All Blacks boss Steve Hansen has defended Brodie Retallick for an apparent tip tackle in Saturday’s tense Test against Australia but refused to get involved in a war of words with Wallabies coach Michael Cheika.
Cheika was fuming after the Wallabies lost the match in the dying seconds when Beauden Barrett scored and converted to give the All Blacks a 35-29 victory in Dunedin.
“There were things during the game that could have changed the course of it,” Cheika said in an outburst against match officials.
He was particularly incensed that Retallick escaped censure when Wallabies flanker Ned Hanigan ended up on his head after a collision with the All Blacks lock midway through the first half when the Wallabies had raced to a 17-0 lead.
“It’s just as well he (Hanigan) didn’t break his neck,” an emotional Cheika said.
Had the tackle been ruled deliberate, Retallick could have faced a yellow or red card which would have worked in Australia’s favour.
But Hansen argued Welsh referee Nigel Owens made the right call when he deemed the incident was accidental and noted it had not been raised by the citing commissioner either.
Although no clear video image emerged, it appeared Retallick and Hanigan became entangled as they tried to get up following a ruck.
“When somebody jumps on top of you, you get up on your knees and he falls off, it’s an accident. It’s not a deliberate act,” Hansen told reporters on Sunday before declining to discuss Cheika’s accusations further.
“I don’t want to get into that. He made his point and that’s fine.”
Despite the loss, it was an impressive performance by the Wallabies who had been widely written off after their 54-34 thrashing by the All Blacks the previous week in Sydney.
But Cheika was not to be placated by the improvement in his side, rather he was disappointed in the way they let the game slip away from them in the dying minutes.
“The gallant loser thing is not on. We should have won that game. We know it,” he said.
“I’m not angry. I’m very, very, disappointed because I thought we did enough to win the game.”
Hansen accepted it was a game Australia could easily have won and blamed the high error count by the All Blacks who conceded a high 17 turnovers.
The immediate concern for the All Blacks were the suspected concussions suffered by flanker Sam Cane and centre Ryan Crotty with their next Rugby Championship match against Argentina in two weeks.
The Wallabies next match is against South Africa in Perth, also on September 9.