Patrick McKendry is a rugby writer for the Herald.

Rugby: Hurricanes coach Chris Boyd questions controversial finish

Hurricanes coach Chris Boyd. Photo / Getty
Hurricanes coach Chris Boyd. Photo / Getty

Hurricanes coach Chris Boyd has raised questions about the controversial finish of the Chiefs' narrow victory over his side in Wellington which saw the visitors, second best at scrum time, elect for an uncontested set piece in the final five minutes.

The chain of events began at the end of the first half when tighthead prop Atunaisa Moli left the field with an injury, and continued when his replacement, Siate Tokolahi, walked off injured with the clock ticking down and his team holding on to a 28-27 lead inside their own half.

On went Siegfried Fisi'ihoi, the Chiefs' final front row replacement, but one not suited to playing tighthead, according to Chiefs coach Dave Rennie.

According to the laws, a team fielding a replacement not able to play in the front row - thus triggering "golden oldie" or uncontested scrums - must lose a player, so off Fisi'ihoi went, leaving his side with only 14 players but with an advantage too.

Their scrum went backwards at a rate of knots throughout, and while they managed to limit the damage in the middle part of the match, they conceded two tightheads and would have feared for its efficiency in the final, frantic, minutes.

In the television interview afterwards, Rennie confirmed the request for uncontested scrums was a safety issue as Fisi'ihoi wasn't used to playing on the right-hand side of the scrum, but Boyd has questioned those lack of credentials and he appears to have a point.

Fisi'ihoi started at tighthead prop several times for Bay of Plenty in the ITM Cup last year, including against Wellington at Mt Maunganui.

Hurricanes skipper and hooker Dane Coles was heard saying to referee Craig Joubert something to the tune of: "Amazing coincidence, the way we've dominated their scrum, Craig."

And Boyd told Radio Sport presenter Mark Watson yesterday: "I think there are a couple of questions about his [Fisi'ihoi's] ability to play at tighthead and ... the genuineness of injury of the guy who left the field [Tokolahi], but at the end of the day I understand why the golden oldie rule is there.

"It's for safety and I think it must stay there. All of those rules are open to bending and interpretation and what have you. At the end of the day, if it was genuine then I support it, if it was orchestrated then I would find it disappointing."

Rod Hill, New Zealand Rugby's referee's boss, today confirmed Rennie had every right to make his request, adding that Fisi'ihoi could play for the Chiefs at tighthead prop in the future without any ramifications.

"Going forward, if that player plays a game at tighthead, it's not relevant," he said.

As much as Boyd will want to put the game behind him as his team prepares to fly to South Africa for matches against the Lions and Sharks, there will be lingering discontent about the way the match finished.

There were flashpoints all over the field in the first half between two New Zealand teams desperate for points in the competition's toughest conference, and the suggestion of gamesmanship will have left a sour taste for Boyd and his players.

But, despite the Chiefs nullifying their set piece advantage in the final minutes, the Hurricanes would have won had fullback Jason Woodward held a Beauden Barrett pass.

Boyd said: "We're a little bit angry... we felt it was a game we lost rather than they had won."

- NZ Herald

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