Cardiff Blues head coach John Mulvihill was left reeling over the performance of referee Stuart Berry in Saturday afternoon’s defeat away at Ulster.
The Australian, who has spoken before about the quality of refereeing in the Guinness Pro14, was unhappy with a number of decisions, or non-decisions as it were, made by the South African official and his colleagues.
At the end of the game the penalty count was 5-13 in favour of the home side, with Seb Davies having received a yellow card, while there were a number of other contentious calls made throughout the 80 minutes.
“The way the game was officiated towards the end wasn’t right”, Mulvihill told the media at the final whistle. “If you’ve got a TMO and a referee and two officials then surely some of those breakdown decisions have to be better.
“Clearly towards the end of the game we clawed our way back into it – they’re a good team, Ulster, that’s why we were behind at the end – but we clawed our way back into it.
“Under the goalposts at the end there, three players off their feet, one in particular off his feet, hands not even on the ball, his hands were at the back of the ruck but the referee calls holding on. (The ref) was in the wrong position, he didn’t see it, he didn’t even go to the TMO.
“You’ve got decisions where we get a yellow card for someone cleaning someone out – it wasn’t a shoulder charge, it was a clean out and he wrapped his arms – but their 12 was allowed to come into that little push and shove, grab our 9 and initiate with his head into our 9, which is a headbutt and a red card. So instead of having a red card there, we get yellow carded.
“Down here when Tomos Williams makes the break, the ball is knocked out of his hands, Jason Harries goes for the ball and he’s tackled by McCloskey five metres from the try line without the ball. No penalty try, no TMO, scrum. So clearly we weren’t happy with how the game was officiated tonight, and I’m starting to get to a stage where I’m sick of it.
“First three games I’ve spoken to the referees’ boss, he has told me on email and on my phone that if the game was officiated properly we would have won the first three games. Now, there are big stakes in rugby, people lose their jobs and players lose their roles, so it has to be better than it was.”
His comments echo those of Richard Cockerill, who has experienced Pro14 refereeing for the first time from the start of last season, while Bernard Jackman finished serving a two-game stadium ban this weekend for comments he has made about referees.
Stuart Berry’s record in the Pro14 now stands at 19 Pro14 games refereed, one of which was last year’s Final at a ‘neutral’ venue. Of the other 18 games, 14 have been home wins, with three of the four away wins coming at league whipping boys Southern Kings. The other was a narrow Munster win over Ospreys at the Liberty Stadium.
He has previously been at the centre of controversy as, when refereeing Lions v Reds in Super Rugby, a 1-10 penalty count against the visiting Reds helped Lions overturn a 3-20 half-time deficit.