Super Rugby Aotearoa: Several TMO clangers spoil exciting weekend of action

Several contentious TMO decisions marred an exciting weekend of Super Rugby Aotearoa derbies.

The Blues and the Crusaders completed comfortable wins against the Highlanders and Chiefs respectively, but television match official Paul Williams will be anything but this week, after three obvious officiating errors. 

While the Chiefs were clearly second-best in Christchurch on Saturday night, they weren't helped by two key moments in the game.

Leading 10-0 after 15 minutes, the Chiefs were hard done by when a spectacular diving try from Crusaders winger Leicester Fainga'anuku should have been ruled out by the TMO.

Replays showed Fainga-anuku's boot touching the ground - something he admitted post-match - but Williams felt there was no clear evidence.

Then early in the second half, Chiefs No.9 Brad Weber was yellow-carded after preventing a clear try-scoring opportunity, but the play should have been called back.

Under review, Williams adjudged Weber had made contact with the ball on a Richie Mo'unga offload several phases earlier, but didn't use all the replays available.

A second angle clearly showed a knock-on from the Crusaders playmaker after Weber touched his arm - forcing the ball free. 

The third wrong call came in the Blues' mauling of the Highlanders, when Akira Ioane's sweeping pass to brother Rieko, was incorrectly ruled forward on review by Williams.  

CHRISTCHURCH, NEW ZEALAND - MARCH 13: Chiefs player Damian McKenzie can't stop Crusaders wing Leicester Fainga'anuku from scoring a try during the round three Super Rugby Aotearoa match between the Crusaders and the Chiefs at Orangetheory Stadium, on March 13, 2021, in Christchurch, New Zealand. (Photo by Peter Meecham/Getty Images)
Photo credit: Getty
CHRISTCHURCH, NEW ZEALAND - MARCH 13: Chiefs halfback Brad Weber is given a yellow card by referee James Doleman after giving away a penalty try during the round three Super Rugby Aotearoa match between the Crusaders and the Chiefs at Orangetheory Stadium, on March 13, 2021, in Christchurch, New Zealand. (Photo by Peter Meecham/Getty Images)
Photo credit: Getty

Coach Leon MacDonald says he is frustrated, because the laws of the game are not being adjudicated correctly.

"It's tough isn't it?," MacDonald says. 

"For me Aki was able to stay in front of the ball, it looked pretty good out of the hands. 

"These inconsistencies are what's frustrating.

"When you're running full speed like Aki was and you let rip, the ball is always going to travel forward. That's just physics. I did listen a little bit at school, so the start and finish point are not the way to look at it.

"I'm assuming, and it will be something the refs will be talking about as well.

"It didn't cost us, but you want to be getting those right."

MacDonald suggested the referees pull back a bit on using the TMO, and only use the technology when clear and obvious errors have been made.

"The TMO is always going to be contentious.

"You can always find something somewhere if you go looking.

"As a referee how far do you keep looking and how much do you stay out of the game? We all love a game where the referees don't feature and yet the TMO is another layer of refereeing. We want the right calls, but we don't want to pay the price, which is a lot of stoppages."

The 39-17 bonus-point victory leaves the Blues second on the ladder, five points behind the also unbeaten Crusaders, who have played a game more than their rivals.

The two sides meet at Eden Park on Sunday in a mouth-watering clash between the two best sides in the competition. 

"We're excited to play them at home and hopefully we get a better lead-up with being able to sell tickets and get a big crowd here."

The Highlanders have a week off with the Hurricanes hosting the Chiefs on Saturday.