Just as the players were a bit rusty in the first match of the Super Rugby season, the same went for the referees.
It didn’t take long for controversy with the officials to stir up once more, with the competition-opener between the Chiefs and Highlanders in Hamilton on Friday night the centre of a major talking point.
CHIEFS V HIGHLANDERS, 67TH MINUTE – SIO TOMKINSON RED CARD
Referee Glen Jackson sent the Highlanders replacement midfielder from the park for his tackle on Chiefs co-captain Brodie Retallick.
As much as World Rugby are clamping down on high tackles and contact with the head, it was the wrong call. A yellow card would have been the right option.
You can expect the phone of Bryce Lawrence – New Zealand Rugby national referee manager – was ringing the following day with Super Rugby game manager Lyndon Bray on the line, in a process which takes place when Sanzaar feel notable errors have been made.
Then in Lawrence’s debrief with Jackson, you suspect the Kiwi whistleblower would have acknowledged he’d liked his time over again, perhaps with a nod to taking in another replay of the incident at full speed.
That is because, with all the slow motion angles, it makes it tough to adjudicate on a key factor in the decision-making process: ‘force’.
Firstly, a reminder on World Rugby’s two new categories of dangerous tackles, which came in two years back:
A player is deemed to have made reckless contact during a tackle or attempted tackle or during other phases of the game if in making contact, the player knew or should have known that there was a risk of making contact with the head of an opponent, but did so anyway. This sanction applies even if the tackle starts below the line of the shoulders.
Minimum sanction: Yellow card
Maximum sanction: Red card
When making contact with another player during a tackle or attempted tackle or during other phases of the game, if a player makes accidental contact with an opponent’s head, either directly or where the contact starts below the line of the shoulders, the player may still be sanctioned. This includes situations where the ball-carrier slips into the tackle.
Minimum sanction: Penalty