Wallabies vs All Blacks: Bledisloe referee disgrace shows ‘rugby will die’

There is only one thing in life worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.

The diabolical end to the Wallabies’ heartbreaking Bledisloe Cup defeat to the All Blacks on Thursday night has again exposed rugby’s perilous position in Australia.

The Wallabies were brave in the 39-37 thriller at Marvel Stadium in Melbourne but the result came down to a single call in the final minute of the match. That is what will be remembered.

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The Aussies showed mountains of heart to come back and hit the lead in the 77th minute.

It should have been enough for a famous win when the Aussies were handed a penalty with a minute left.

But referee Mathieu Raynal shocked everyone in the stadium when he called Bernard Foley for a delayed game, giving the All Blacks a 5m scrum.

It means New Zealand has retained the famous trophy for the 20th straight year.

Many rugby commentators are absolutely seething about the decision, but the farce has shown something much worse — casual observers rolling their eyes and giving up on the sport.

It emerged after the game that just 39 seconds of game time had elapsed, excluding when time off was called. There were at least two occasions earlier in the match when more time elapsed in between penalties and kicks being taken.

The referee robbery prompted a flood of reaction on social media from high profile Aussie figures on Thursday night, with suggestions the rules and stagnant contest are continuing to create a divide between the code and sporting fans outside of the sport’s traditional fan base.

Former treasurer and Australian ambassador to the United States Joe Hockey wrote on Twitter: “Rugby will die if we keep refereeing games like the #wallabies and #allblacks game tonight.

“We cannot have the referees as the centre of attention. The rules and referees are not bigger than the game.”

The Australian’s Brent Read posted on Twitter: “Flicked the rugby back on for the last minute. Rugby league types reckon we have refereeing issues. We got nothing on union. That was a debacle.

“Okay, that’s enough. I have changed channel. I’ll see you again in another 10 years. All the best my rugby union friends.”

Veteran rugby journalist Iain Payten wrote: “Technically correct and utterly absurd. Bledisloe chaos sums up rugby’s refereeing problem”.

Aussie golf commentator Luke Elvy wrote “referees plague rugby”.

SBS’ John Baldock wrote: “I thought VAR was ruining football. But the Bledisloe ref tonight literally ripped out the win from Wallabies hands and handed the All Blacks yet another Cup. #CRUEL and #UNUSUAL punishment”.

Veteran political reporter Paul Bongiorno posted: “there is no hope for the utterly, stupidly complex rules of rugby union”.

Robbery was something rugby greats had never seen before

Wallabies coach Dave Rennie said after the game he will demand answers from SANZAAR for why the penalty was called.

Rennie was left seething, saying he had never seen a decision like it.

“I’m gutted for our men because I reckon we deserve better,” Rennie said.

“It was a helluva game of footy.

“We had a couple of yellow cards and found ourselves down 31-13, so to fight back and get ourselves in front showed a lot of character and it was a disappointing way to lose it.

“I don’t know … it lacks a bit of feel for such an important moment in the game and you would have thought kick it out and play out the last couple of minutes.”

Wallabies legend Tim Horan raged: “That is a ridiculous call from the referee. Bernard Foley was waiting to kick the ball out.

“It was crazy. In 20 years of commentating, I thought it was a disgraceful decision by the referee and I thought he cracked under pressure.

“I reckon you could have another 15 referees, big referees of world rugby, that would have taken that calmly and wouldn’t have got awed by the experience. 90 seconds left in the game and he cracked under pressure in one of the biggest games here in Australia.

“It was disgraceful decision and world rugby need to look at it.”

Horan said he believed Raynal had a good game as referee but that he cracked under pressure in the last 90 seconds.

Wallabies legend Matt Giteau was heartbroken.

“A super contest arguably ruined by that last call. I can’t believe that. congrats @AllBlacks & @wallabies on an unreal game! Such a cruel ending,” he posted.

All Blacks coach’s extraordinary reaction

All Blacks coach Ian Foster, who was celebrating just his fourth win from eight Tests this season after losing consecutive matches to finish last year, however took a different view, describing the incident as “clear cut”.

“I thought it was very clear cut,” Foster told reporters in his post-match press conference.

“They were delaying the kick. He said time off.

“He warned him then he said time off and then he said to speed up then he said time on. Then he asked him twice to kick it.

“I understand there is a contentious nature about it but it was very clear cut from the opposition.

“The other one that wasn’t clear cut was when (Andrew) Kellaway and the TMO wanted to look at what was a very suspicious forward pass and yet the conversion was allowed to be taken.”

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