Rugby World Cup ref targeted by New Zealand legend after controversy in final

New Zealand legend Israel Dagg has taken aim at referee Wayne Barnes after a red card was shown to the All Blacks’ captain Sam Cane early in Saturday’s final. South Africa went on to win the contest 12-11, clinching a record-breaking fourth title by the narrowest of margins.

Barnes’ contentious call to put New Zealand at a numerical disadvantage came when Cane flew into a high tackle on Jesse Kriel. The Springboks consequently spent the final 53 minutes of the final playing against 14 men.

The decision did not go down well in the All Blacks’ camp, with the more frequent use of cards in Test rugby causing concern. Dagg, who racked up 66 games for New Zealand between 2010 and 2017, laid into Barnes for his role in the drama.

“I know I’m going to sound like a sore loser here, but this is our showpiece event, which has been overshadowed by a couple of people that are just taking the glory and the gloss away from the players,” he said.

“I’m honestly just fed up. It is putting apprehension in the mind of our players and we’re seeing a snore-fest out there. How boring is that? You can see why people switch off the game.

“It’s as boring as hell because you don’t have the best players out there. There were some contentious moments but deal with it after the game. There was no malice in [Cane’s tackle] and Jesse Kriel is fine.”

Fellow All Blacks legend Sir John Kirwan was similarly downbeat once the final whistle confirmed South Africa’s victory, although he opted against taking aim directly at the match officials. “I’m just bitterly disappointed, there is no other word for it really,” he said.

“I don’t like a couple of things that happened during the game but I’m not going to moan about it, this is the wrong time. I feel gutted for our beautiful little country. I feel gutted for the players. I think we said all year that we didn’t want it to come down to a couple of decisions but it’s done that.”

Cane’s red card was not the only punishment dished out by Barnes on Saturday night, with New Zealand’s Shannon Frizell sent to the sin bin early on for rolling over the leg of hooker Bongi Mbonambi, forcing him off injured in just the fourth minute.

Springboks captain Siya Kolisi also visited the sin bin after the break for making head-on-head contact with Ardie Savea, but he returned to the pitch to guide South Africa over the finish line.

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