Experienced first-class referee Gary Wise has confirmed what most of New Zealand is thinking - French referees have cost the All Blacks victory in their three-test series against the British & Irish Lions.
The Lions tour reached an anti-climactic culmination last night, with a 15-15 draw at Eden Park, but not before Frenchman Romain Poite appeared to change his mind over a potentially game-winning penalty to the All Blacks in the dying moments.
Lions fullback Liam Williams spilled a kick-off forward and back-tracking hooker Ken Owens regathered the ball from an off-side position. Poite seemed to award a penalty initially, but after consulting the TMO, changed his ruling to "accidental off-side" and called for an All Blacks scrum.
Newstalk ZB's Tony Veitch asked Wise, who logged more than 100 first-class games and a was former international sevens official, whether he thought Poite had panicked.
"I honestly think he did," responded Wise. "We're taught from an early age that, ideally, referees should not decide the outcome of a game.
"They've brought in the TMO to prevent situations like that happening and we say last night, it still didn't work."
Wise insisted the offence was penalisable and that there was nothing "accidental" about Owens' actions.
"If you catch a ball, that's not accidental," he said. "Accidental is when it deflects off and it hits you and you couldn't do anything about it ... but he clearly grabbed the ball.
"The other interesting thing that not too many people have talked about is why didn't he continue to play advantage from it? You can still play advantage from accidental off-side or a penalisable offence."
After Owens dropped the ball, it was recovered by All Blacks centre Anton Leinert-Brown, who had a clear run to the try-line, but was called back by Poite.
"That just confirms what we all knew - that he panicked and didn't know what to do basically.
"Those two guys - and I don't think the one last week [Jerome Garces] was much better - ended up deciding the series.
"I don't know if they go out to deliberately shaft us, but I never rated French referees for quite a few years, to be honest. There hasn't been a decent one come out of there and it's ironic that it's a Frenchman running world referees at the moment."
NZ Rugby chief executive Steve Tew told Veitch there would be no formal protest about the decisions of Poite or Garces, but their performances would be assessed as part of the series review.
"There's a world rugby appointments panel and a professional referee manager," said Tew. "They make appointments across all the test matches in June ... there were a lot of test matches over the previous three weeks.
"All the top referees got games and these three are included in that bracket, so there's no problem with the process.
"In the end, we may or may not be frustrated with some of the decisions, but we'd be the first to admit, we had plenty of opportunities to nail both last week and this week, and we didn't take them."