KUMAGAYA, Japan (Reuters) - Samoa were lucky not to finish their World Cup Pool A opener with just 13 men on the field as Rey Lee-lo and Motu Matu’u deserved red cards, Russia coach Lyn Jones said.
Lee-lo and Matu’u were only given yellow cards by referee Romain Poite after the television match official reviewed the tackles on Russia captain Vasily Artemyev within two minutes of each other in the first half.
“In our box, we were expecting more severe penalties than what was given,” Jones said. “Romain is a far more experienced man than I am in making those kind of decisions.
“Of course it would have changed the game, two red cards in two minutes and it’s a different world.”
Samoa kicked on to win the game 34-9 against an exhausted Russia side at Kumagaya Rugby Stadium and earn a bonus-point heading into their second game next Monday against Scotland in Kobe.
With both tackles looking borderline, Poite referred the incidents to the television official Graham Hughes to avoid any controversy, especially since match officials were criticised by World Rugby bosses earlier on Tuesday for sub-standard officiating during the first few days of the tournament.
Hughes recommended a yellow card for both incidents because he said Artemyev had ducked his head into each tackle.
Poite still warned Samoa captain Chris Vui to speak to his team and that “they must be better in the tackle” and Samoa coach Steve Jackson said he thought yellow cards were the appropriate sanction.
“I thought the right decisions got made,” Jackson said.
“It’s tackle technique really isn’t it? We learned from this, we should have learned from that over the past week, with some of the people who have been cited.
“We’ve just got to be better in that area.”
World Cup referees had come under intense scrutiny over the opening weekend with coaches, fans and pundits all complaining about the inconsistency of the decision making.
The most controversial involved Australia’s Reece Hodge, who will face a judiciary hearing on Wednesday after he was cited for a dangerous tackle on Fiji loose forward Peceli Yato.
Hodge initially escaped any on-field sanction after the referee Ben O’Keeffe and TMO Rowan Kitt reviewed the incident and ruled there was no foul play.
The winger, however, was cited on Sunday, which prompted a critical response from Australia coach Michael Cheika who argued the 25-year-old had been the victim of circumstance.
“I think if you see the conjecture around the place, the majority of footballers, former rugby players who have played the game, said it was not illegal,” he said.
“But it’s really simple, show the vision, look at the conditions and the different mitigating circumstances across the whole incident and see what it is.
“And what it is, is a guy’s trying to make a tackle, and it’s pretty clear.”
Reporting by Greg Stutchbury; Editing by Pritha Sarkar