DUNEDIN – France cried foul over yet another officiating howler after Damian McKenzie's referee-assisted try put the All Blacks on the road to a thumping 49-14 victory on Saturday.
The tourists were already upset at the referees in the first two Tests, after a yellow card set the All Blacks up for a 52-11 romp in Auckland and then an early red card – later rescinded – in last week's 26-13 loss in Wellington. France backrower Kevin Gourdon had complained earlier in the tour that it seemed referees favoured the All Blacks, and his view will not have changed after McKenzie's try before half-time.
The All Blacks fly-half was able to run untouched to the line after Irish referee John Lacey accidentally obstructed French scrum-half Baptiste Serin from tackling him. McKenzie's converted score put the All Blacks up 21-14 at the break, and they raced away with a further four unanswered tries in the second half, including McKenzie's second and three to left wing Rieko Ioane.
"It seems quite clear and quite straightforward that if a player or referee should obstruct a play and it disadvantages one team or the other, then it needs to be accounted for and dealt with," France coach Jacques Brunel complained.
Brunel said that if the try had been disallowed the scores would have been level at half-time, although he conceded the All Blacks were too good in the second half. Serin, who scored the opening try for France when he came on early for the injured Morgan Parra, believed he was hard done by.
"I would have tackled (McKenzie)," he insisted.
"In the first half it felt like we had the upper hand. We were setting the pace of the game and were making the All Blacks work hard. But in the second half we lost a number of turnovers and dropped off the pace," Serin said.
The decision to let the try stand lit up social media, with many supporting the French line that the try should have been disallowed.
But All Blacks coach Steve Hansen dismissed the French complaints, saying rugby's rules didn't include obstruction by referees.
"There's nowhere in the rule book that says the referee can cause obstruction," Hansen said, adding he knew the rules "reasonably well".
"He's got to stand somewhere and it's not our fault that our guy ran close to where he was standing. It's happened to us a few times in the past.
"I think people are clutching at straws there. What do they want him to do? Click his fingers and disappear?"AFP