The Wallabies are officially playing the rest of the World Cup with house money after World Rugby admitted the penalty which won them a semi-final berth should not have been awarded.
The Wallabies only snatched a 35-34 quarter-final win over Scotland when five-eighth Bernard Foley nailed a controversial last-gasp penalty goal awarded by South African referee Craig Joubert.
The referee had ruled Scotland’s Jon Welsh caught the ball from an offside position, believing it to have bounced forward off a teammate and not been intentionally played at by reserve Wallabies halfback Nick Phipps.
Scotland captain Greig Laidlaw immediately pleaded with Joubert to consult the TMO (video referee), believing Phipps had made a play at the ball.
As it turns out, Laidlaw was spot on about everything except using the TMO, which can’t be used to make a judgment on such rulings.
Late on Monday, Joubert was effectively thrown to the wolves by World Rugby, following an official review into the refereeing performance.
The review found the correct decision would’ve been to award a scrum to Australia for a Scotland knock-on.
It still would’ve given the Wallabies a minute to conjure up a miracle but the odds certainly would’ve been heavily stacked with the Tartan Army.
“On review of all available angles, it is clear that after the knock-on, the ball was touched by Australia’s Nick Phipps and Law 11.3(c) states that a player can be put on-side by an opponent who intentionally plays the ball,” said the six-member review committee headed by former Scotland flanker John Jeffrey.
“The appropriate decision, therefore, should have been a scrum to Australia for the original knock-on.”
World Rugby referees chief Joel Jutge said: “Despite this experience, Craig has been and remains a world-class referee and an important member of our team.”
The admission will provide scant consolation for Scotland, who were crestfallen after the match at having missed out on a rare semi-final berth.
“We were one kick away from a World Cup semi-final and arguably, we should be in it,” Laidlaw said after the match.
The back pages of the British tabloids screamed blue murder for their defeated Dark Blues – even putting aside their love of the English Premier League to plead the case for Vern Cotter’s men.
Joubert has been in the crosshairs of many northern hemisphere rugby fans since he sprinted from the Twickenham field after blowing the fulltime whistle – prompting Scotland great Gavin Hastings to brand him “despicable” and ex-captain Andy Nicol to call him a “coward”.
And it appears they will get their wish: the decision has almost certainly ended Joubert’s tournament, after he was overlooked for this weekend’s semi-final clashes and with Welshman Nigel Owens understood to be already pencilled in for the final.
Frenchman Jerome Garces will take charge of Saturday’s clash between South Africa and New Zealand and English referee Wayne Barnes will control Argentina versus Australia on Sunday.
Joubert did find some supporters on Sunday, including former England captain Lawrence Dallaglio who fired back at some of his countrymen for their excessive criticism.
“We hold up our sport and praise it for the way referees conduct themselves and how players conduct themselves with referees,” Dallaglio said.
“So I have been a little saddened by some of the comments towards the referee as that doesn’t have a place in our game. I am not terribly impressed.”