Ref blasted by coaches after sending Sunwolves player off
QUEENSLAND Reds coach Brad Thorn believes the very soul of rugby union is at risk of being destroyed by pedantic refereeing decisions like the one that marred his side's win over the Sunwolves on Friday night.
An incredulous Thorn said Ed Quirk was only doing what hundreds of players before him had done with his "facial" on Hamish Stewart, which earned him what some pundits called the softest red card in rugby history.
Sunwolves flanker Quirk was sent off in the 37th minute for what officials deemed to be foul play - a closed fist, almost gently rubbed into Stewart's face while the pair was at the bottom of the ruck.
Referee Ben O'Keeffe claimed he had "no option" but to produce a red card, effectively cruelling the Japanese outfit's chances of victory at a crucial juncture in the match when the margin was just nine points.
"What's going on?" Thorn said.
"I suspect I sound like an old guy that's going, 'back in the day, blah blah blah', but seriously, that's not good for footy.
"I'm sitting there, I'm the opposite coach and straight away, I'm up there just going, that's no good. It just hurts the game.
"Far out, man. How hard did you have to work to find that?
"The five-eighth's at the bottom of the ruck, the forward gives him a little facial. Isn't that what you're supposed to do?
"Seriously. Come on, man. Come on. My sons do that in the backyard. It's beautiful. Good on them."
Sunwolves coach Tony Brown reckoned it was just the latest example of how rugby lawmakers were losing touch with players, coaches and supporters.
"Every coach who's had a press conference over the last six weeks is going, what are we doing, where's the game going and why is this happening?" he said.
"It's just got bizarre - the referee's almost looking to promote themselves by being in the media, being the guy that does it.
"'I've got no other option', what a load of crap. That's just embarrassing."
Sunwolves skipper Willie Blitz said: "I've spoken to a lot of old players as well, the game's gone soft."
"You make a good, proper hit and you get a red card for it. It's not what it was in the past.
"It's just difficult for players, you want to bring that physicality, you want to stay in the laws but just a little mistake here or there and the law just cracks you."