Super Rugby referees’ boss backs Dickinson’s decision

2011-06-01 00:00

AUCKLAND — Super Rugby referees’ boss Lyndon Bray said he is “quite comfortable” with Stuart Dickinson’s explanation of the penalty that ultimately cost the Crusaders their match against the Reds in Brisbane.

Australian referee Dickinson penalised Crusaders skipper Richie McCaw for hands in a ruck in the last minute of the match, resulting in the Reds kicking for goal for the crucial 17-16 win on Sunday.

Debate has raged ever since and Bray, after reviewing the incident and the entire performance of Dickinson and his refereeing team, was happy to front on the issue.

“I’m loathe to criticise the actual decision. We have discussed what else you could have done with that particular scenario and I’m quite comfortable with Stuart’s explanation from a technical view,” Bray said.

While there may have been other options available, the key was that Dickinson had made his position clear by warning the Crusaders not to touch the ball, leaving him with no alternative but to award a penalty when McCaw made his move.

“Stuart quite clearly says don’t touch it. I know it is very, very tough for a player to hear that with the crowd going off. But he is earmarking that it is a ruck. By saying it, you are pretty clear where you are going to go,” said Bray.

Bray said the “other options” available to Dickinson would have been to “say scrum, unplayable, and you’d have to say that very quickly, or you might even play on and we’d be debating if that was correct too”.

Bray said the complexities of rugby are part of its beauty. The debate that is going on is also being aired in refereeing circles.

“From a rugby point of view, if you can back out of the emotion of it, it’s quite a complex decision. It’s not that easy to come out and say was it right or wrong.

“The issue that we have there is that clearly a ruck has formed and the question you have to ask when that ruck collapses is whether the ball was out and in a position where a player could pick it up and play with it. That’s the debate we have had this morning. It’s really hard to criticise the referee on a technical level,” Bray added.

Bray watched the match on TV and knew the penalty was “a big call”. But that’s what the referees were there to do — make decisions.

It was a decision the referee knew would come under review because of “the magnitude of it”.

Bray said the review of the refereeing performance was taken on a “big picture” level and then in “more detail”.

The big picture revealed a Test match-like game with all the associated intensity. The players had done a good job of staying on their feet and the relatively low penalty count (12-4 in favour of the Reds) reflected that.

The detail suggested there were “four or five” decisions Dickinson and his assistants could have got “a bit better”.

Bray said the lead-up to the fateful final penalty revealed a knock-on back towards the halfway line that had been missed. Part of the blame with that lay with the assistant referee on that side of the field.

He believed the 73rd-minute scrum decision that led to a Crusaders penalty goal was correct.

Bray said little should be read into Dickinson being an assistant referee this weekend. That appointment, along with those for the following two rounds, had been made before this review and hadn’t been altered in the run-up to his controversial Brisbane performance.

“I think if you look at Stu’s last three or four games he has actually refereed very, very well. This game I think he performed pretty well in the environment. I accept there was some inaccuracy with the detail and I think he would too. So I don’t see any premise to drop him because of this performance. I think that would be very unfair,” said Bray.

The Reds remain top of the Australian Conference and the overall table, while the Crusaders still trail the Blues in the New Zealand Conference and now have their chances of a home semi-final in jeopardy.

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