Craig Joubert should never again be allowed to referee a Test match after "disrespecting" rugby when he sprinted from the field after officiating the Rugby World Cup quarterfinal between Australia and Scotland at Twickenham on Sunday, Scotland legend Gavin Hastings says.
Joubert made a quick departure from the pitch amid a crescendo of boos after blowing the final whistle of a game that had been ultimately decided by the controversial 79th-minute penalty he had awarded to Australia.
Scotland had seized a 34-32 lead in the 74th minute through a converted intercept try by Mark Bennett try, but they were left shattered when Joubert penalised replacement prop Jon Welsh for offside and Bernard Foley kicked the penalty to clinch the last-gasp 35-34 victory that saw the Wallabies progress to the semifinals.
Hastings was scathing in his criticism of Joubert, but not necessarily the penalty decision, describing the referee's exit from Twickenham as "the worst thing I have seen on a rugby field in a long time".
"If I see referee Craig Joubert again, I am going to tell him how disgusted I am," Hastings said in commentary on BBC Radio. "It was disgraceful that he ran straight off the pitch at the end like that ... He is not prepared to face up to the players. That is not the spirit of rugby. He should be sent home tomorrow and he should not be allowed to make an international rugby commitment again."
Former England scrum-half Matt Dawson, Hasting's co-commentator, was more strident in his criticism of the referee in a post on Twitter:
Craig Joubert you are a disgrace and should never referee again!! How dare you sprint off the pitch after that decision!!! #RWC2015— Matt Dawson (@matt9dawson) October 18, 2015
Scottish fans have also reacted in anger, with seething fans creating an online petition calling for Joubert to be banned from Scotland for life. The petition on www.change.org is "Petitioning the people of Scotland" to "ban Craig Joubert from Scotland for life" and boasts over 700 signatures within hours of being launched.
While others tinkered with Joubert's Wikipedia page adding: "South African professional rugby union referee who hates the Scotland National Rugby Union".
LOLZ Someone's Busy Editing Craig Joubert's Wikipedia profile pic.twitter.com/5S2fgD1oFz— ScotsVsAusterity |X| (@ScotIndyDebate) October 18, 2015
Much criticism of Joubert referred to his failure to use the television match official to deliver his decision, as he had done several times previously in the game. World Rugby responded to that dismay by stating that technology could be used only to refer to the act of scoring a try or an act of foul play.
Scotland captain Greig Laidlaw, who kicked 19 points, said that Joubert had been uncertain in making the decision that denied the Scotland their first semifinals appearance since 1991.
"I asked Joubert [about the penalty] on several occasions," Laidlaw said. "I'm not sure what the protocols are. I think you can see from the way he was taking his time ... he was certainly having a look at the big screen and wasn't sure himself.
"And then he made a sharp exit at the end of the game, that's for sure. I never got a chance to speak to him after the game, he was off that quick.
"It looked like to me that it hit [Wallabies scrum-half] Nick Phipps and it went back and then another player caught it. I've not had a chance to look at it on the TV, but at the time I thought there was an Aussie arm. But we're not the type of people to blame the little things."
Apologies to Craig Joubert this morning. Your decision was right, I was wrong. Scotland, don't act like kids like we do with Wayne Barnes.— Jason Uden (@farmerjase) October 19, 2015
Replays showed that Phipps appeared to get a touch on the ball before Scotland prop Jon Welsh instinctively grabbed it while in an offside position, and the replacement Wallabies scrum-half said "I think everyone was trying to win the ball, we were all going for it". In this instance Joubert could have ruled that Walsh's offside was accidental and then awarded the Wallabies a scrum rather than a penalty, as he had done earlier in the match.
Under WR protocol, Craig Joubert could not consult the TMO nor could TMO get involved. But it should have been scrum to #Aus not a pen.— Alex Lowe (@AlexMLowe) October 18, 2015
Laidlaw said of the controversial end to the match that "it's very hard to take".
"It's a very upset dressing room as you can imagine," Laidlaw said. "We've made big strides since the Six Nations. We were one kick away from being in the semi-finals, and arguably we should have been there.
"Now's not the time to move forward. We need to get over this disappointment first. We've got the makings of a strong team. The spirit of our side is unbreakable at times and that's the spirit we've had throughout the tournament. We're a tight-knit group and there are no egos. Every man works as hard as the next."
Scotland head coach Vern Cotter observed a dignified silence over the decision that set up a semi-final between Australia and Argentina at Twickenham next Sunday.
"I didn't see the referee leave the pitch so I have no idea about that," Cotter said. "We'll take time to review the end of the game properly. We need to take the emotion out of it.
"I feel for these guys. It was a tough day and you can question those fine margins. They stayed in the game and I'm proud of them as men and as rugby players. It's a tough one to take."
The final penalty was just the latest of a number of key calls that favoured Australia, with Scotland also nursing a sense of grievance over an illegal tackle by Drew Mitchell on Stuart Hogg just before the final lineout that led to the desperate scramble for the ball. And barely a minute into the second half, Sean Maitland was harshly sent to the sin-bin by Joubert for a deliberate knock-on when the winger appeared to be genuinely reaching for the ball.
"I'm not in the referee's or touch judges' positions," Cotter said. "They see things and rule on them. If Sean had caught that ball he would probably have scored. And he was thinking ahead. It was a 50-50."
Australia head coach Michael Cheika had little sympathy for Scotland.
"You have to live with the ones you get and the ones you don't," Cheika said. "It is what it is and you just deal with it. Because of some things that have happened to me in the past, I've become quite neutral on the topic of referees.
"When you score five tries in a World Cup quarterfinal, you expect to be somewhere near the winning end of the game."