Dickinson replays his straight-to-video role

Australian Television Match Official has made a contentious call before
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The Independent Online

Two refereeing decisions which went the way of South Africa in Pretoria were crucial in edging the British and Irish Lions to a series defeat, and each re-ignited the fierce debate over how best to use video evidence.

When Schalk Burger's fingers were spotted clawing at the Lions wing Luke Fitzgerald's face in the first minute, there was no recourse to replays – they are available to the television match official (TMO) only for the act of scoring a try or kicking at goal – so it was up to the referee, Christophe Berdos, to rule on the advice of the assistant referee Bryce Lawrence. "I could see clearly fingers in the eye area," said Lawrence. "No 6 green... I think it's at least a yellow card." Gouging in or around the eye is considered one of rugby's most heinous offences and routinely carries a ban of several months, if proven. Berdos settled for giving Burger 10 minutes in the sin-bin. Had the blond flanker been sent off it would have given a clear advantage to the Lions, who went 10-0 up during his absence.

Asked if it should have been a red card, the Lions head coach, Ian McGeechan, said: "You'll have heard the conversation between referee and touch judge and I think there's no doubt the citing officer will be taking it on from there. It's not up to me to judge, but we've all seen it."

Berdos did have the replay recourse when Jaque Fourie dived into the right-hand corner for the match-turning try. In an extraordinary echo of the 2007 World Cup final, won by South Africa in Paris, it was again the Australian referee Stuart Dickinson who was the TMO. Berdos asked: "Try or no try?" which is one of the two permitted questions – the other, "Is there any reason why I can't award the try?" was quoted in error by British TV commentators yesterday.

In Paris, Dickinson judged that Danie Rossouw had forced England's Mark Cueto to put a foot in touch, despite the Sale wing being "100 per cent certain" he had scored. In Pretoria, with Mike Phillips playing the part of Roussow while Fourie was in Cueto's boots, the Sydneysider saw no foot in touch – at least, not Fourie's. However, Dickinson proved there will always be confusion when he advised Berdos: "The 20, blue... his foot goes into touch." He can only have meant the Springbok No 20, Heinrich Brüssow – who was, of course, wearing green.