Put the pin back in your grenade and read why Australian referee Nic Berry did an outstanding job of handling the blockbuster first Test between the Springboks and British & Irish Lions, according to ZELIM NEL.
This time next week we’ll be at each other’s throats again because of the referee, except the rumpus after the second Test will almost certainly be around the wrongful or inconsistent sending off of players involved in the match.
What got lost in the furore over the decisions of TMO Marius Jonker is that Berry generally reffed the game like it’s supposed to be reffed.
Think about it for a second – we’re upset that players weren’t sent off the field. We’ve waited 12 years for the Lions to come back for another series and now we’d have been happier if some of them had been sent off.
When did we allow our thinking to be warped like this?
Berry kept it a 15-vs-15 contest and his calls were, for the most part, spot on. Remember, if it had been up to Berry alone, Willie’s try would have been awarded.
Regardless of the reasons for his pro-Lions decisions, Jonker’s performance served as a timely reminder that rugby is a game too grey for the surgical examination of TMOs armed with slow-motion replays.
The fact that the debate continues around his decisions only proves the point that rugby was far better off when the referee was the sole arbiter. Did they make bad calls? Sure. But so do TMOs almost every week.
The difference is that fans and spectators used to be able to celebrate or bemoan decisions in the moment, not minutes later after being put through an excruciating decision-making process.
By today’s standards, the tackle on Le Roux probably deserved a yellow card. Back when rugby was run by rational adults, before we started pretending that player safety was the primary objective of the sport, these kinds of tackles resulted in a penalty.
If you watch it again you’ll notice that Le Roux’s rotation is accelerated by Pieter-Steph du Toit pushing the fullback down.
Hamish Watson did not blatantly pile-drive Le Roux’s head into the ground and Berry rightly awarded a penalty and moved on.
This is how rugby is supposed to be officiated. Offenses are sanctioned with penalties and the sin bin is reserved for flagrant acts of foul play (professional or otherwise).
Where Berry was brave in making his calls and ensured that the integrity of the contest was protected, Kiwi ref Ben O’Keeffe isn’t going to hesitate to dip his hand into his pocket in the second Test. We’ll see at least one yellow and probably a red card.
The Boks will win and Lions fans will point out that the result may have been different had a couple of players not been sent off.
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