All Black centre Sonny Bill Williams was sent off early in the Lions’ famous second Test victory in Wellington last Saturday.
The 31-year-old led with his shoulder into a tackle on Anthony Watson and left referee Jerome Garces little option but to dismiss him. The official was widely praised for his decision with many remarking those around him were trying to suggest only brandishing yellow.
However, later in the game, a not dissimilar incident involving Mako Vunipola and Beauden Barrett saw the Englishman only sent to the bin. Furthermore, Lions flanker Sean O’Brien was cleared by a citing commission this week despite what the New Zealand camp saw as compelling evidence.
Kiwi coach Steve Hansen has been speaking about the quality of the officiating on the Tour and seems none too pleased with the decisions that have gone against his side.
“It’s a hell of a job for them to ref because there’s so much happening.
“Last Saturday was a pertinent example. No problem with the red card (for Williams). You have a guy (Vunipola) who did something he shouldn’t have done, but because he didn’t hit him (Barrett) in the head he wasn’t red carded. We all know what he was trying to do, but you can’t deal with that.”
The 58-year-old continued:
“Then you have a situation where a guy (O’Brien) later gets cited, and we don’t know why he got off. That’s not good for the game…those things should be automatic.”
Hansen also bemoaned the decisions at the breakdown, an area where fans have often felt the AB’s have had an easy time of it. Kickable penalties allowed the Tourists to keep in touch on Saturday before two late tries turned the game on its head.
“I will get into trouble for saying this, but the referees need help because they can’t do what we’re asking them to do, and then they become overly influential in a game.
“If you have a tight game and it becomes a major factor, you as a fan, you as a journalist, me as a coach, me as a fan, become frustrated by that – and it just chips away at the game. Rather than adding to the game it takes a bit away from it.”
Roman Poite will take charge of the series-deciding third Test on Saturday with the Lions knowing if they can repeat last week’s heroics and topple the world champions, they’ll create history. Warren Gatland named an unchanged side for the clash while Hansen named Julian Savea and Jordie Barrett in his XV as he looks to avoid a humiliating series defeat.