Cheika blasts tip tackle ‘free pass’
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.
Brodie Retallick’s tackle of Ned Hanigan was reviewed by the TMO.