Cape Town - Former Springbok coach Nick Mallett says Australian referee Nic Berry missed a vital infringement late in the Super Rugby semi-final between the Crusaders and Hurricanes in Christchurch over the weekend.
The incident occurred when Crusaders captain and lock Sam Whitelock knocked ball out of Hurricanes scrumhalf TJ Perenara's hands.
The 'Canes, trailing 30-26, were hot on the attack for the winning score when the Australian referee deemed that Perenara had knocked the ball on.
The All Black scrumhalf was furious and television cameras afterwards depicted how Whitelock had dislodged the ball from his grasp.
Speaking in the SuperSport studio afterwards, Mallett noted: "There is a Hurricanes player (Whitelock) over the ruck so a ruck is formed. As TJ Perenara's picks up the ball, one of Sam Whitelock's hands goes in there and just knocks the ball out of Perenara's hands as he's about to pick it up.
"It's an instantaneous, and very clever, thing to do. I also thought that sort of action is down to brilliant coaching. It's just being street-smart in a vital period of the game because the momentum was 100% with the Hurricanes in those last four minutes. You had that feeling that they were going to get over the line.
"What Whitelock did was up to the referee to spot because the TMO (television match official) can only come in for an act of foul play and that doesn't justify itself as foul play. So it was just something that was missed by the referee and I imagine that the Crusaders are delighted that he did."
Game in the balance.— Runningflyhalf (@Runningflyhalf) June 29, 2019
Impossible for the on-field ref to see everything.
TMO would have seen this on the replay.
Absolutely crazy that the TMO isn’t allowed or supposed to tell the on-field ref to correct the call. pic.twitter.com/Z0G7PGW49U