Eye-gouging cloud over All Black win
REACTION: Claims of eye-gouging cast a dark shadow over New Zealand's impressive Bledisloe Cup triumph over Australia.
A rampant All Black team inflicted further pain on a fired-up Australia with a 29-9 victory to claim the Bledisloe Cup in Wellington on Saturday and take a commanding led in the Rugby Championship.
An angry Wallabies coach Michael Cheika not only suggested there was eye-gouging by All Black prop Owen Franks and also pointed the finger at referee Romain Poite, questioning the French whistle blower's attitude to his players.
Franks certainly appeared to have his left hand on the face of Australia lock Kane Douglas, during the first half of Saturday's match, with Cheika asked afterwards for an opinion of what occurred.
Video of Franks appearing to gouge Wallabies lock Kane Douglas during a maul early in the match at Wellington Regional Stadium emerged on social media after the niggly game.
"We saw it at the time," Wallabies Cheika told reporters in his post-match media briefing.
"I'm sure the match review [officer] will pick that up. It was pretty open, it would be pretty hard for the match review guy to miss."
The incident was one of the numerous occasions when both teams pushed the boundaries of the law, with referee Romain Poite struggling at times to control tempers from boiling over.
Cheika also did not hold back when discussing the French official, who has been at the centre of numerous controversial calls in recent years.
While Cheika admitted the All Blacks played well, he believed his side were hurt by a high penalty count and pointed the finger at the referee Poite.
"I was bitterly disappointed, to be honest," Cheika said, questioning whether referees had a "pre-determined position" about the Australians.
The Wallabies have now lost six Tests in a row, three of them against New Zealand and statistics in their latest encounter show they were beaten across the board.
* Meanwhile The Wallabies are set to make an official complaint to World Rugby's integrity unit over a meeting between All Blacks coach Steve Hansen and match referee Romain Poite in the week of the second Bledisloe Test.
Hansen and Poite are believed to have met during the week, something that is only allowed to occur if an invitation is extended to the opposing team.
The Wallabies say they were never invited to the meeting, something that would be in direct contravention of World Rugby rules.
This issue reared its head in June, with Eddie Jones also meeting with Poite before the first Test in Brisbane, though that was put down to a miscommunication.
The following week Cheika floated the idea of sitting in on the meeting with Jones, with an invitation given to Australia.
Cheika said he had already met with World Rugby referees boss Alain Rolland about the treatment of his players by Poite and Nigel Owens, and was ‘bitterly disappointed’ with Poite’s officiating of the match.
"I'm not sure why. But there was a time there in the game, in a break in play [against the All Blacks], when the national captain of Australia is asking the referee 'when might be an opportunity for me to talk to you' and he absolutely ignored him," Cheika said.
"He's got the whistle, I understand, but there's a place where the captain has an opportunity to speak to the referee.
"The referee may not like the captain personally, that might be his prerogative, but he has to afford him that opportunity he's afforded his opponents."
Cheika also believed Poite should have stopped the game when Wallabies forward David Pocock was being called off the field by an assistant referee for a head injury assessment.
"I don't know if it's subconscious or not but it's there and it's got to be dealt with because that can't be going on," Cheika said.
"Is it a pre-determined position on our players? I asked Alain Rolland. I saw him last week in Sydney, and he said 'no, it's a surprise if it is'.
"It's pretty blatant to anyone listening to the referee's comments during the game," he added.
Cheika said he could not understand why Wallaby Adam Coleman was sent to the sin-bin for a late tackle when he saw similar infringements by the All Blacks which went unpunished.
Sources: AFP & Reuters