Plenty has already been said and written about the decision made by referee Craig Joubert to award a penalty in the game’s closing moments, which Bernard Foley coolly converted to secure a one-point victory for the Wallabies.
By now I think it’s pretty much accepted that it was the wrong call, and the timing and importance of the blunder has only increased the media focus on the South African, who certainly didn’t help his cause by haring for the exit as soon as he had whistled for full time.
Perhaps he had realised (courtesy of the big screen) what the Scots already knew; the ball had touched an Australian arm in between being knocked forward and collected. Without Nick Phipps’ intervention, the penalty would have been the correct decision... clearly there is now a big “but”....
All the talk around referring the incident to the television match official (TMO) is moot because the rules don’t allow for such situations to be reviewed; the mistake had been made and Joubert should have showed more dignity, respect for the Scots and for the game by staying on the field and shaking both sets of players by the hand.
The moment is likely to define Joubert’s career which, in some respects, is a shame because you don’t get to take charge of a World Cup Final (which he did in 2011) by being incompetent. In fact, earlier in the game Joubert picked up the smallest of knock-ons by Will Genia in the lead up to a subsequently disallowed “try” by Adam Ashley-Cooper. It was a great spot, but one which only makes the later miss that much harder to accept.
To a degree, the events of those closing two minutes have distracted from what looked a harsh yellow card shown to Sean Maitland for a “deliberate” knock-on that was always going to look worse in slow motion. And then there was a non-referral to the TMO for a late hit on Stuart Hogg which would have inevitably have led to a Scottish penalty... and from there, who knows?
Whilst on the subject of “what ifs”, I’m sure that given another line-out towards the end of such a massive game, with rain pouring from the heavens, the ball would have been thrown short... cue a second big “but”....
The bare facts are that Australia have advanced to the semi-final and Scotland have bowed out of the tournament. The final pages of the story of the World Cup are still to be written, but whoever lifts the trophy on 31 October, the competition will hopefully also be remembered not for a refereeing howler, but for a performance of remarkable and inspiring courage from the proud men of Scotland.