New Zealand referees' boss Bryce Lawrence has confirmed the decision to yellow card Jordie Barrett and award a penalty try after the Hurricanes' player's attempted intercept against the Blues was ruled a deliberate knock-on was the correct call under World Rugby's laws.
With the game in Wellington last night in the balance at 17-15 in favour of the Blues, and the Hurricanes already playing with 13 men following the red card to prop Tyrel Lomax and yellow card to loose forward Vaea Fifita, referee Mike Fraser made the dramatic 73rd-minute decision much to the displeasure of the local crowd. The seven points allowed the Blues to hold on for an historic 24-15 victory.
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"What a joke," injured Hurricanes and All Blacks loose forward Ardie Savea tweeted – either at Fraser's decision or the overall state his team were in.
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The Blues' first away win over a New Zealand team since February 2013 continued their good recent form but it left a sour taste for many of a yellow and black persuasion already unhappy about Lomax's dismissal for his shoulder to the head of Stephen Perofeta and Fifita's yellow card for a shoulder charge on James Parsons. Both of those decisions also appeared clear-cut according to the game's laws.
However, Lawrence told Radio Sport's Jim Kayes this morning that the law was clear around the Barrett decision.
"It's very clear the way referees rule that incident with Jordie and it's all about risk and reward," Lawrence said. "This is driven from World Rugby down, it's not something we just make up in New Zealand. If a player is attempting to catch the ball or intercept the ball, they have to be able to either intercept it, or if they knock it on like Jordie did, he has to be able to re-gather the ball.
"He's allowed to try for the intercept but I think from memory from watching it, he didn't catch it and he didn't knock it up in a bid to re-gather it, in fact the ball landed… five-plus metres in front of him, so therefore it's deemed a deliberate knock-on.
"It's deemed a penalty, and if it prevents an overlap, like it did, then it's a penalty and a yellow card, and if it prevents a probable try, which it did then it's a penalty try and a yellow card. If you award a penalty try against a player, the law says that player must also be yellow carded."
Asked about how knowledgeable players were in terms of rugby's often complicated laws, Lawrence said: "In some cases very, very, very good. In some cases they're absolute experts because they're highly professional and detailed and know that if they know the rules they can play the game right to the edge. People used to be critical of Richie [McCaw] – [but] Richie used to be an absolute expert of his craft, knew his position and knew what he was allowed to do.
"[In other cases] fairly average - where if you gave them a 50-question law exam they might get 50 per cent. And I've seen the whole range."