All Blacks midfielder Ma'a Nonu received scant sympathy from either coach after he was sent off for a tip tackle during the Highlanders' 40-12 Super Rugby loss to the Crusaders at Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin on Saturday.
Nonu went on at half-time with the Crusaders leading 13-7, but he was given his marching orders by referee Steve Walsh 17 minutes into the spell after his illegal tackle on winger Tom Marshall. The score was 20-12 at the time, and the Highlanders, down to 14 players, conceded 20 points in the remaining 23 minutes as the Crusaders took maximum points from the southern derby. Walsh was busy with his cards, also sin-binning Hoeata for a facial on Crusaders half-back Andy Ellis and replacement Crusaders hooker Corey Flynn for a high tackle on All Blacks half-back Aaron Smith.
"There was something not right there," Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder said. "There was also a late tackle on Dan Carter, and Jarrad Hoeata's act earlier in the game. There's no need for that." Highlanders coach Jamie Joseph said: "You make your own decisions. [Walsh] did not muck around, though. He was pretty determined. It would be nice to see the stats. I think [Nonu] has been yellow-carded three or four times by Walshy."
It was a continuation, and possibly an end, to Nonu's wretched Super Rugby season with the Highlanders. He almost conceded a try when a kick was charged down with his first touch of the ball, and he will face the judiciary. "It stuffed us really," Joseph said of Nonu's sending off and Hoeata's sin-binning. "It obviously affected our team. Ten minutes in the first half, with Jarrad in the bin, and the last 23 minutes without Ma'a. You need as much help as you can get against the Crusaders, not having to play them with 14 men."