Cheika blasts tip tackle ‘free pass’

Herald on Sunday - - SPORT - By Pa­trick McKendry in Dunedin

Wal­la­bies coach Michael Cheika says All Blacks lock Brodie Re­tal­lick should have been dealt with more se­verely by ref­eree Nigel Owens af­ter his tackle on Ned Hani­gan, say­ing it was lucky the Aus­tralia flanker “didn’t break his neck”.

Cheika felt sev­eral calls went against his team in the nail-bit­ing de­feat, and in par­tic­u­lar the tip tackle by Re­tal­lick in the first half which was looked at again by Owens, who felt there was no case to an­swer. Re­tal­lick wasn’t even pe­nalised.

With the Wal­la­bies rac­ing to a 17-0 lead, the loss of Re­tal­lick in the first half would have been a big blow for the All Blacks.

“I’ve got to tread lightly here, my friend,” Cheika said when asked why he was con­fused by sev­eral of the of­fi­cials’ de­ci­sions. “No 1, what I can say be­cause it’s clear to ev­ery­one is that Re­tal­lick picked up one of our blokes and put him on his head. He’s put his arm through his legs, picked him up, and it’s a free pass.

“It’s clear. The guy can’t end up on his head any other way. It’s a free pass; it’s just as well he didn’t break his neck.”

Skip­per Michael Hooper also raised the point with Owens at the time. His voice could be heard on the ref­eree’s mi­cro­phone ask­ing if it was al­low­able for his play­ers to pick up the All Blacks’ legs and tip them on their heads.

Cheika added of the de­ci­sions of the match of­fi­cials: “I was sur­prised by some of them. There was a scrum where the ball came back out, they knocked it on, and there were no comms on a penalty for the loose­head go­ing in. Yet a cou­ple of sec­onds later, they de­cided it was a penalty. I’ve never seen that be­fore.”

Cheika also added that some of the de­ci­sions in the third Bledis­loe Cup test at Eden Park last Oc­to­ber went against his team, too.

How­ever, he said: “Any of that stuff does not ex­cuse in any way us not fin­ish­ing that game off. I know peo­ple are throw­ing eggs and bombs our way and that’s the way she rolls. It’s all good but the gal­lant loser thing is not on. We should have won.”

Asked if the Wal­la­bies, who have not held the Bledis­loe Cup since 2003, had turned a cor­ner, All Blacks coach Steve Hansen said: “It’s hard to tell. I think they’ve al­ways been a good side. They played some good rugby and they’ll be dis­ap­pointed. They could have eas­ily won the match.

“Last week, they played their first game for most of them for four or five weeks. It’s re­ally hard when you [play] a group that’s bat­tle-hard­ened and who have come through fi­nals foot­ball. The in­ten­sity of that al­lows you to play at a cer­tain level.”

The Wal­la­bies were far bet­ter de­fen­sively than the week be­fore in Syd­ney, and while they let their big lead slide, the All Blacks over­tak­ing them af­ter an hour, they showed steel in fight­ing back to re­take the lead.

The All Blacks were er­ror-prone and nervy at times, their pack and Beau­den Bar­rett’s sec­ond try get­ting them home in one of the best Bledis­loe Cup tests in years.

“I was proud of the way we bounced back this week in train­ing, but I’m not happy with the re­sult,” Hooper said.

Brett Phibbs

Brodie Re­tal­lick’s tackle of Ned Hani­gan was re­viewed by the TMO.

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