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Mark Hammett will seek clarification on key rulings by Steve Walsh following the Hurricanes' Super Rugby loss to the NSW Waratahs on Saturday, though he conceded his team was its own worst enemy before surrendering top spot in the New Zealand conference.
Walsh has a well-documented history of infuriating Wellington rugby fans - a distrust that stems from his control of the Lions' unsuccessful Ranfurly Shield challenge against Canterbury in 2001. The Australian-based referee's decision-making and interaction with players was again a focal point during the Waratahs' 39-30 win at Allianz Stadium.
The Hurricanes were denied a likely bonus point when halfback TJ Perenara was penalised for backchat in the 75th minute when Walsh ruled a knock-on against replacement outside back Matt Proctor as the visitors launched a desperate counter-attack.
Bernard Foley was on target from 25 metres to prolong the Waratahs' unbeaten home record in 2014, a bitter blow for the Hurricanes soon after a marginal call thwarted another attempt to erase a six-point deficit.
Walsh ruled the transfer from Ardie Savea to Tim Bateman was forward but ignored pleas that the midfielder was being impeded by Waratahs halfback Nick Phipps.
The Hurricanes pack were also perplexed with Walsh's adjudication of the set piece, particularly when tighthead prop Jeffrey Toomaga-Allen was penalised for "mucking around" when binding on Benn Robinson at a scrum in the 48th minute.
Dane Coles unsuccessfully sought an explanation moments after the All Black hooker had a fruitless discussion with Walsh concerning the rules of engagement at scrum time.
Hammett acknowledged calls "go this way and that way" and would discuss aspects of Walsh's officiating with Sanzar referees boss Lyndon Bray.
Hurricanes captain Conrad Smith said Perenara, who was subbed after the incident, denied querying Walsh's decision. Television replays were inconclusive.
"TJ said to me 'I didn't say anything', I don't know other than that," said Smith, while Hammett added: "Maybe it was his [Perenara's] body language, I don't know."
While there was conjecture over Walsh's interpretations, Hammett and Smith agreed the Hurricanes had contributed to their own downfall after building a 24-7 lead after 26 minutes.
A fortuitous try to Beauden Barrett after Wycliff Palu dropped the ball behind the goal line and Julian Savea scoring from the restart after bursts from Coles and Jack Lam should have set up the Hurricanes for their fifth straight win - and a rise to second in the overall standings - but they buttoned off defensively to enable the Waratahs to draw level by the break.
"Being up [24-7] after 20-odd minutes, as a coach you get quite nervous," Hammett said.
"There were pretty strong messages sent down at that point. The point that lost it for us was around our defensive attitude when we got up by that much. We weren't as passionate and as niggly as we would have liked to have been."
Crucially, the Hurricanes were limited to only two Barrett penalties in the second half as their attacking game also deteriorated. Perenara was the culprit when he delayed his pass to an unmarked Cory Jane after breaking from a scrum in the 42nd minute.
"The reality is we probably didn't deserve to win that game," said Hammett.
"Our game is about continuity and they held us well. We had 13 handling errors - we're sort of our own worst enemies."
The Hurricanes, who slipped to seventh overall and third in the New Zealand conference, relocated to Melbourne yesterday for Friday's round 13 clash with the Rebels.
There had been concerns over lock Jeremy Thrush after he felt a twinge in his neck late in the second half but scans cleared him of serious damage.
- Fairfax Media
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