Brenden Nel - SuperSport
Johannesburg - The Bulls were right to ask for a penalty on the halfway line after their winger Bjorn Basson was hurt in an incident of foul play at the end of their 29-23 loss against the Blues at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday.
SANZAR referees boss Lyndon Bray has admitted that referee Steve Walsh “got it wrong” when he refused Bulls captain Pierre Spies’ pleas to award the penalty after the game.
Basson scored in the 79th minute of the game, and as he went over Blues winger Rene Ranger hit him illegally in attempting to stop him, an incident which earned Ranger a yellow card and a citing. The citing was later deemed to be a red card, and Ranger was sentenced to a two week ban by a SANZAR disciplinary tribunal for the incident.
But when it happened, Spies asked rightly for the penalty on the halfway line, the right call after a yellow card was awarded for foul play. Walsh refused, citing the time on the clock, which had expired.
While it may be a long shot, the Bulls could argue that they could have played the penalty and scored a try, thereby giving themselves a chance to win the game.
However, when Walsh refused, they had no chance to do such.
Bray told SuperSport.com that Walsh afterwards had acknowledged he had made a mistake with the call and that he should have given the penalty on the halfway line.
The incident is a rare one, but one which caused much confusion among fans and players alike.
Bray said while it was a mistake, it should be seen in the bigger picture of the game.
“To what extent do you say, how does that error colour that performance. It isn’t that we trivialise it, it is an error and he was the first one to acknowledge that he made that mistake but for 79 minutes he refereed extremely well. We have to see that mistake in the context of his performance,” Bray said.
Bray said the decision, which is not something you see everyday in rugby, had literally caught Walsh out. In the heat of the moment he made a decision, one which was wrong, and it would be brought up in his review, which takes place this week.
“When you look at a guy of Steve’s calibre - he’s one of our best refs and in great form at the moment.
“Something catches you out - in this case its probably something that you have dealt with twice in your career and you make a decision in the moment, and you are adamant and you back yourself. Unfortunately he was wrong and he has accepted it afterwards. It is an unusual situation that doesn’t happen often in a game," said Bray.
The Bulls are unlikely to complain, but will feel they could have stolen the game in the end if they were given the chance.