A shade after 10.30pm our time on Saturday night, what was already shaping as a difficult outing for the All Blacks got a whole lot worse. Under pressure on their own goal-line in the dying moments of the first half referee Jerome Garces saw something he wanted to see again, and the replays weren’t good. With his arm tucked against his body, Scott Barrett’s right shoulder connected with the head of Michael Hooper, and Garces had little hesitation in sending the lock from the field.
If Garces’ process of explaining his decision sounded familiar, it was. It was almost word for word the same as when he dismissed Sonny Bill Williams in the second test against the Lions two years ago.
Down to 14 against an inspired Wallabies side there was no coming back. A moment in time that defined the match.
Predictably there’s been the outcry that the game has “gone soft”, that it wasn’t a red card, that since Hooper played on there was nothing to it etc. It’s no secret that World Rugby is taking the problem of concussions in the game seriously (even if the latest idea from some quarters to limit tackling below the hips is barking mad), and issued its latest directive on the matter only weeks ago.
— Scott (@MadMaclegend) August 10, 2019
Under that, it’s a starting point of red. The only mitigating factor was Hooper’s own position, but given Barrett is himself diving in it becomes pretty moot. If Garces was 100% correct with the SBW decision, he’s at least 90% on this one.
And besides, what was Barrett thinking diving in there like that anyway?
It is the obvious talking point from the match, but it shouldn’t mask a poor All Black’s performance in the face of an outstanding Australian one. We were beaten up front even when the numbers were even, the dual playmakers idea remains a work in progress, and we’re no closer to knowing what our best loose forward and midfield mixes are. That’s hardly ideal with the World Cup only 160 minutes of rugby away.
The most pressing issue though is turning things around this week, and ensuring that the large piece if silverware doesn’t go missing from the cabinet. But its certain that Scott Barrett won’t be playing in it.
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