Crusaders prop Joe Moody has been suspended for two weeks for striking NSW Waratahs centre Kurtley Beale in an off-the-ball incident during Saturday night's Super Rugby thriller in Christchurch.
Moody entered a guilty plea for the charge after he was cited following Saturday night's game. The incident, which came five minutes before the break, saw Moody obstruct Beale with a raised forearm to the chin before he took the final pass to score under the sticks. It proved to be the catalyst for the Crusaders' record-breaking 31-29 comeback win at AMI Stadium.
Officials took no action at the time but SANZAAR'S citing commissioner deemed the incident had met the red card threshold for foul play.
Moody was playing his first Super Rugby match of the year, having recovered from a serious shoulder injury suffered last September, followed by a month out with a fractured finger. His try sparked the Crusaders' incredible recovery from 29-0 down, the biggest comeback in Super Rugby history.
But the incident angered former Wallabies George Gregan, Rob Kafer and Stephen Hoiles during television commentary of the match.
"That's an elbow to the throat of a player unprotected. It's a red-card offence. The try should not be scored. The guy should not be on the field," Kafer fumed on Fox Sports.
Waratahs coach Daryl Gibson was also unable to hide his frustration after the Waratahs had to settle for a losing bonus point to retain their Australian conference lead.
"A couple of decisions proved really costly; obviously the Joe Moody incident with the elbow, which the referees missed," he said. "In my book, it's an elbow to the head so I'm sure the powers that be are looking at that."
The Crusaders' victory took the winning streak of New Zealand teams over Australian opposition in Super Rugby to 39 matches since the Waratahs beat the Chiefs in Sydney in May 2016.
But Hoiles and Gregan are growing tired of Australia's Kiwi rivals pushing the limits of the law.
"The reality is, we've got to start cheating better," Hoiles said. "That's what we as Aussies need to do. We need to start running players off the ball.
"We have to be a little bit craftier off the ball. That's what Australian rugby needs to do. We can't let the referee make all these decisions."
Waratahs back-rower Michael Wells appeared to be lifted above the horizontal in the dying stages but that tackle also went unpunished as the defending champion Crusaders held on for their seventh straight win to remain top of the table.
"They push the envelope right to the last minute," Gregan said. "There's probably a couple you could say: 'Hang on, maybe he could blow the whistle' but you won't because you've been pushing it the whole time and that's what good teams do and the referee lets that go."