final hooter, rather than go for touch and a possible try to win it, and he was backed up by assistant coach Glenn Moore today.

"That was a decision we made in the box," Moore said. "It was right on full-time and we didn't want to take the risk of throwing the ball not straight or whatever at the lineout and coming away losing the game.

"We drew the match but it feels like a loss at the moment. We created some very good opportunities, some clear-cut ones, in the first half but unfortunately we didn't convert those into points. It is frustrating.

"It was there for the taking. We had a plan and we created opportunities and on a few occasions we didn't execute those. But there were also a number of positives there. We were down 25-15 with not long to go and we had young boys out there but we really dug deep and clawed our way back into it so there pleasing aspects there as well."

The draw snapped a two-match losing streak for the Blues, who began brightly, with West scoring an early converted try, but despite the confusion around Lees' rulings they were again the architects of their own demise. Errors combined with poor decision-making meant they couldn't maintain their early momentum and the players and supporters might wonder when their first win away from home will come.

Their next away match is against the Chiefs in Hamilton on April 8, a tougher assignment than the Reds who have yet to win this season.

- NZ Herald

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