All Blacks 'question' Poite's crucial call

Sat, 08 Jul 2017 13:42

REACTION: The All Blacks said they would question match officials over a controversial refereeing decision after a 15-all draw left their series with the British and Irish Lions tied on Saturday.

While Lions coach Warren Gatland praised his captain Sam Warburton as "astute" over the pivotal incident, All Blacks boss Steve Hansen said there would be discussions in private.

With the third-Test scores tied at the death, referee Romain Poite awarded the All Blacks a kickable penalty for offside, but downgraded the punishment to a scrum after a plea by Warburton.

"We all know what happened and we all know probably what should have happened, but at the end of the day it's a game and as little kids we were taught to take the good with the bad," Hansen said.

"We're accepting of whatever decisions were made and whether we agree with them or not is something we'll do our talking to the referees about."

Lions hooker Ken Owens was initially penalised for illegally playing the ball in front of Liam Williams, who spilled the kick-off after Owen Farrell had levelled the scores with 180 seconds left.

But after conferring with his assistants, Poite decided Owens' offence was accidental and downgraded the punishment to a scrum.

"There's no point asking me about it. I told you I'm not going to talk about it. It's a decision the ref's made and we'll live with it," Hansen said.

Lions coach Warren Gatland deflected questions about whether it should have been a penalty, instead praising the quick-thinking Warburton.

"He's been quite smart and astute in being able to talk the referee from a penalty into an accidental offside," said Gatland.

But not even Warburton was sure he was right.

"It's a shot to nothing at that point. He awarded the penalty and it's worth asking the question to be fair," the Lions skipper said.

"When you think back to the [2015] World Cup and that happened to Scotland against Australia, and they kicked the penalty and the Scots were angry with that, I remember thinking 'There's got to be an alternative to that'."

It was an incident that lit up social media, with even former Lions saying it should have been a penalty to New Zealand.

"It should have been a penalty to the All Blacks at the death. Romain Poite has done the Lions a huge favour there," said former Lions and Wales flanker Martyn Williams.

"Whether he's bottled it, only he knows. You very rarely see a referee change his decision."

Former England and Lions scrumhalf Matt Dawson said: "Ken Owens was in front of Liam Williams, he had plenty of time to skirt out the way and not touch the ball.

"He went to play the ball, then took his hands away. That was a sign he'd made a massive error, that was a penalty."

Agence France-Presse

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