Ma’a Nonu continues to be a lightning rod for controversy, but All Black coach Steve Hansen says he’s got no case to answer after Saturday’s Bledisloe Cup match in Wellington.
Nonu came under fire from the Wallabies for a shoulder charge that levelled prop James Slipper during the first half of the All Blacks’ 27-16 win at Westpac Stadium.
Australian coach Ewen McKenzie made his feelings clear when asked after the Test what he made of the tackle in the 22nd minute.
“Well, I’ve seen it. I know what the law is so I’ll leave it to someone else to work it out,” he said.
“Those things just go on and I just sit there and sometimes [I’m] bemused at how those things happen and nothing ever happens.”
McKenzie said he’d “move on”, but clearly felt the citing commissioner should have a closer look.
“Someone will either do something about it or not, or it’ll be acceptable, or it won’t.”
Neither referee Jaco Peyper or his assistants took any action at the time and for the citing commissioner to act he would have had to adjudge Nonu’s tackle a sending off offence.
Hansen, already irked by McKenzie’s public whinge about the officials, clearly felt it was not in that category.
“At the time he [Nonu] had a bit of a stinger [on his other shoulder] and I think he just turned his back on him,” Hansen said.
“We’re not playing tiddlywinks. It’s a man’s game and I think sometimes we get a wee bit carried away.
“I think it was worthy of looking at. The rules say you have to tackle with your arms, but I don’t think it was a red card offence. Therefore he didn’t get cited and I agree with that.”
As with any incident involving Nonu, the tackle was seized upon after the match as was an intercept pass, which saw Israel Folau race away for a try and a kick out on the full.
In truth, Nonu has brought some of the attention on himself, with no-arms tackles a trait that’s popped up through his career.
However, he’s also become an easy target. There will likely be little mention of his gesture of sportsmanship toward Slipper when the prop left the field later in the match.
And while Nonu may have had a couple of regrettable moments, his influence on the match was as significant as always.
His strong ball carrying – he led the All Blacks with nine – took crucial pressure off rookie pivot Tom Taylor and put the pack on the front foot.
While the Wallaby defence struggled to pull down the midfielder, it allowed halfback Aaron Smith and Taylor precious time to survey their options.
Nonu’s surge in the lead up to Ben Smith’s crucial second try before halftime was a case in point.
“He’s been in good form,” Hansen said. “But he’s struggling a bit with that ankle and we’ll have to look at that over the next couple of weeks.
“He’s going to get a scan to find out what’s going on there. He’s done well considering he’s only got one and three quarter legs.”
Nonu’s not the only one nursing his body after helping secure the Bledisloe Cup for the 11th straight season.
A prop will be called in as cover for tighthead Owen Franks (groin), while Taylor is out for three weeks with rib damage.
Better news is the likely availability of first five-eighth Dan Carter and Beauden Barrett for the All Blacks’ next Rugby Championship match against Argentina in Hamilton in a fortnight’s time.
Fairfax NZ News
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