By Lee Stace
NOW THIS scribe is probably running the risk of incurring the wrath of fellow New Zealanders – and maybe the odd Welsh supporter, too – when he says this, but it is wrong to blame Wayne Barnes for what went down during the South Africa v Wales game last Sunday.
If anyone should be blamed, it should be assistant referees Vinny Munro and George Clancy.
Kiwis have it in for Barnes. They have done since his error-ridden performance contributed to the All Blacks’ quarter-final loss to France in Cardiff four years ago. He is about as popular in New Zealand as a right-wing politician fronting a hall full of disgruntled union members.
The English whistler got things wrong that day at Millennium Stadium. There is no doubt about it.
But the James Hook penalty that never was against the Boks in the capital is not his fault.
Instead it’s Munro – who ruled the kicked went over the top of the right-hand upright – and Clancy that need to take responsibility.
Being behind the posts, they were in a better position to make a call than Barnes was. If they had any doubt about the strike, they should have told Barnes to refer it to the television match official.
Barnes was relying on his two assistants to make a call. They let him down badly and, as a result, he is now copping a barrage of unfair criticism.
It’s easy to blame him given his past track record, but at the end of the day he is a good referee. New Zealanders should not let the past cloud their judgment when reviewing his performances.
It’s time to move on, people.
With the series level, expect both teams to put it all on the line as they seek to win the deciding test in Sydney on Saturday night.