WELLINGTON (AFP) – Incensed Auckland Blues coach John Kirwan is demanding referee Chris Pollock be held accountable for a red card ruling which he said ruined Saturday's Super 15 match against the Waikato Chiefs.
The Chiefs, the reigning titleholders, go into the championship play-off series at the head of the table after their 26-16 victory over the Blues, who were reduced to 14 men for three-quarters of the game.
Blindside flanker Kane Barrett was red-carded for stomping on Craig Clarke midway through the first half, although the big Chiefs' lock said he thought the boot only grazed his shoulder.
Chiefs coach Dave Rennie admitted the dismissal "seemed pretty harsh" and Kirwan has challenged SANZAR referees boss Lyndon Bray to take action.
"A yellow would have been sufficient and it ruined what I reckon would have been a great game," Kirwan said, arguing there was no intent on Barrett's part.
"It's time we started to mature and be a professional sport and everyone is held accountable.
"I challenge Lyndon Bray to do what we do; being dropped from selection next week because you don't play well or losing your job because you don't coach well."
SANZAR, the governing body of the Super 15 competition, said in its citing that Barrett is accused of "stamping or trampling" on Clarke, but the player said he hardly felt it.
"I felt a little bit on the shoulder," Clarke said. "Personally I feel for the man. If that was a club game you wouldn't look twice at that thing. I know he's hurting about it."
Barrett was Sunday cited for a second stomping incident on Chiefs' prop Ben Tameifuna which went unnoticed during the game but which officials said also warranted a sending off.
"Upon further review of the match footage, the citing commissioner deemed in his opinion the incident had met the red card threshold for foul play," SANZAR said in a statement, specifying that it occurred two minutes before the Clarke incident.
Although the Blues led 16-13 early in the second half, the Chiefs used their player advantage to pull away towards the end.
The victory ensures they can rest up during next week's opening playoff round and will host a semi-final the following weekend.