MELBOURNE, Nov 7 (Reuters) - The Wallabies will have to do better with their tackling to avoid further red cards, captain Michael Hooper said on Saturday after Australia’s tight win over New Zealand saw both teams reduced to 14 men for most of the match.
Australia were handed an unexpected bonus in the 23rd minute of their 24-22 Tri-Nations victory at Lang Park when All Blacks prop Ofa Tuungafasi was red-carded for a head-high tackle on debutant winger Liam Wright.
Yet the Wallabies were unable to capitalise as flanker Lachlan Swinton became the first Australian to be red-carded on test debut and the fifth overall when he planted a shoulder into the jaw of Sam Whitelock in a tackle 12 minutes later.
Australian referee Nic Berry and the television official’s interpretations were consistent across both incidents but pundits and fans questioned whether the sanctions were too harsh.
Wallabies coach Dave Rennie had no problem with either decision, while Hooper said the players needed to work on their technique.
“We want our players playing as long as we possibly can in this game,” the Wallabies skipper told reporters.
“So if that’s the interpretation (and) that’s what’s coming down from on top, we’ve got to be better.
“We don’t want to lose a guy for 50 minutes again. We’ve got to be better and tackle lower.”
Tuungafasi became the fifth All Black to draw a red card in tests but the third in the last four seasons along with a tightening of concussion protocols in recent years.
Lock Scott Barrett was red-carded for a high tackle in Perth last year, reducing the All Blacks to 14 for a half and paving the way to a record 47-26 defeat by the Wallabies.
Centre Sonny Bill Williams was sent off in the second test against the British and Irish Lions in 2017, the All Blacks’ only loss in the series.
All Blacks coach Ian Foster and captain Sam Cane declined to criticise the red cards, but Cane said there was no malice or “dirty play” in either of the tackles.
Foster was more disappointed with Barrett for drawing a needless yellow card late in the second half when he slapped at the ball as Wallabies scrumhalf Nic White took it out of a ruck.
Wallabies prop Taniela Tupou scored the decisive try five minutes from the final siren while the All Blacks were reduced to 13.
“Scooter’s (Barrett’s) one near the end was kind of a bad timing for a card and put us under immense pressure,” said Foster. (Editing by Christian Radnedge)
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