Michael Cheika hit out at the “ludicrous” decision not to punish Owen Farrell with a penalty try for a shoulder charge on Australia lock Izack Rodda, with the Wallabies head coach furious at referee Jaco Peyper’s justification for not referring it to the TMO.
The first half of England’s 37-18 victory over Australia ended in controversial scenes as Farrell hit Rodda with a shoulder-first tackle similar to the one that caused so much outcry in the victory over South Africa at the start of the month. The fly-half stopped Rodda on the England try line with what appeared to be a shoulder charge, which mirrored his tackle on Springboks replacement Andre Esterhuizen three weeks ago.
On that occasion, Farrell went unpunished after a TMO review deemed it legal, but this time around South African referee Peyper did not even refer it, instead explaining to Wallabies captain Michael Hooper that it was a fair challenge because Rodda also lowered his shoulder for the contact.
“The justification that Rodda tried to take him on with his shoulder is ludicrous,” raged Cheika after Australia’s sixth consecutive defeat against England. “That’s what the referee said. That’s what you do when you carry the ball.”
Cheika was among the coaches who attended a World Rugby referees’ meeting at the start of the autumn test window, and he revealed that Farrell’s previous tackle on Esterhuizen, which was allowed by Australian referee Angus Gardner, was brought up for referral.
“I went to the referees’ meeting they had here in the first week before the Wales game, and they referred back to the Owen Farrell tackle against South Africa,” Cheika added. “The referees left Angus Gardiner out to dry by saying that that should have been a penalty in front of all the coaches. And if that’s a penalty, this is three penalties.”
Cheika’s mood will not improve when he re-watches the match given that Sky pundits Sir Clive Woodward, Will Greenwood and Michael Lynagh all agreed that it should have been a penalty try, with Farrell also at risk of seeing yellow.
England coach Eddie Jones continued his policy of not discussing decisions made by officials though, adding: “I just accept whatever decision the TMO makes and that is the end of it. We have had some good decisions, we have had some bad decisions, we just accept them.”
But Cheika was in no mood to accept the decisions.
“We had three tries disallowed and not one sent for referral,” he added. “Maybe we need to move Australia to the Northern Hemisphere.”
The incident proved a turning point in the match as although a resulting Matt Toomua penalty for offside sent the teams in level, England scored 24 unanswered points after the break to pull away before a late Israel Folau consolation.
But it was not the only decision that frustrated the Wallabies coach, with Dane Haylett-Petty’s disallowed try for a forward pass and a similar call on Hooper late on also gaining his attention.
“There’s still 40 minutes of the game to play which we can manage and control,” Cheika said, “and we didn’t do that. I thought we kicked the ball way too much. We did score two other tries as well but whenever it went back to some type of referral … look, England won the first one that he said was a forward pass. He’s (Peyper) now supposed to say ‘is it a try, yes or no?’ That’s the way that this season with the TMO is being managed here in the northern hemisphere; the first time we’ve been playing with it.
“None of that happened. The ball went out of his hands backwards, as did Hooper’s one. It goes backwards out of his hands and goes forward. They’re the rules – I don’t think they’re the right rules but they’re the rules – and they didn’t even stop to look at them.”
It ended an autumn campaign for England that has been largely positive results-wise, with three wins and a one-point defeat by the All Blacks giving Jones plenty to work with ahead of next February’s Six Nations.
But it could have been a very different story given that England were once again off the pace in the first half as they were last weekend against Japan, though the England coach was keen to praise the country of his birth for that.
“We knew Australia would be tough today, they have had a tough year and all the shenanigans off the field generally brings a side together, so they were always going to be at their best,” he said. “First half we had opportunities to get bit further ahead than we were, we missed those, allowed them back into the game and they got a bit of confidence.
“Second half we were able to regroup, play in a real English way and I was really pleased with that.”
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