Post-match sideshow erupts over clown picture

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by Beth Newman

A 37-10 scoreline almost became a sideshow in the Bledisloe post-match on Saturday night, with Michael Cheika accusing New Zealand of disrespecting his team.

Cheika and his Kiwi counterpart, Steve Hansen have traded blows via the media all season, especially since the opening Bledisloe in August and Cheika accused their rivals of having no respect for his team.

When asked for a comment about the Kiwis’ record Test streak, Cheika said they wouldn’t be interested in that anyway.

“I don't think they really  want my comment anyway. They dressed us up as clowns today, so they wouldn't really want our comment. I don’t think they respect our comment anyway," he said.

Cheika was referring to the New Zealand Herald’s front page on Saturday, depicting the Wallabies coach as a clown, something that he suggested wasn’t entirely independent.

“That's the same guy who reported the supposed bug as well isn't it? Where'd that come from?,” he said.

Skipper Stephen Moore, usually happy to let Cheika take the lead in post-match, jumped in to voice his anger at the picture, saying it was disappointing for current and former Wallabies.

“I don’t want to talk too much about it, but when I think about the way the jersey’s portrayed in that picture, for everyone that’s pulled that on I think  that’s pretty disrespectful.

"But they won the game, they’re the ones laughing. What do you do?,” he said.

New Zealand had the last laugh. Photo: Getty ImagesWhile the clown depiction has enraged the Wallabies, Cheika said the All Blacks had gotten him on the wrong side ahead of the opening Bledisloe, in which a listening device was reported discovered in New Zealand's hotel on the Monday of that Test week, but not reported to police until the weekend, emerging in the public sphere on game day.

Speculation swirled about the culprit, with the ARU and the Wallabies originally in the firing line, something Cheika has not forgotten.

“I would say they've got me a little offside because of the accusation that we tried to bug them - like really, hello, honestly? - they had that [knowledge] the whole week [to report it]...that's what would cause that bad (blood),” he said

“To me, that showed a lack of respect..

“Me, I  wouldn't even be smart enough to get that stuff organised, I'm too busy working on my own team... they don't need to do that stuff, they’re too good anyway.

“It's only that they want to do it to try and needle either me or us or whatever...I wouldn't say it's (the Australia-New Zealand relationship) friendly.

Hansen rubbished Cheika’s views in his post-match conference, saying his opponent needed to take the high road when it came to media gags.

“You've got to be bigger than that, don’t you? I've been dressed up like a clown myself. You don’t want to take it to heart otherwise it’ll break you," he said.

“We’ve got no control over what the media do.”

Steve Hansen has a beer in the sheds with NZ Prime Minister. John Key. Photo: Getty ImagesAs for the accusation that New Zealand had a lack of respect for Australia, Hansen was blunt, as well as dismissing the idea that they had pointed the finger at the Wallabies upon the discovery of the listening bug.

“That's rubbish. What he's got to remember is over the years there’s a fierce competition and things happen,” he said.

“It doesn't mean to say they don't respect.

“At what point does winning constitute not respecting them?”

At full-time, the biggest touch point was expected to be the disallowed Henry Speight try and Cheika didn’t quite let that slide either, though was quick not to blame that call on a 27-point loss.

“I can’t say anything because they’ve got you by the throat. I’ve just never seen shepherding from behind before.

“Before any of that, though, we've got to own our mistakes. We turned the ball over too much.

“We can only call it a turning point if we lose by less than score. I know there's the ramifications of the game but at the end of the day too, someone's got to own those mistakes as well. We'll see if  World Rugby come out with an announcement or anything.”

Dane Coles scored a try but had an earlier score disallowed. Photo: Getty ImagesUnsurprisingly, Hansen took an opposite viewpoint, pointing to a disallowed Dane Coles try in which Bernard Foley chased down the All Blacks hooker.

“Did he change his ground and did he drop his shoulder into [Julian Savea]? Yes. Its that allowed? No,” he said.

“You have a look at the one Dane Coles got, Foley just about tackled him. So, swings and roundabouts.

“That's what rugby's about. Sometimes decisions don't go your way and you can't get all sulky about it.

“You've just got to man up and say that's what's happened.”