LONDON – Craig Joubert has drawn the ire of Scotland, where they’re screaming dark blue murder over his contentious late penalty call that cost their team a Rugby World Cup quarterfinal victory against Australia before he ran from the field at Twickenham.
Ex-Scotland captain Gavin Hastings said the South African referee’s hasty exit from the field after Australia’s last-minute, 35-34 win on Sunday was “one of the worst things I have seen on a rugby field.” On the BBC, he accused Joubert of not wanting to face the Scottish players in the wake of the decision, which World Rugby on Monday said was incorrectly awarded.
He demanded Joubert be “sent home” and not be allowed to officiate in another test.
Former England scrumhalf Matt Dawson condemned Joubert’s quick departure as a “disgrace.” In a Twitter post that was retweeted thousands of times, Dawson said: “How dare you sprint off the pitch after that decision!!”
Australia coach Michael Cheika defended Joubert on Monday, saying his speedy exit was likely because a bottle was thrown onto the pitch.
“Someone threw a bottle at him, didn’t they? I would be racing off, too, if I saw a bottle coming,” said Cheika, who has been sanctioned in the past for criticizing match officials. “I don’t think anything of him going off quickly.
“I don’t like the way that people are making something out of the way he ran off the field.”
Joubert was harshly criticized for awarding the penalty for a Scottish offside infringement following a lineout in their own half in the 78th minute, when the ball was tapped loose and ricocheted forward from one man in a dark blue jersey to another, Jon Welsh. In the process, the ball came into contact with Australia replacement scrumhalf Nick Phipps, but Joubert didn’t see that from his angle and made the call based on instinct.
He couldn’t ask for a review from the Television Match Official, because referrals can only be sought when awarding a try or assessing acts of foul play.
Following a review of the match officials’ performance, World Rugby said Welsh had actually been played onside because the ball was touched by Phipps, and that the call should have been a scrum to Australia.
“It is important to clarify that the referee could not refer to the TMO in this case and, therefore, had to rely on what he saw in real time,” Joel Jutge, World Rugby’s high performance manager for match officials, said. “Despite this experience, Craig has been and remains a world-class referee and an important member of our team.”
Given the Wallabies had scored five tries — and had one disallowed by the TMO after a referral by Joubert — and were within range to attempt a dropped goal, there’s no saying the Scots would have won.