SANZAR referees boss Lyndon Bray has defended match official Craig Joubert's decision to award a penalty try against the Waratahs in their semi-final against the Highlanders.
Bray said Joubert was right to award the contentious penalty try but admitted there's an argument that Waratahs flanker Jacques Potgieter's yellow card, while correct, seemed "harsh".
Joubert's decision came in the 57th minute of the Highlanders' 35-17 win in Sydney when their wing Patrick Osborne was stopped close to the try-line by Potgieter's swinging arm, which meant a penalty try was given in combination with Joubert sending the flanker to the sin-bin.
Bray has reviewed the incident and spoke to Joubert, and revealed that although Potgieter did not intend to commit a foul, his arm's contact with Osborne's head meant that Joubert applied the correct steps.
"While accepting that the Waratahs number six was not deliberately or intentionally committing foul play, the facts are that his arm came into contact with the face of the ball carrier, and then the referee has to go through a subsequent decision," Bray told the Daily Telegraph.
"Because we are literally inches from the goal line, he then has to make a decision around whether that action – which is illegal – prevented a probable try.
"And the facts I think are quite clear."
That call was slammed by many – including the Waratahs fans at the stadium – but Bray said World Rugby laws effectively spell out that a penalty try must be accompanied with a yellow card for the offender.
He conceded, however, that in some incidents the double penalty is tough.
"The whole point of issuing a yellow card in deliberate infringement scenarios is that it creates a penalty on the team who are deliberately offending. They prevent negative play," added Bray.
"In a penalty try scenario, the yellow card becomes a must situation. The only time that you look at penalty tries scenarios where you think it looks harsh is where is it is difficult to describe the action as deliberate.
"But unfortunately, you have no choice. As a referee you have no choice."
When asked if World Rugby should give referees leeway to hold back the yellow in some cases, Bray replied: "The challenge is that you are asking the referee to read intent, and that is difficult.
"As much as possible, particularly around foul play, what the referee is dealing with is facts. The more you keep it fairly tight to facts, the more consistent the application.
"If you start to allow the referee to enter into a subjective decision, then the risk is I guess is you are going to start entering into inconsistent decisions across games and competitions."