A frustrated Michael Cheika says he is "bitterly disappointed" at the performance of referee Romain Poite in last night's 29-9 victory by the All Blacks over the Wallabies, saying the match official ignored Australia captain Stephen Moore, an act he described as "blatant" and the continuation of a theme.
The Wallabies have tried in recent times to improve their relations with the match officials following the three-test whitewash at the hands of England when they often found themselves on the wrong end of the penalty count, a frustration compounded by their apparent inability to get through to the referee.
Adding to the bad feeling after a test defeat which took the All Blacks' Bledisloe Cup streak to 14 years, it's understood the Wallabies made an official complaint about an apparent pre-match meeting Steve Hansen had with Poite that Cheika wasn't invited to.
Under World Rugby regulations, coaches can meet referees before a match only if there are representatives from both teams present, or if one side declines the opportunity.
A similar controversy occurred during June's three-Test series after England coach Eddie Jones also met Poite in Brisbane without an invitation being extended to the Australians.
Referring to the attitudes off the match officials, Cheika said Welsh referee Nigel Owens also took a certain stance into tests Australia were involved in, and the Wallabies coach has previously complained to referees' boss Alain Rolland about that treatment, plus that of French referee Poite.
Cheika could be seen using what appeared to be foul language in the coaches' box following a late decision by Poite at Westpac Stadium, and he didn't hold back when asked about the referee afterwards.
"Well, I was bitterly disappointed, to be honest," Cheika said. "I'm on record with the referees' boss Alain Rolland about the treatment to our captain and our players, by Romain Poite, and also by Nigel Owens over this last year.
"I'm not quite sure why, but there was a time in the game [tonight] in a break in play when the national captain of Australia [Moore] was asking the referee, 'when might there be an opportunity for me to talk to you?' And he absolutely ignored him. He's got the whistle, I understand, but there's a place where the captain has an opportunity to speak to the referee.
"The referee may not like the captain personally, that might be his prerogative, but he has to afford him that opportunity if he is affording it to his opponents. I think that attitude followed right through. David Pocock was being called off by the [assistant] referee for an HIA [head injury assessment] and the referee wouldn't stop the game. The players almost went straight through the doctor, even though he was requested by the players to stop so the player could go off.
"I don't know if it's subconscious or not, but it's there and it's got to be dealt with because it can't be that the opponents can say everything to the referee. No one is saying anything bad to him but if they've got pre-determined attitudes towards our players... I asked Alain Rolland last week when I saw him in Sydney and he said, 'no, that's a surprise to me'. But it's pretty blatant to anyone listening to the 'refs' ears'."
Asked about the treatment given him by Poite, hooker Moore, who had blood running down his face from an accidental kick during the hard-fought test, said: "I think Cheik has pretty much said it all. I think It's probably better if I leave what Cheik has said there."
The All Blacks could come under the spotlight themselves after prop Owen Franks appeared to make contact with the eye region of Wallabies lock Kane Douglas in the first half. "I'm sure the match reviewer will pick it up," Cheika said. "They can't miss it. It was pretty out in the open."
Franks could face a sanction once the match is reviewed by Sanzaar officials, and it remains to be seen whether the organisation take action against the Australia coach for his comments. Cheika, on a suspended sentence last year following his actions in bursting into the referees' room at halftime as coach of the Waratahs in a match against the Blues in Sydney, could face a sanction of his own.