Wellington (AFP) – New Zealand coach Steve Hansen called for a rethink of rugby’s penalty system on Saturday after their series-sealing, 26-13 win over France was spoiled by an early red card.
Hansen called the mid-air collision that saw France fullback Benjamin Fall dismissed in the 12th minute “not intentional”, and said the laws of the game should accept that accidents happen.
Hansen said he was pleased with the world champions’ four-tries-to-one victory, which clinched the three-match series with a game to spare, but riled by the French misfortune.
“It’s always a shame when someone gets red-carded particularly for an offence that is not really intentional,” Hansen said.
Fall collided with Beauden Barrett in the air, with the All Blacks fly-half crashing head-first to the turf and leaving the field with concussion.
“It was a challenge and he (Fall) got it wrong. The referee had to red-card him because that’s what the rules say but it does spoil the game.”
The All Blacks made the most of their one-man advantage to lead 21-6 by half-time before a courageous French side fought back gallantly in the second period.
Their chances of pulling off an upset win — after being thrashed 52-11 when a yellow card marred last week’s first Test — were dashed when they twice crossed the line but blew the try-scoring opportunities.
Hansen called for a card system where players could remain on the field following incidents that did not involve intentional foul play.
Fall “came in to try and catch the ball and Beauds came over the top and jumped higher than him and contributed to it.
“I don’t think there was any intention for him to hurt Beauden Barrett. And when there’s no intention it becomes a grey area… the game is not black and white.”
– Fall guy –
France were leading 3-0 when Fall collided with Barrett.
Australian referee Angus Gardner produced the red card as France, who complained bitterly over a crucial yellow card in the opening Test, saw their hopes of an upset evaporate.
But they battled bravely, claiming 70 percent of possession in the second half of what was a messy, error-riddled game.
Fall’s departure had an immediate impact when All Blacks prop Joe Moody stood at first receiver in the next play and galloped 23 metres for a try.
In the opening exchanges, the French backed their attacking instincts to expose holes in the All Blacks’ inside channels.
Anthony Belleau and Kelian Galletier tormented the All Blacks, while Geoffrey Doumayrou all but scored when he lost the ball diving for the line.
But for all their enterprise, France only had a Morgan Parra penalty to show for their early domination and even before they were reduced to 14 men their lineouts and scrums were looking fragile.
Once Moody had put the All Blacks on the scoresheet, Ben Smith danced through to score their second try while Ryan Crotty, Rieko Ioane and Anton Lienert-Brown combined to put Jordie Barrett over on the stroke of half-time.
The numbers evened out at 14 a side for 10 minutes just after the three-quarter mark when All Blacks replacement scrum-half TJ Perenara was yellow-carded.
In his absence, France replacement hooker Pierre Bourgarit, on debut, crossed the line but was called back for a double movement.
The All Blacks’ only points in the second half came with 21 minutes remaining when Damian McKenzie, Beauden Barrett’s replacement, weaved his way through to put Jordie Barrett over for his second try.
France’s courageous performance won the admiration of the New Zealand crowd — and there was also sympathy for the visitors when Sam Cane, involved in a first-Test tackle that left wing Remy Grosso with two facial fractures, escaped with only a penalty for a late charge on scrum-half Parra.