Quade Cooper suffers a shoulder injury as the Queensland Reds lose 30-27 in their Super Rugby clash with the Melbourne Rebels.
Queensland skipper James Horwill claimed Super Rugby was being ruined and the Reds were “robbed” after a controversial video over-ruling on Saturday night.
It was their sixth straight loss, 30-27 to the Melbourne Rebels, in a season of woe which also sank to new depths with a serious shoulder injury to star playmaker Quade Cooper.
Horwill could not hide his rage after the Rebels secured their first win over the Reds thanks to a late penalty awarded on review by television match official Steve Lescinski, who ruled an eye-gouge by Ed O’Donoghue.
Following their bewildering 23-20 loss to the Lions in Johannesburg earlier in the season, the Reds captain said they’d been dudded again.
“In the end, once again we were robbed by a stupid refereeing decision,” he told Fox Sports after fulltime.
Horwill, who could face sanctions from SANZAR, hadn’t calmed down at the official post-match press conference.
He was furious as referee Steve Walsh had originally given his penalty to Queensland when Sean McMahon was third man in to a scuffle between O’Donoghue and Rebels skipper Scott Higginbotham.
Walsh, who did not want to rule on the alleged gouging off the big screen, had told Lescinski he didn’t need to review the scuffle, but the TMO stopped play just as the ensuing lineout formed.
“I have played more than 150 games of professional rugby and I have never ever seen that happen before – ever,” Horwill said.
“It’s getting beyond a joke. It’s ruining the spectacle that Super Rugby is.
“Super Rugby has always been about expansive rugby but it’s going out of the game because too much of the game is being slowed down to look back (at incidents).”
Horwill believed O’Donoghue, a shattered figure in the dressing room, gave Higginbotham a facial after being headbutted and had no intention of gouging.
“You should judge on both (incidents) or you shouldn’t judge on either,” he said. “Higgers hasn’t got a scratch on him.
“From my experiences of eye-gouging there is a mark.
“Higgers was actually surprised, he thought he was in trouble.”
But Rebels coach Tony McGahan was adamant the match-winning penalty was justified, as O’Donoghue’s fingers were around Higginbotham’s eyes.
McGahan said he hoped the “indiscretion” would be picked up and was thankful it was.
Rebels flanker Scott Fuglistaller argued players had been told by officials the head and eyes were “sacrosanct”.
Wallabies five-eighth Cooper is now likely to miss next month’s Test series against France after suffering a grade three AC joint displacement in the eighth minute.
With Test coach Ewen McKenzie to name his 32-man on Thursday, the timing couldn’t be worse for Cooper.
Although Higginbotham admitted it was disappointing to see the result decided in the manner it was, the Rebels deserved victory.
With halfback Luke Burgess a two-try hero before suffering a knee injury, they were more clinical in attack and appeared to have the match parcelled up in the second half.