What chance a referee blunder in this third and final test of a controversial series between the All Blacks and France?

Every chance, as it happens, and now watch as Irishman John Lacey gets roasted around the world for "helping" the All Blacks in another contentious decision.

In a case of it never rains but it pours after two significant referee errors in the first two tests – both of which assisted the All Blacks - Lacey awarded the try to Damian McKenzie from an attacking scrum in the first half despite clearly removing the opportunity for halfback Baptiste Serin to tackle the little All Blacks No10.

It was a basketball-type defensive screen that Steven Adams would have been proud of; the point being that it was so obvious that it's anyone's guess as to how or why Lacey or his three assistants thought it was okay.


For the French it will be irrefutable evidence that the match officials were against them from start to finish after Paul Gabrillagues' wrongly-issued yellow card at Eden Park and the first-half sending off of Benjamin Fall in Wellington – the latter a mistake from whistle-blower Angus Gardner according to World Rugby's disciplinary judiciary.

It's not of course, but that's not to say the officials – Lacey, Australian Gardner and Englishman Luke Pearce – should be let off the hook. They were involved in all three tests as either referee or assistant referees – a team, in other words – but they didn't perform like one.

Television match official George Ayoub – involved throughout – is another who should have his performances looked at because he did little to give his colleagues a clearer picture.

It was fortunate for all that Lacey's lapse was not crucial to the result; the All Blacks' second half performance saw to that.

The French were at their counter-attacking best early but it turned out they were only hanging by a thread and the All Blacks' enthusiasm and ability to create and finish chances were too much for tired bodies and minds after a long Northern Hemisphere season.

First-five McKenzie, under pressure to bounce back from his performance in Wellington, finished on top of the ledger with two well-taken tries, but the rough edges – two intercept passes, a too-long clearance and a short kick-off to start the second half – remain.

Of the debutants, Shannon Frizell's first act with the ball was to run at Morgan Parra which injured the French halfback, Jackson Hemopo got a short run when Frizell was in the blood bin and at the end and Richie Mo'unga ran the final 11 minutes. Centre Jack Goodhue made good decisions in the midfield.

But apart from Rieko Ioane's electric performance on the left wing, perhaps the most impressive shifts were put in by returning second-five Sonny Bill Williams, who created havoc with the ball – often carried in one hand – and covered an enormous amount of ground on defence until he went off with a shoulder injury in the 58th minute.

Flanker Matt Todd was the other who impressed with his workrate when coming on for Ardie Savea after only 16 minutes. Todd was a ball-snaffling, tackle-making and try-scoring force of nature in the No20 jersey.