Lions tour: Referee review - How did Jerome Garces go with those big calls in second test?
ANALYSIS: No referee ever wants to be a big talking point post-game, but such were the circumstances, Jerome Garces' name was definitely on the lips of many in the wake of the British and Irish Lions' series-levelling 24-21 win over the All Blacks in Wellington on Saturday night.
The 43-year-old Frenchman, who debuted at the top level in 2010, was in his 28th test match and this was his ninth time controlling the All Blacks, with it their first loss under his watch.
In a high-pressure atmosphere at Westpac Stadium there were plenty of big moments for Garces to oversee, in conjunction with assistant referees Jaco Peyper and Romain Poite, and TMO George Ayoub.
Let's take a look at those crucial decisions, and see how he fared:
SONNY BILL WILLIAMS RED CARD (25th minute)
The absolute pivotal moment of the test match, and Garces got it spot on in waving red. SBW remarkably became just the third All Black in history to be sent off, with his no-arms hit on Lions winger Anthony Watson.
With Waisake Naholo holding his opposite up, New Zealand second five-eighth Williams came flying in with one of those shoulder charges he would have been proud of in his former league days.
Garces ran the play through his head then can be heard asking Ayoub to have a look at the footage. Ayoub confirmed he was already doing so then instructed Garces to stop play to have a watch of the screen. Good communication and process between the pair.
From there Garces is clear in his thinking that it's "a clear and deliberate shoulder to the face" and even though his assistants and Ayoub talk him into having another look, the Frenchman knows "he has no option [but red]", due to the World Rugby's new tackle laws introduced this year.
Those laws state: "Reckless Tackle
A player is deemed to have made reckless contact during a tackle or attempted tackle or during other phases of the game if in making contact, the player knew or should have known that there was a risk of making contact with the head of an opponent, but did so anyway. This sanction applies even if the tackle starts below the line of the shoulders. This type of contact also applies to grabbing and rolling/ twisting around the head/ neck area even if the contact starts below the line of the shoulders.
Minimum sanction: Yellow card
Maximum sanction: Red card"
MAKO VUNIPOLA YELLOW CARD (56th minute)
The Lions prop was sin binned for a dangerous cleanout on All Blacks first five-eighth Beauden Barrett. Again that seemed the right call from Garces. There are plenty of these murky ones that go unpunished in the game, and that Barrett was laid flat on the deck for some time probably made it that more obvious.
Just a couple of minutes earlier Vunipola had clocked Barrett late with a shoulder after a kick, which Garces asked Ayoub for a replay of and the All Blacks subsequently won a penalty for. That was the right call. It was clumsy, silly one, but it wasn't a high shot, and not a heap of damage done.
Then on the cleanout Ayoub can be heard letting Garces know to check the footage. The Frenchman then examines, and even though for some reason Ayoub is calling out "Jerome, wait please", Garces has again made up his mind, and finds Vunipola guilty of sending his shoulder into Barrett's head.
Under law 10.4 Dangerous play and misconduct (k): "Players must not charge into a ruck or maul without binding onto a player in the ruck or maul.
Sanction: Penalty kick"
Though on this occasion the colliding with the head has seemingly ramped it to yellow, and having been in the bad books not long earlier wouldn't have helped Vunipola's cause.
SEAN O'BRIEN CITING (59th minute)
This could have changed the outcome of things dramatically, but Garces and his team waved on what should have been the incident which saw the game become 14 on 14 for the final quarter. Lions openside flanker O'Brien got away without sanction on-field but was since cited for his shot which forced All Blacks winger Waisake Naholo off with concussion.
This is under law 10.4 Dangerous play and misconduct (a): "Punching or striking. A player must not strike an opponent with the hand, arm or fist, including the elbow, shoulder, head or knee(s).
Sanction: Penalty kick"
The citing commissioner deemed O'Brien to have struck with a swinging arm and that said the incident, in the 19th minute of the second half, is deemed to have met the threshold for a red card. That's in the mould of the SBW one, where the head is now well protected under those new laws.
Garces doesn't initially see the hit, being a bit late to arrive at the spot of the incident. But Naholo stayed down, and the officials had the chance to have a look. The replays showed the head contact, but Ayoub didn't get in the ear of Garces, who can be heard saying "it's fine, contact on the ball, nothing more".
TJ PERENARA COMPLAINT ON CONOR MURRAY TRY (68th minute)
All Blacks reserve halfback Perenara is left remonstrating with Garces after he believed he was held back in the lead-up to Lions halfback Conor Murray's crucial try.
On the replay you can see Lions second five-eighth Owen Farrell coming into contact with Perenara's legs and grabbing hold of them momentarily, but not enough to make any real difference to the situation. In fact, it looked like Perenara had actually gone too far to his left, anyway, with Murray sneaking through on his right-side.
CHARLIE FAUMUINA MID-AIR TACKLE (77th minute)
This turned out to be the winning of the game for the Lions, with Owen Farrell stepping up to slot the penalty in the dying minutes after All Blacks prop Faumuina was penalised by Garces for tackling Lions prop Kyle Sinkler in the air.
Garces spotted it and got it right. Although it was a bit of a tough one on Faumuina because Sinkler was jumping for the ball, he just got his timing wrong slightly and collected him before he landed on the ground.
Law 10.4 Dangerous play and misconduct (e): "Dangerous tackling. A player must not tackle an opponent whose feet are off the ground.
Sanction: Penalty kick"
It was a stop-start affair for sure, but Garces can't be blamed much for that. The terrible conditions owed to plenty of kicking and set piece, while ill-discipline, particularly from the visitors, saw a heap of penalty attempts lined up.
Garces finished with a penalty count of 13-8 against the Lions, which saw Barrett line up 10 shots at goal. The All Blacks very much had the chance to win the game, but he missed three, from handy range.
On a tough night for scrums and big men to get their footing there weren't too many dramas and resets, though one penalty against the All Blacks for illegal wheeling seemed rather questionable.
The Lions' famed rush defence never seemed to get up too quickly, and offside lines seemed policed fine, and at the breakdown Garces allowed both sides to get over the ball and compete.
Garces' communication with the players was decent - he perhaps was slightly over-zealous in taking the time to calm down a situation between Brodie Retallick and Alun Wyn Jones - especially considering English is not his first language.
There were calls which went both ways in this one. The All Blacks fans may look back at O'Brien's shot on Naholo and wonder what could have been there, but then the All Blacks were lucky to get three points when Vunipola was pinged for being off his feet at a ruck when he did seem to be standing.
Overall Garces did a decent job.
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