Gregor Paul is the Herald on Sunday's rugby writer

Gregor Paul: Wallabies need to clean up their act to get referee's respect

Referee Romain Poite speaks to both teams captains, Kieran Read (left) and Stephen Moore, during the second Bledisloe Cup test last night in Wellington. Photo / Photosport
Referee Romain Poite speaks to both teams captains, Kieran Read (left) and Stephen Moore, during the second Bledisloe Cup test last night in Wellington. Photo / Photosport

Wallabies coach Michael Cheika made a good point when he suggested his captain, Stephen Moore, wasn't shown due respect by referee Romain Poite.

The curt interactions and then refusal to allow Moore to engage with him reinforced Cheika's opinion that the Frenchman has it in for his side. It's an issue he has brought up with World Rugby and when Poite was happy to talk with Kieran Read and other All Blacks, it wasn't appropriate that Moore was dismissed as a nuisance and afforded no chance to inquire about decisions.

But the thing is, as unfair as it is and wrong that the national captain of Australia can't gain an audience in a test match, it's also true that the Wallabies bring a fair bit of that woe upon themselves.

They have become world renowned for their endless niggle and off-the-ball work. Their secret is out. It was a feature before the World Cup, at the World Cup and has only got worse in 2016.

The series against England was marred with scuffles, verbal sprays, jersey pulling and push and shove.

England didn't stand for it, gave it back as good as they got it. The All Blacks, too, weren't in any mood for it in Wellington.

It didn't come in Sydney but, then again, nothing really did over there. The Wallabies were ghosts - no niggle but no physicality of any kind, either.

In Wellington it was different. They were more urgent and aggressive in the places they needed to be, but it was hard to tell - hard because they put so much emphasis on niggling the All Blacks.

They were all at it - Moore, Rob Coleman, Scott Fardy, Michael Hooper and Dean Mumm when he came on. Verbal nonsense, pushing, shoving, holding, lashing out. And it was relentless. They didn't stop. There was no heated early exchanges and then a cooling off period as both teams settled.

Nope, the Wallabies just chipped away, focusing largely on Brodie Retallick in the first half and Dane Coles in the second.

Poite kept bringing Kieran Read and Moore together, told them to get a grip more times than adults really should be told to change their behaviour.

The Wallabies could hardly wait to get back into the cheap stuff, though and it was telling when All Blacks coach Steve Hansen was asked whether he had expected this sort of approach from the Wallabies: "You had to accept something from them was coming after last week when nothing came," he said.

"They have copped a fair bit of criticism back home and they are proud people so they were going to bring whatever they had to bring. That was just a good, old, hard game of footy."

It was hard, but it was also marred by the nasty stuff - the worst of which may yet prove to have been committed by an All Black as Owen Franks will no doubt be answering questions about a first-half incident when his hand roams across Kane Douglas' face with some intent.

He'll be dealt with by the judicial process if needs be, whereas Australia are being dealt with more by reputation. If they want to get a better deal from referees, they simply have to show some willingness to clean up their act.

- NZ Herald

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