Here's why I have the yips when reaching for the TV remote to watch another Super Rugby game after last Friday night.

Championing the tribal blue, gold and burgundy colours of the Highlanders has, perhaps, something to do with that.

That is, the dough simply didn't rise for me at the Cake Tin in Wellington, never mind trying to digest how the Hurricanes had somehow, undeservedly, snuck home 25-22 with the last roll of a loaded dice in a shambolic game.

It didn't help that, in a post-match interview at the stadium, Highlanders captain Ben Smith became the ultimate diplomat when asked if the penalty count had a destabilising effect on his troops and, eventually, the outcome of the game.

Advertisement

Highlanders assistant coach Mark Hammett, a deposed Hurricanes mentor, also joined the Deep South diplomatic corps on Tuesday with the usual dribble about how the lads had done well and how tough it was to swallow the defeat.

Frankly it's nauseating although, according to an Otago Daily Times report, the breakdown play was fierce at times but Hammett felt the Highlanders were left scratching their heads at what referee Damon Murphy and his assistants had let through.

I presume he also was alluding to No 8 Ardie Savea picking up the ball from a Josh Dickson placement in a ruck inside the Canes' 22m line moments before Jordie Barrett butchered his pass in the 76th minute.

For me, the most glaring issue, alongside the casualties, was how the Highlanders dismantled the Hurricanes' scrum, almost at will but, somehow, fell foul of Murphy's Law.

But you see, as much as the adage — that anything that can go wrong, will go wrong and, invariably, did — can apply here it still requires closure.

It goes way beyond the Australian whistle blower finding a gimme penalty, which Beauden Barrett duly converted in front of the sticks and would have done so any other day while sleep walking, that proved to be the difference.

That 81st-minute incident also had a question mark on TJ Perenara forming a ruck, placing the ball but quickly grabbing it again as a Highlander, carrying his own weight, scrummaged for possession to fall foul of the hand-in-the-ruck penalty.

The grin Barrett was sporting spoke volumes.

Its No 8 Ardie Savea to the the rescue of another rickety Hurricanes scrum in their Super Rugby match against the Highlanders at the Cake Tin in Wellington last Friday. Photo/Photosport
Its No 8 Ardie Savea to the the rescue of another rickety Hurricanes scrum in their Super Rugby match against the Highlanders at the Cake Tin in Wellington last Friday. Photo/Photosport

Please explain Murphy, how does a team who are turning the opposition's pack into paua patties suddenly want to start collapsing a scrum?

Having correctly penalised the Hurricanes for employing illegal tactics in trying to gain parity — forget ascendancy — for the best part of the game, Murphy finished off pinging the Highlanders with a rash of penalties towards the end.

Packing down to defend their line almost 10m out of their tryline after 10 minutes from the kick off, the back-pedalling hosts just disintegrated with Savea scooping the ball in desperation only to have Highlanders fox terrier Aaron Smith demobilising him.

The rampant Highlanders' forwards just trampled on to enable Smith to score a try.

It's the sort of stuff the All Blacks used to do to Fiji in the yesteryear.

Yes, it was embarrassing for the Hurricanes despite the statistics showing they matched the Highlanders in the scrum — 100 per cent (7/7) to the latter's 9/9.

Whatever the numerical mumbo jumbo, it's hard to go past the Highlanders conceding 12 penalties to the Canes' nine.

It's too simplistic to play the ill-discipline card here although this is what envoy Hammett had to say: "It was a hell of an effort and we were pretty ruthless all night ... but we probably just did not put them right out of the game when we were eight points up and they were good enough to stay in it and come back."

Sure a testosterone-fuelled Hurricanes midfielder Ngani Laumape was thumping his chest to catch the selectors' eye before the Rugby World Cup in Japan later this year.

But my preoccupation was with Highlanders replacement prop Dan Lienert-Brown's questions and expression of despair when Murphy started blowing in the front row's face.

Were Lienert-Brown and replacement hooker Ash Dixon that bad after warhorse Liam Coltman had raked admirably with young Ayden Johnstone and Tyrel Lomax propping him up?

Well, Murphy, you just killed what could have been a memorable spectacle that Super Rugby desperately needs.

"Maybe they [Highlanders front row] were pushing too early," a golfing mate suggested in the ref's defence.

Bashing referees isn't my style but that should never get in the way of scrutinising decisions that defy logic.

Of course, officials make mistakes, akin to players, but over and over when common sense says victory is around the corner.

Highlanders replacement winger Waisake Naholo finds the arms of two Hurricanes tacklers giving him little room to breathe. One wonders where those tackles started? Photo/Photosport
Highlanders replacement winger Waisake Naholo finds the arms of two Hurricanes tacklers giving him little room to breathe. One wonders where those tackles started? Photo/Photosport

I'm afraid reckless and dangerous play also put refs under the microscope.

Hurricanes replacement prop Alex Fidow's head-high tackle on second five-eighth Thomas Umaga-Jensen didn't even warrant a yellow card in the officials' perception.

A wobbly Umaga-Jensen, favouring his neck, not surprisingly, didn't return.

First five-eighth Josh Ioane and lock Pari Pari Parkinson followed suit after blows to the noggin.

Hammett reportedly said Fidow's tackle did not concern him because it had started at a legal point of contact.

Seriously? It's pointless bringing up Hurricanes flanker Vaea Fifita's intentional slap-down early in the second half, just as it is with marshalling offside play and, for that matter, the Crusaders' unchecked forward passes or illegal tackles.

Ironically, the Chiefs' demise has to accept part of the blame as a distraction.