There were plenty of talking points from Saturday's international rugby, including the performance of Beauden Barrett and the workmanlike All Black victory, but nothing was as contentious as the officiating ... on both sides of the Tasman.

I'm not sure of the whys and wherefores of the situation, but Northern Hemisphere referees have been heavily involved in this year's Rugby Championship and it hasn't worked. This is, without question, the best annual tournament in the world. That's not open for debate. The teams ranked one, two and three in the world compete and Argentina are arguably the strongest of the developing nations.

It is a tournament that should be blessed by the world's best referees - at the moment, and certainly on the evidence of Saturday, that isn't happening.

Argentina were clearly denied a try from a charge-down and there was also an obvious incident where Julian Savea was held back when a try could have resulted.


Refereeing rugby is a difficult job and I never feel comfortable bagging them. I wouldn't write a column criticising a ref for making a mistake on an entry to the ruck call, but we're seeing these guys get some fundamental, game-changing decisions horribly wrong.

If Argentina had been awarded that try, it's 18-13 going into the last stage of the match. That not only changes the Argentine approach, but it also potentially changes the way the All Blacks play. They might be forced into being more conservative and insular in their approach. Everything changes.

In Perth, South Africa were poorly served by the officials. Duane Vermeulen was penalised for a high shot that wasn't, which cost three points, and Bryan Habana's yellow card for the same offence was plain wrong. What if the Habana incident happened in the knockout stages of the World Cup?

These are big, big decisions the three on-field officials are getting wrong and the stupid thing is the technology is there to prevent it happening. The lawmakers should broaden the powers of the TMO if it means we get crucial decisions right.

I can only presume we're seeing an abundance of Northern Hemisphere officials because they're judged to be better than the refs on offer in the Southern Hemisphere. I would seriously question that judgment.

The Napier test probably told us more about Argentina than it did the All Blacks. I have said for some time that Argentina have to start winning games soon to validate their inclusion in the Rugby Championship. While that argument still holds true, I'm pleased to see real development in their rugby.

There was talk that the difficult conditions played into their hands more than the All Blacks but I'm not buying that. We saw in the test against the Springboks in the heat of Salta, that Argentina like to play with width and quick ball gained from a solid set-piece. They're not the one-dimensional side they're often made out to be.

I hope their progress is marked by a win soon, but the draw is horribly disadvantageous for them.

They had to travel to South Africa and then back to Argentina; then they travelled to Napier, before flying to Australia, and then back to Argentina to face the All Blacks and Australia in consecutive weeks. Compare that brutal schedule to the All Blacks: they've had one quick sojourn to Sydney before getting a stack of home games. It allows them to all but wrap up the Championship before they fly out for their games in South America and Africa.

There must be financial imperatives behind that draw, but it makes it really difficult for Argentina.

Their best chance for a win is probably Australia at home, but by the time the Wallabies get to Argentina, their relative lack of depth and exposure to top-quality rugby is starting to bite and they run out of steam.

It would be nice to see that imbalance redressed in coming years.

Barrett a bewdy

Beauden Barrett was excellent in his first test start at No10 and I was incredibly surprised and a bit disappointed to see him replaced.

I was even more surprised by All Black coach Steve Hansen's explanation that they needed to change the goalkicking.

That's not like this coaching group. They're normally loyal to their players and show utmost belief in them. Look at their inclusion of Israel Dagg for proof.

Barrett is a capable goalkicker who was struggling, but I would have backed him to come out of it, because his general play, and his running game in particular, was excellent. There is not a better running No10 in the country.

Wayne Smith used to drum home to me that if you're instinctive and decisive, you'll usually end up making good decisions. Barrett doesn't dither. When there's space he'll take it and others go with him. That's what led to Liam Messam's try.