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Bryce Lawrence copping it from all quarters

FRED WOODCOCK
Last updated 09:23 13/10/2011
Bryce Lawrence (L) and John Smit
Reuters
ARE YOU LISTENING?: Referee Bryce Lawrence and John Smit chat during the Springboks' Rugby World Cup quarterfinal loss to Australia in Wellington.

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New Zealand rugby referee Bryce Lawrence continues to cop widespread criticism for his performance in the South Africa-Australia World Cup quarterfinal last Sunday.

South African referees manager and former test referee Andre Watson is the latest to put the boot in, saying he was surprised by Lawrence's performance in Australia's 11-9 win in Wellington.

He also said that the South African referees association will aim to take action against Lawrence.

''His opening game [at the World Cup] was outstanding, I had no problem with his appointment, but (in the quarterfinal) he allowed a free-for-all, giving (David) Pocock a field day,'' Watson told a Cape Town radio station.

''It's not what you would expect from a referee of his calibre. He didn't referee the breakdown the way he was supposed to. He just didn't step in.''

The breakdown was a mess at stages during the match, and both sides expressed dissatisfaction post-match. Naturally South Africa reacted most angrily, with retiring captain John Smit saying he was delighted he would no longer have to be refereed by the New Zealander.

Rugby fans in the Republic have united against Lawrence, and a Facebook page titled 'Petition To Stop Bryce Lawrence Ever Reffing A Rugby Game Again' has attracted an incredible 64,827 'likes', as of 9am today.

There are also a handful of other anti-Lawrence pages on the social networking site.

South Africans accused Lawrence of getting several key decisions wrong, and allowing Wallabies openside Pocock to illegally spoil the Springboks ball and flow in a match they lost despite an overwhelming advantage in possession and territory.

Watson believes the Kiwi whistleblower, who is now to South African fans what Englishman Wayne Barnes was to New Zealand supporters four years ago after the All Blacks' quarterfinal exit against France, will be punished in some way.

''He will be punished, but that's up to the IRB (International Rugby Board). I do not believe we will see him in any Rugby World Cup again,'' Watson said.

''It's done and dusted now, but we (South African referees association) will be taking action. We want to make sure it doesn't happen again.''

Ironically, Australians accused Lawrence earlier in the tournament of making poor key decisions when the Wallabies lost 15-6 to Ireland a pool game.

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Afterwards, Lawrence admitted making mistakes against the Wallabies, especially regarding scrummaging, which accounted for six penalties at critical stages.

He has been overlooked for the two semifinals this weekend.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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