Koroibete red card: The Rugby world reacts

Sat, Jul 17, 2021, 11:36 AM
Jim Tucker
by Jim Tucker
Wallabies down to 14 men after a red card to Marika Koroibete

More than 34,000 fans in the stands booed for 60 seconds and the outcry at the red card issued Wallaby Marika Koroibete echoed from around the rugby world.

It would be too easy to label it as parochial disappointment from Australians against an Australian player being banished at a crucial stage of a Test.

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What looked at first glance like a rattling tackle that forced a turnover from French captain Anthony Jelonch was picked apart by referee Ben O’Keeffe and the TMO. 

The end result after a tortured five minutes of analysis was O’Keeffe saying there was direct contact with the head, with force from distance and no mitigating factors.

The mitigating factor that Jelonch had lowered his body height to brace and lead with his own shoulder into Koroibete’s hit was seemingly ignored. There was a case to say Koroibete’s first contact point was unclear and to Jelonch’s shoulder at Suncorp Stadium.

Many saw no penalty in the contact at all. Most would have gritted their teeth and accepted a yellow card in these penal times. 

Former All Black Sonny Bill Williams, as a Stan Sport commentator, called for “more commonsense” from World Rugby and a system where dubious calls like that didn’t leave one team minus a player for 75 minutes.

Wallabies great Tim Horan said straight out that he thought O’Keeffe had been “sucked into it.” He thought that Jelonch had lowered his body height and had been hit by a “great shot.”

On social media, the reactions came thick and fast.

Former Wallaby Mike Harris tweeted: “I’m all for player welfare and protecting against careless high tackles BUT he clearly dipped and it wasn’t 100% clear and obvious shoulder to head? Series ruined. Officials need to sort this out.”

Former All Black Israel Dagg lamented on Twitter: “I’ve been in matches when red cards ruin games!! What’s the rules? Can the red card player be replaced after 20?.”

Former Wallabies skipper Stirling Mortlock tweeted the common refrain of fans: “I’m sorry but I can’t understand rugby ATM.”

Rugby fans swung between “shocker” and “embarrassment” to leave the officials isolated with their call.

For those seeking to become more frustrated search out a video clip of O’Keeffe refereeing a Super Rugby Trans-Tasman clash between the Crusaders and Hurricanes in May.

Sam Whitelock and Ardie Savea charge into each other in a mix of jolts and heads. The result? Play on. Sigh.

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