New Zealand's semifinal win a loss for referee
DAVID LONG IN MANCHESTER
Had George Burgess not smashed his arm into Sonny Bill Williams' head in the final 90 seconds of last weekend's Rugby League World Cup semifinal, or if Kevin Sinfield didn't rush out of the line to try to tackle Shaun Johnson with just 20 seconds to go, then it all could have been different for Henry Perenara.
If England had managed to hold on at Wembley Stadium last week and set up a clash against Australia in the final, New Zealand's top whistleblower would have got to referee the game on the biggest stage of his career.
Instead, that honour goes to England's Kevin Silverwood and Perenara will have to make do with being the second video referee at Old Trafford this weekend, which hardly seems fair, given that Australian Grant Atkins is one of the touch judges, while his compatriots Ben Cummins is the reserve referee and Ashley Klein is the main video referee.
Obviously Perenara can't say he was disappointed that Shaun Johnson scored the try at the death, not publicly anyway.
But what he can say is how much he's loved his experience at this World Cup.
"I've love it here, it's been a huge honour to be a part of the tournament," Perenara said. "Full credit to the people who've organised it because it's turned out to be a great World Cup."
Perenara was stood down from the NRL playoffs because he was part of the refereeing team that allowed Beau Ryan to score for the Sharks in their win over the Cowboys, despite it coming on the seventh tackle.
He rebounded from that disappointment when he was given the honour to officiate in the World Cup's opening game, between England and Australia at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff.
"It was absolutely amazing, to do Australia v England on any stage is an incredible achievement in itself, but to actually open the World Cup and to do it at the Millennium Stadium was something else.
"I feel very lucky and privileged to be able to do that, it was great." Perenara is pleased with how he's officiated at the World Cup, although it could be argued that he had a tough time controlling discipline in France's pool match against Samoa.
"The last game I did was USA v Australia in the quarterfinals and that's a good way to finish my year.
"Overall, I'm happy with how I've gone and obviously the panel have been really happy as well."
A big adjustment Perenara and the Australians have had to make at the World Cup is getting used to being the only referee in a game, rather than being one of two in the NRL.
"I didn't find it too bad," he said. "With two referees you obviously get so much more because the law of averages says that if you've got more eyes on the ball you should get more decisions right.
"That's not to say we haven't been getting it right on the field, but there are a few slight adjustments that need to be made when you go from two referees to one.
"Overall, not only myself, but also the two Australian referees, Shayne Hayne and Ben Cummins, I think adjusted well."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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