It isn’t just NRL video referees who feel the wrath of fans, with the television match officials stealing the spotlight in the opening clash of the Rugby World Cup.
Less than 24 hours after a refereeing clanger in the Sydney Roosters’ NRL semi-final victory over Canterbury, the 15-a-side game proved it wasn’t to be outdone on that front.
Fans on social media were up in arms as South African referee Jaco Peyper repeatedly deferred to the video official, Shaun Veldsman.
From adjudicating on suspected fouls in the ruck to watching endless replays confirming tries to Fiji’s Nemani Nadolo and the bonus-point-sealing effort from England’s Billy Vunipola, Veldsman had a big input at Twickenham on Friday.
The constant referrals to the video ref meant that the first half dragged out to 52 minutes, rather than the scheduled 40 minutes, and the match as a whole took nearly two hours.
However on one of the few occasions he was required – for a would-be try to Fijian halfback Nikola Matawalu – he wasn’t called on until after the try had been given.
The livewire No.9 took the ball from the back of the scrum and looked to have given his side a major boost following a scintillating 50m weaving run.
Referee Peyper immediately awarded the five-pointer, despite both himself and his touch judge having been left in the dust by the fleet-footed Matawalu.
It wasn’t until replays were shown on the big screens at Twickenham, which revealed Matawalu had dropped the ball over the line, that Peyper interrupted the conversion and called on his mate upstairs.
The try was correctly overturned, but the process enraged England’s 2003 World Cup-winning duo Jonny Wilkinson and Sir Clive Woodward.
“How far does it go? After he takes the conversion, and then it’s on the screen – can you still go back?” asked Wilkinson.
“Can you go back at halftime? Will you review it at the end of the game and be able to change scores after?”
Woodward, his coach at the 2003 World Cup, agreed.
“Once the referee has given the try, that’s what you’ve got to go with,” he said.
“He’s got to say ‘sorry guys, I made a mistake’. It’s a refereeing error (but) once you give it, you can’t then go back.
“They shouldn’t have changed it – even though the decision was right.”
Roosters prop Kane Evans was awarded a controversial try in his side’s win over the Bulldogs on Friday night.
Referee Matt Cecchin stopped time and called on video referees Bernard Sutton and Ben Galea to review the grounding and while initial replays showed Evans planting before the tryline, only for the ball to be lifted again and then re-planted on the tryline, it was awarded.