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Talking Point: Supporters deserve greater clarity in the stadium than a one-and-done replay

The decision not to show further angles of Richie Mo’unga’s shoulder to Bundee Aki’s jaw was baffling

Television match official Tom Foley was the only person in the Stade de France who was able to adjudicate whether New Zealand outhalf Richie Mo’unga’s shoulder contacted the jaw of Ireland centre Bundee Aki in the 24th minute of the World Cup quarter-final at the Stade de France.

Referee Wayne Barnes didn’t see the incident or at least didn’t initially whistle – this goes back to a wider debate on whether referees are officiating by consensus – and assistant referee Christophe Ridley, who was no more than a few metres away, did draw Barnes’s attention, or at least appeared to do so.

Aki hit the deck and in real time it looked worthy of review. The stadium was afforded one replay on the big screen and in the slow-motion replay, it appeared that the Mo’unga, tucked his arm, led with the shoulder and made contact to the jaw. Foley ruled that it was a penalty. Presumably he had more angles.

The utterly frustrating thing for everyone in the stadium and what provides legs for the conspiracy theorists is that World Rugby’s coverage in stadiums remains shockingly poor. There is no point in them saying that two thousand other angles were available to the TMO when everyone who has paid money to attend the game is short-changed.


This one and done replay in the stadium is very unsatisfactory and it does nothing to protect the integrity of the officials and offer support to endorse their decisions. If Foley had a replay that proves conclusively that Mo’unga made legitimate contact with Aki, then why not show it?

That’s not to cast any aspersions on his decision because he must have had the evidence to rule it a penalty only. Providing clarity, or at least as much as is possible when there’s a scintilla of doubt, treats supporters with the respect they deserve, when the technology is available.

Ireland probably had more legitimate claims to quibble with the officiating at the breakdown where Barnes allowed the All Blacks a large degree of latitude when it came to what way they exited the breakdown, generally on the Irish side, a perfect way to slow down ball.

In fairness to New Zealand, they played the referee, understood that Barnes was officiating the breakdown in a certain fashion and reacted accordingly. That’s smart play. The English official also took a view of Ireland’s scrum position and twice penalised them, again a case of the All Blacks presenting the right picture to an official.

It’s just a pity that the supporters weren’t afforded the same pristine image. Ireland, too, got some breaks in terms of the refereeing, with New Zealand twice reduced to 14-players, scrumhalf Aaron Smith’s one-handed, fingertip deflection of an inside pass costing him 10 minutes and then Codie Taylor received his enforced sabbatical for bringing down an Irish lineout maul.

The double whammy punishment of a penalty try, and a yellow card always seems disproportionate in the circumstances. The seminal performer though and the man who won the match for New Zealand was centre Jordie Barrett in the space of about five minutes.

He missed a penalty, kicked a penalty and then somehow got under Ireland’s replacement hooker Ronan Kelleher to deny Ireland what would probably have been a match-defining moment.

There was just time for Rieko Ioane to behave like a child. Put his fingers on his lips at the final whistle. It was a small-minded gesture and at odds with a brilliant New Zealand victory.

John O'Sullivan

John O'Sullivan

John O'Sullivan is an Irish Times sports writer