All the action as the Highlanders hosted the Reds at Forsyth Barr Stadium in their Super Rugby clash.

Every step of the Sio Tomkinson red card case has been perplexing.

In real time, his collision with Brodie Retallick didn't seem unusual and the minimal slow-motion footage didn't alter that view.

But with the star All Black prone on the pitch then taken off, the rookie Highlanders' centre was shown his exit card from experienced referee Glen Jackson for using his shoulder to the head of the Chiefs lock.


After a long delay, that decision has been overturned by a judicial committee who said the contact was shoulder to shoulder without any breach of the laws. Reaction to the unsatisfactory episode has been muted, perhaps because the Highlanders got up to win.

But consider this: Had the roles been reversed in a crucial World Cup playoff match and Retallick had clocked Tomkinson, all hell would have broken loose.

Everyone from the referee and television match official (TMO) to a judicial committee eventually reaching a not guilty decision would have been raked over in a constant stream of headline stories and criticism.

If the All Blacks had been beaten, which happens regularly when a side is a man down, the blame game and howls of protest would have soared when the decision was overturned.

But in rookie Tomkinson's case there was hardly a ripple even though the delayed hearing probably cost him a place in the Highlanders' group to play the Reds tonight in Dunedin.

Foul play deserves punishment with either a sinbin or red card but when there is enough doubt, referees need to be conservative in their judgment.