Patrick McKendry is a rugby and boxing writer for the Herald.

Patrick McKendry: Jaguares lucky to escape censure

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The Jaguares have left Auckland for Wellington and their next match against the Hurricanes perhaps unlucky not to earn a losing bonus point from their 24-16 defeat to the Blues. Photo / Getty Images
The Jaguares have left Auckland for Wellington and their next match against the Hurricanes perhaps unlucky not to earn a losing bonus point from their 24-16 defeat to the Blues. Photo / Getty Images

The Jaguares have left Auckland for Wellington and their next match against the Hurricanes perhaps unlucky not to earn a losing bonus point from their 24-16 defeat to the Blues at QBE North Harbour Stadium.

On the other hand, they can consider themselves fortunate that they can move on to their next match without censure from match officials or citing officers despite being involved in several ugly incidents in Albany on Saturday.

At the risk of incurring the wrath of Argentina's well-read rugby supporters, who in my experience are among the sport's most sensitive of souls going by the emails they send when the perceived honour of their players is threatened, I will list three of the most obvious transgressions missed by referee Mike Fraser and his assistants on the night, and the citing officer the day after.

Lock Tomas Lavanini can consider himself extremely lucky not to be punished for two acts, both of which were clear to see from the main stand at the stadium.

The first was his knees-first charge at prone Blues fullback Lolagi Visinia in the build-up to Steven Luatua's try, and the 23-year-old Argentina international has form here.

In the Jaguares' first match of the season, a 34-33 victory over the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein, Lavanini charged knees-first into the ribs of William Small-Smith as the centre scored a try in the left corner, an act which earned a penalty on halfway for the home side and a one-week suspension for Lavanini, who was later cited.

Charging into the body of a defenceless player on the ground is a dangerous and inflammatory act and Lavanini could have caused a lot of damage when bringing his right knee - and the full force of his 118kg frame - on to Visinia's upper back area.

Clearly Lavanini, who admitted his guilt and in doing so brought his suspension down from two weeks to one, hasn't learned from his week on the sideline.

Ihaia West was another victim of a knee drop after he scampered away for his try by the posts in the first half. This time the transgressor was centre Matias Moroni, who dropped his right knee into West's upper left hamstring/buttock area. It happened in full view and again nothing was done about it.

In the second half, Lavanini's head-first charge at loosehead prop Nic Mayhew's right knee forced the North Harbour player off the field with a medial cruciate ligament injury which will sideline him for up to three weeks. The tackle could have been simply clumsy, but it looked eerily similar to his no-arms charge at Australia fullback Israel Folau in the World Cup semifinal in October, for which Lavanini was sinbinned.

Certainly, Blues coach Tana Umaga felt it was borderline. Umaga has been wary about criticising officials or opposition players during his first year as a Super Rugby coach, but he felt moved to say something about Lavanini's tackle on Mayhew, and hinted the match had been marred by other incidents.

"Safety's a big issue, diving at people's legs - if it's technically within the law then obviously that's fine, but if it's not then it needs to be looked at," he said. "Everyone saw what was happening out there and we'll see what comes of it."

Nothing has come of it, and the Jaguares, who otherwise play with such ambition and skill, should consider themselves lucky.

- NZ Herald

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Patrick McKendry is a rugby and boxing writer for the Herald.

Rugby writer Patrick McKendry began his journalism career 20 years ago and has worked in newspapers in New Zealand and the United Kingdom. He worked in a communications role on his return here before joining APN before the 2011 World Cup.

Read more by Patrick McKendry

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