One Bledisloe Cup match over and the tasty decider to look forward to tomorrow.

Last week's match was a stunner in more ways than one. Not many people would have seen that result and scoreline coming, on this side of the Tasman anyway.

Plenty to talk about after the game, starting with the sending off of Scott Barrett.

I didn't see the dangerous tackle while watching live, but the referee certainly seemed t,o as he blew the whistle almost immediately.


A blast on the whistle while play is still proceeding almost certainly means trouble for someone and it didn't take too many replays to see Barrett and the All Blacks were going to be in deep trouble.

Ever since the dangerous tackle law was amended in 2017 the number of players sent off for the offence has increased dramatically.

This is because there have been very clear guidelines given to referees on what constitutes a dangerous tackle and how they are to deal with the process of deciding what sanction to impose.

The law has been amended to state that tackling above the shoulder is now considered dangerous.

Contact to the neck or head areas should draw an immediate signal from the referee.

If the contact is minor, a referee can play advantage, but doing so from foul play is pretty much a game of Russian roulette.

Referees have been instructed to consider three things in determining what sanction to apply for a dangerous tackle – the initial point of contact, the action (or type of tackle) and the amount of force used.

If only one of these three things is apparent, then a penalty should be applied, with the possibility of a yellow card if the referee considers it warranted.


For example, a player is tackled above the shoulders but the contact is minimal and no real force is applied.

This could happen if the ball carrier tries to sidestep the tackler, who puts an arm out and catches the player around the head with a glancing blow.

Or, the ball carrier slips as he is about to be tackled, and the tackler catches him around the head but without any real force.

A penalty-only sanction would likely be applied, with a warning to the tackler. These are examples of "accidental" dangerous tackles.

If two of the considerations are involved, then at least a yellow card will be pulled out, with the possibility of a red if the actions are considered really dangerous.

If a legal tackle is made but the tackled player is lifted in the air, with the legs above the waist, and then dropped or driven into the ground, a definite yellow card would be invoked because of the action and the amount of force used.

Or a shoulder charge with a lot of force, but no contact to the head would receive the same sanction – a yellow card at least.

When the tackler knew or should have known these tackles are dangerous, they are considered "reckless" and likely to draw a higher sanction.

If all three factors are breached then a red card is a certainty.

This is where Barrett found himself on Saturday. Although the initial point of contact was below the shoulder, Michael Hooper's falling into the tackle meant contact rose above the shoulders and made contact with the head.

Barrett also led with the shoulder without using his arms, and there was a degree of force as well, therefore ticking all three boxes for a "reckless" dangerous tackle.

The fact that the judicial process led to a three-week ban from rugby confirmed the match officials ruling on the issue.

The way I have described the process involved in deciding what sanction to apply now actually happens the other way around in reality.

In dealing with dangerous tackles, referees have been instructed to start with a red card, and then work backwards.

Rather than escalate the sanction as they consider each of the three elements, they start with a red card and eliminate any of the elements that don't apply in the particularly incident under consideration.

The problem with red cards is that they often have a major bearing on the outcome of a match.

A player such as Barrett being sent off early in the match means the All Blacks effectively were deprived of any real chance of competing against the Wallabies.

Even if they had played badly, the Wallabies were unlikely to lose because at test level teams are usually well matched – take one fifteenth of a team away and you have a significant hole to try and fill.

Furthermore, there is a big difference between a player being sent off early in a game and one sent off in the dying minutes, when the outcome of the match might already be settled.

The Aussie spectators were no doubt delighted to get such an unexpected windfall, but Kiwis in the crowd might as well have gone home after the sending off.

Taking away the full spectacle of a major clash of rivals deprives the fans of a true contest, something they have paid good money for.

Maybe rugby should take a leaf out of the book of rugby league rules.

Except in exceptional circumstances of foul play, a player would receive a yellow card, spend ten minutes in the sin-bin, and be put on report instead of being banished for the rest of the game.

The judicial team would then consider the appropriate punishment when meeting after the game.

That way, there would have been a 10 minute consequence for the dangerous tackle that the All Blacks had to endure, but the spectators wouldn't have been robbed of a fair contest and a true test match.

Maybe tomorrow night they will be luckier and get real value for their money.

Let's hope it is also the result we are hoping for too.