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Dublin: 20 °C Wednesday 5 August, 2020
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Lacey the latest under fire as All Blacks scorch in for 7 tries against France

The Irish referee was in the spotlight for the third Kiwi try of the day as he stuck by the letter of the law.

Image: Photosport//INPHO

FOR A THIRD week running, France’s Test series in New Zealand has been overshadowed by a referee’s actions.

In the opening match, a 52-11 New Zealand win, referee Luke Pearce issued a controversial yellow to Paul Gabrillague and decided to punish the double hit from Sam Cane and Ofa Tuungafasi with just a penalty.

Test two brought a 12th-minute red card for Benjamin Fall from Angus Gardner before the hosts clunkily claimed a 26-13 win against the 14 men.

In this morning’s third Test, in which New Zealand swept to a 49-14 win, it was the physical actions of Ireland’s John Lacey that drew the ire of neutral watchers and even the ordinarily black-eyed commentator Justin Marshall.

New Zealand’s 32nd-minute first-phase attack ended with out-half Damian McKenzie streaking underneath the posts unchecked to give New Zealand their third try of the contest and put them 21-14 ahead.

On replay, Lacey clearly acted as an unwitting obstruction to France scrum-half Baptiste Serin attempting a tackle on McKenzie after Aaron Smith passes to his 10.

TMO George Ayoub offered Lacey to opportunity to review the score, asking ‘Are you happy, John?’ as the footage flashed on the big screen. Lacey declined the opportunity, undoubtedly aware that rugby’s laws have no provision for a referee obstructing a would-be tackler.

Law 6.10 covers the ball or ball-carrier coming into contact with a non-player and states that, in the event of an advantage being gained, play should restart with a scrum.

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In today’s instance, it’s arguable that Lacey (and possibly Serin) is in a poor position and also that there ought to be a law to overrule the try, but Smith and McKenzie do an excellent job of exploiting the situation.

Until that point, it had been a happy occasion for Serin. On after the luckless Morgan Parra suffered a suspected concussion eight minutes into his first outing as France captain, Serin threw a sumptuous dummy to send a pillar defender spinning and he dived through the gap over the line to put France in the lead.

Baptiste Serin celebrates his try Source: Photosport//INPHO

The world champions responded instantly with Ben Smith crossing to level the scores before the brilliant Wesley Fofana powered France to a second seven-point lead of the game.

Matt Todd pushed the home side level on 23 minutes before the latest All Black match official controversy struck to help the hosts to a 21-14 half-time lead.

With that cushion, the All Blacks finished the 3-0 series whitewash in style with McKenzie’s searing pace consistently causing Les Bleus problems. The out-half scorched in for his second try before Rieko Ioane ran in brilliant 12-minute hat-trick to end a convincing yet controversial series win.

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Sean Farrell

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