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Hansen backs referee on controversial call

NZ Herald Staff,
Publish Date
Sunday, 24 June 2018, 6:26AM
Baptiste Serin is blocked by Referee John Lacey as Aaron Smith sets up the try to Damian McKenzie. Photo / Getty
Baptiste Serin is blocked by Referee John Lacey as Aaron Smith sets up the try to Damian McKenzie. Photo / Getty

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen has backed referee John Lacey on his decision to award a first half try to Damian McKenzie despite obstructing French defender Baptiste Serin.

Irishman Lacey received a deluge of criticism on social media for his decision but Hansen said afterwards the official had little choice. Halfback Serin, the new captain when he replaced Morgan Parra, was incensed at the decision at the time.

"I know the rule book reasonably well – I've read it for years," Hansen said. "As a player I thought I was a better ref than a player, and there's nowhere in the rule book that says a referee can cause obstruction.

"He's got to stand somewhere and it's not our fault that our guy [McKenzie] ran close to where he was standing.

"It's happened to us a few times in the past. People are clutching at straws there - what do they want him to do; click his fingers and disappear or something?"

France coach Jacques Brunel said the incident, which came on the back of several controversial decisions that have gone against his side in the series whitewash by the All Blacks, appeared a straightforward case of obstruction.

There is little doubt either that other referees may have taken a different approach after colliding with a would-be tackler in such a manner.

Brunel said: "To me it seems quite clear and straightforward that if a player or referee should obstruct the play and it disadvantages one team or another it should be dealt with.

"At halftime it was possible that the score could have been equal with the referee that was sort of in the way for that try … [but] in the second half the All Blacks sped up," Brunel added. "We tried to keep up with the All Blacks but maybe we should have tried to maintain our own pace and keep up that way."

Clearly the All Blacks were a class above in the second half and that was what, probably rightly, concerned Brunel most, although few international teams could have stayed with the home side in this form.

For Hansen, the final test of the series was a win on several levels. It featured probably their best performance after a particularly scratchy win in Wellington last week and it allowed him to blood four new players in Shannon Frizell, Jack Goodhue, Jackson Hemopo and Richie Mo'unga.

The All Blacks coach was also extremely happy with the way McKenzie controlled the game at No10 after his difficulties at Wespac Stadium.

"Hemopo and Shannon and Jack and Richie, who didn't get a lot of game time - all four of them will be pleased with how they performed. Shannon played [the whole game]. That wasn't going to be our intention if I was going to be entirely honest, but he a got a 10-minute breather when he got a stitch and that allowed us to give the big fella here [Sam Whitelock] a breather [at the end].

"As the game went on Shannon got better and better and all week Jackson has looked really comfortable in our group and picked things up surprisingly easy. For a new guy he looked very comfortable and he played like it."

Assistant coach Ian Foster said of centre Goodhue: "He ran some great lines. I guess what I liked about him is that he was in some tricky situations but he made some solid decisions and tidied up a few things. Remi [Lamarat] and Wesley [Fofana] [the French midfielders] have a lot of experience and they know how to defend but I thought Jack coped with that pretty well."

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