The controversial red card handed to Wallabies star Marika Koroibete during Saturday’s victory over France has been overturned, meaning he is free to play on.
The powerful winger was sent off just five minutes into the series decider at Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium for a high tackle on French No 8 and captain Anthony Jelonch.
After watching a number of replays, Kiwi referee Ben O’Keeffe decided Koroibete’s shoulder had made direct contact with Jelonch’s neck/head and handed him a red card.
Read more:Tackle divides rugby and sparks fury
He said the Fijian-born rugby league convert had run in from distance with force and connected high in a dangerous fashion, without any mitigating factors.
Despite being down to 14 men for virtually the entire game, Australia still went on to win 33-30 and clinch a thrilling 2-1 series triumph.
But it was the dismissal of Koroibete which remained the big talking point after the match.
The contentious ruling provoked an angry reaction both from within the Wallaby camp and from numerous commentators.
Australia coach Dave Rennie claimed the incident had been “terribly milked” by Jelonch who fell to the ground clutching his head.
The injured James O’Connor agreed with his coach, saying: “It’s pretty frustrating. If you’re playing in the spirit of rugby, that’s not something you do.”
Former All Black Andrew Mehrtens said the decision was “an absolute travesty”, while ex-Wallaby wing Lote Tuqiri called it embarrassing.
And ex-New Zealand star Sonny Bill Williams added: “We need to protect player safety, but we need to protect the game too.”
A number of pundits and punters echoed the chorus of disapproval, pointing to the French skipper having dipped down just before contact, with the sending off provoking a big debate on social media.
Jelonch, for his part, felt it was the right decision.
“The red card was logical. I don’t think there is any dispute,” said the Castres back rower.
But, now, an independent disciplinary committee has decided not to uphold Koroibete’s red card after a review.
They deemed his tackle initially made shoulder to shoulder contact and that any further impact to the neck area was “incidental”.
So the 28-year-old Rebels winger is free to play on and can line up against New Zealand next month.
Meanwhile, Kiwi referee O’Keeffe will take charge of the second Test between South Africa and the British & Irish Lions in Johannesburg on July 31.