Referee says 'negative' All Blacks frustrate officials
The man who has refereed the All Blacks most has suggested match officials could be tiring of "negative tactics" by Steve Hansen's side.
South African Jonathan Kaplan holds the world record for officiating tests, including 17 internationals involving the All Blacks with seven Bledisloe Cup battles among those.
Since retiring last year Kaplan has started a website called RateTheRef, aimed at gauging public opinion on refereeing performances and also critiquing ref's efforts himself.
With South African referee Jaco Peyper copping plenty of criticism for his handling of last week's drawn Bledisloe Cup opener between the All Blacks and Wallabies in Sydney, Kaplan wasn't shy to enter the debate.
He gave Peyper a mixed review but Kaplan's underlying sentiment was clearly that the All Blacks were using "marginal tactics" when the heat was applied to them.
"New Zealand were again guilty of marginal tactics under pressure ... are the referees finally beginning to understand what needs to be done to eliminate this constant in their game when they come under pressure in their 22m area?" Kaplan pondered in his latest column.
"Jaco Peyper made mistakes in this game no doubt, but needs credit for dishing out the cards when they were deserved. It engenders a whole lot of trust when the referee is prepared well, and is prepared to act."
Kaplan did question the yellow card handed out to Beauden Barrett but suggested the replacement first-five may have been a victim of ongoing circumstances.
"I'm not sure about some of Peyps' general accuracy in this fixture as there appeared to be some questionable calls at the breakdown and certainly Barrett was very unlucky to be given his marching orders as it appeared that the ball was not placed at the tackle, but left the hands of the ball carrier and so it could well have been a case of general play and hence a play on situation.
"It was a tough call to make as the outcome depends on slow motion adjudication, and perhaps the referee just had enough of what he rightly or wrongly considered to be negative tactics. I still feel for New Zealand in this particular case."
But Kaplan felt Peyper had come in for undue criticism, even during the match commentary. He cited an example of this being his decision to penalise the All Blacks for being offside under pressure in their 22, with the subsequent penalty being kicked by Kurtley Beale to tied the scores up at 9-9.
He said Peyper had been spot-on with this decision, operating within the laws to penalise a blatant infringement. Those operating the TV microphones had blamed the man rather than the culprits
"The words 'Jaco Peyper has found an offside penalty' would seem to suggest that they at the very least felt it was a 'referee's call'. The decision was accurate.
"It needs to be delivered every time, even in those tough tight ones where we would all love the players to decide the outcome on their own. But from my own experience, I know that we are called upon to make the big decisions in those exact moments.
"Almost the entire New Zealand team were offside and advanced - a clear and important penalty for the referee to deliver."
Kaplan's forthright comments are a breath of fresh air, being prepared to comment on both the whistlemen and the teams as well as the contentious issues in a sport clogged by confusing rules for the general public.
"Negative tactics" aside, Kaplan still had plenty of praise for the All Blacks' ability to see out a difficult match without losing.
"New Zealand were tough and proud, as usual. They had their moments and were hanging on at the end but they understand the nuances of the game better than any other and that's why they are able to come away from games like this with some value. All the others would have capitulated.
"New Zealand can feel very proud of being able to withstand the pressure at the end of the game despite a numerical disadvantage ... how many others would have?"
Kaplan suggested Saturday night's rematch at Eden Park "should be interesting".
France's Romain Poite will referee in Auckland with Peyper one of his assistants, alongside fellow South African Stuart Berry. Another South African, Shaun Veldsman, will be the television match official.
Which three first-fives would you have taken on the All Blacks' northern tour?