Super Rugby Aotearoa: Aaron Smith slammed for 'Hollywood' during Highlanders' loss to Blues

Highlanders co-captain Aaron Smith has been criticised for a 'Hollywood' play that resulted in a disallowed try for the Blues and a penalty for his side during their 32-21 defeat. 

Midway through the first half, with the Highlanders hot on the attack, Smith saw Blues prop Karl Tu'inukuafe lying on the ground and 'tripped' over him. 

Smith dropped the ball, but his team kept possession and two passes later, Blues flanker Dalton Papalii intercepted the ball and ran 75m to put his side in front 17-10 with a conversion to come. 

Referee Mike Fraser awarded the try, but was persuaded to get the television match official (TMO) to review the play. 

The onfield ruling was overturned and the Highlanders kicked a penalty goal for a 13-12 lead. 

Fraser could be heard telling Blues captain Patrick Tuipulotu: "He's [Tu'inukuafe] offside and had an impact, so that's why Aaron lost it."  

Former All Blacks prop, now Sky Sports commentator Wyatt Crockett was furious with the ruling. 

"Aaron's basically pulling a Hollywood to milk his team a penalty, and that's not in the spirit of our game," he says. 

Luckily, the call didn't affect the final result, with the Blues scoring a try through TJ Faiane 90 seconds after the penalty goal and prop Ofa Tuungafasi also crashing over before halftime to give the visitors an unassailable 24-16 lead at the break. 

Dalton Papalii's try was ruled out after Aaron Smith tripped over Karl Tu'inukuafe.
Dalton Papalii's try was ruled out after Aaron Smith tripped over Karl Tu'inukuafe. Photo credit: Photosport

Highlanders coach Aaron Mauger insists the referee "made the right call", but also feels the Blues were deserving winners. 

"It's disappointing, but I thought the Blues earned their win and played good rugby," he says. 

"We were aware of their strengths, but the power game was just too much tonight. They dominated the gain-line, and got into the 22m and took their opportunities."

Blues coach Leon MacDonald was reluctant to talk about the Smith call when asked if it was in the spirit of the game. 

"I would have liked the try to be awarded, absolutely," he says. "The refs always call them as they see them. 

"We were able to regain the lead and hold it, so it didn't become too big of a deal in the end. Mike did a great job out there tonight."

MacDonald also revealed that star first-five Beauden Barrett was in "big danger" of missing the game with a rib injury. 

Barrett didn't train all week and even gave up his weekly game of golf, so he could take part in the match. 

"He's got his hands on the No.10 jersey and I don't think he wanted to give it up," says MacDonald. 

"He showed a lot of old-school toughness to play with sore ribs and anyone who has had sore ribs understands how tough it is.

"He got hit off the ball at one point, straight in the ribs, and he jumped back up again.

"I thought he was outstanding tonight, he showed some real toughness."

The win sees the Blues claim their first win in Dunedin since 2011 and remain in contention for the Super Rugby Aotearoa title, although they will need the Highlanders to do them a favour and beat the Crusaders next weekend. 

The Crusaders hold a two-point lead over the Blues and a win will see them wrap up the Super Rugby Aotearoa trophy with one round remaining. 

Join us for live updates of the Hurricanes and Chiefs Super Rugby Aotearoa clash from 7:05pm Saturday

Super Rugby Aotearoa: Aaron Smith slammed for 'Hollywood' during Highlanders' loss to Blues