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Sunday, March 08, 2015

Controversial yellow card for James Lowe tackle leads to Highlanders upset

The Highlanders snatched a 20-17 last ditch victory over the Chiefs in Hamilton on Friday, as a late penalty gave magic man Marty Banks a shot at goal, which he duly slotted. The visitors were in that position due to a shocker of a call however, which you can see below.

If you watched the game on Friday, and had half an eye on twitter at the same time, you will have noted the gobsmasked, mostly outraged reaction from those watching on. This was a tense New Zealand derby that certainly deserved a better finish than what we saw transpire.

At 17-17 with just two minutes left, All Black centre Malakai Fekitoa drew the opposition before feeding out wide. The defender in question was Chiefs winger James Lowe, who had had another top quality match, until it was brought to an abrupt end by a highly contentious referee decision.

Lowe's tackle, knee high and wrapping with both arms, ended up flipping Fekitoa over the top of him, with an akward looking faceplant the result. Cleary the Highlanders back jumped in the tackle, so Lowe couldn't grasp him and he flew over the top. This was deemed to be dangerous play.

Lowe was perplexed, and the lipreaders amongst us knew exactly what he was saying. While respecting the referee is what makes rugby great, on this occasion he was fully entitled to feel aggrieved, as this will go down as one of the worst calls of the season.

Following that, as you can see in the video, the Highlanders made their way down field before being awarded another penalty, one that is also up for discussion. Marty 'Screech' Banks stepped up and slotted the 41m kick with ease, resulting in the Chiefs' first loss of the season.

"It's disappointing to finish the game like that," said captain Liam Messam post match, opting to avoid any talk about the referee calls. "There were too many errors, basic handling errors and showing them too much pill (ball) and they punished us."

While player safety is key and we all know there are reasons for clamping down on genuine dangerous tackles, this did not fit into that category. It's also a great example of how inaccurate refereeing, perhaps sometimes prompted by directives from above, can cost a team a match.

Take a look below and let us know what you think of the final few minutes

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