AUSTRALIAN referee Paul Marks has been dumped indefinitely from Super 14 matches following his handling of the NSW-Sharks match, with SANZAR referees chief Lyndon Bray admitting yesterday a last-gasp penalty try should have been awarded to the South Africans.
Sharks coach John Plumtree complained bitterly after Saturday’s 25-21 loss to the Waratahs at the Sydney Football Stadium that the Sydney-based Marks should have ruled Kurtley Beale’s 78th-minute knock-down of a pass to Ryan Kankowski warranted a penalty try — which would assuredly have handed the Natal side the victory.
Instead, Marks gave Beale a yellow card and only awarded the Sharks a penalty. From the ensuing lineout, he penalised Sharks prop Jannie du Plesis for obstruction in a rolling maul after he had lifted jumper Wilhelm Steenkamp to win the throw barely a metre from the NSW tryline.
The referees’ selection panel of Australian Andrew Cole, South Africa’s Tappe Henning and New Zealand’s Colin Hawke, taking account of Marks’s performances in his past two matches, voted to drop him from the Super 14 panel until he has rectified shortcomings in his game management. South African referee Pro Legoete has also been stood down indefinitely.
“There was some imbalance from a management perspective, how he (Marks) arrived at these big decisions and how they were presented,” Bray said.
The SANZAR boss said Marks’s decision not to award the Sharks a match-winning penalty try was only one event and his overall handling of the game was taken into account.
“In fairness to Paul, you could debate the penalty try ruling all day,” Bray said. “We believe the right decision in the cold light of day was to award a penalty try, but you could argue why a referee would back off it.”
Cole maintained that front-on video footage had shown that contrary to South African claims Kankowski would have had an unimpeded run to the tryline, Waratahs centre Tom Carter was coming across in cover defence.
“Admittedly he had a fair bit of work to do, and we all know how quick Kankowski is,” Cole said.
“But Paul would have seen him in his peripheral vision . . . he would have known there was a defender there.”
Cole will work with Marks on improving his game management, and is confident he will be back refereeing at the top level before the end of the Super 14 tournament.
But his demotion comes too late for the Sharks, who take a 0-4 win-loss record — and a feeling that nothing is going their way — into their match with the Brumbies in Canberra on Saturday.