14 May 2018

Some TMO consistency, please

7:52 pm on 14 May 2018

Who would've thought that the Crusaders against the Waratahs would end up being the most interesting game of Super Rugby so far in 2018?

Joe Moody of the Crusaders try during the Super Rugby match, Crusaders V Waratahs, AMI Stadium, Christchurch, New Zealand, 12th May 2018

Joe Moody scores after a dubious non-call from the TMO Photo: Photosport NZ

Thanks to Israel Folau, plenty of eyes were on the fixture as it was his first game on this side of the Tasman since turning into the poster boy for a return to Old Testament values.

For a while though, it was refreshing to be reminded of what an incredibly talented rugby player he is. Folau's efforts helped his side jump out to an unbelievable 29-0 lead over the defending champions, despite the PA system doing its best to unsettle him by repeatedly playing 'YMCA' by The Village People.

However, perhaps the Waratahs' biggest mistake was to give the Crusaders a whole hour to peg back the lead. They did so in stunning fashion, but now all anyone can talk about is the lead up to one of the tries in the comeback.

Crusaders prop Joe Moody has been suspended for two weeks for that forearm to the throat of Kurtley Beale, which took the Waratahs midfielder out of the play. Richie Mo'unga then turned the ball inside to a now wide open Moody to score under the posts to add to the ultimately successful comeback.

That two-week ban has been cut from four given Moody's previous good disciplinary record, but for the more cynical, it seems to be to ensure he's available to play for the All Blacks for their test series against France.

There are a few things to unpack when dealing with this clearly blatant bit of rule-bending.

It definitely should've been a penalty against Moody, but Beale doesn't really deserve a lot of sympathy because he was cheating too. Had Moody not lifted his arm and struck him, it would've warranted a penalty the other way because Beale had run a perfect defensive obstruction play. But referee Ben O'Keeffe was unsighted, which is excusable because he would've had his eyes on Mo'unga and the situation a few metres away.

So where exactly was the TMO in all of this? For consistency's sake, he missed big time on this one. Time and again we've seen seemingly straightforward tries get rubbed out for an offence upfield, which have only been brought to the ref's attention by a TMO checking a replay of what just happened.

Take, for example, Vince Aso's sublime non-try against the Sunwolves a couple of weekends ago. It should be being held up as a contender for try of the season, but it was disallowed due to a ruck infringement spotted by the TMO on halfway.

There was some serious blowback from fans and media after the persistent intrusion of the TMO on that fixture - could it be that the lax attitude we saw on the weekend was in response to that?

If so, that makes no sense. All you can ask of a refereeing crew is consistency, and that should be across the whole season. On Friday night, in the game between the Blues and Hurricanes, we saw a very liberal application of the head-high tackle law, with Toby Smith and Augustine Pulu both not given yellow cards for standard high shots.

This was despite a supposed crack down at the start of the season that saw a game between the Chiefs and Crusaders decided by a 50-50 head-high call.

Whatever the situation is with the refs, it's not like they're going to have to stop making these sorts of calls. Rugby union, whether you like it or not, is a game that is won and lost by pushing the laws to their limit. Basically, cheating is an intrinsic part of it and any decent coach will be drilling that fact into their player's head from an early age.

Former Wallaby lock Stephen Hoiles' response to the Moody-Beale incident said it best. In his opinion, the Australians needed to start cheating better if they were to compete with the New Zealand sides. Pragmatic, because the Aussies are currently on a 38-game losing streak to the New Zealand sides in Super Rugby.

They should heed his advice, because playing by the rules clearly hasn't worked. And the way the refs are ruling it, living outside the law probably will.