Cheika bites tongue over penalty try

Date published: June 27 2015

Michael Cheika took a philosophical approach to his final press conference as Waratahs coach following Saturday's Super Rugby semi-final loss to the Highlanders.

Cheika, who will be replaced by Daryl Gibson in 2016 so he can concentrate full-time on his role as Wallabies head coach, did not launch the rant many might have expected following the controversial refereeing decision that almost overshadowed the Highlanders' 35-17 win.

Referee Craig Joubert's decision to award a penalty try and sin-bin flanker Jacques Potgieter for a swinging arm as he tried to prevent Patrick Osborne from scoring in the 58th minute has sparked widespread debate but Cheika, whose temper has landed him in hot water before, took it on the chin.

"I dunno, obviously I have a big gag on my mouth on what I can and can't say, but I know I haven't seen many head-high tackles 30 centimetres from the ground. It's pretty difficult. But that's it, isn't it? It's done," Cheika told reporters.

"[Joubert] was a bit dubious, but the linesman was very adamant. So I think he took his advice. That is the way they operate, as a team of three.

"Those decisions are made like that. We've just got to live wit it. That's the way it is.

"But, let's also be mindful of the fact that, yes those decisions went against us, but the key areas where we needed to exert pressure – that being in the lineout and the ball from the lineout etc – we weren't able to manage."

The outgoing coach even joked that he would have sacked himself in any case in light of the way his team performed.

"We didn't really get much shape about us, did we?" he added. 

"We hung in there, though, we stayed tough because we didn't really have any ball and not a lot of field position. There was only a couple of points in it at the penalty try but after that it got away from us." 

The 'Tahs have come a long way under Cheika, going from having been regularly booed by fans in Sydney before he took over in 2012 to being crowned Super Rugby champions in 2014. 

"I thought I might stay a little bit longer," he said after opening with a statement of thanks the New South Wales fans. 

"It's hard because I'm extremely disappointed so I'm not going to go out and start singing praises.

"We talked about trying to make a reconnection with our fans, playing a style of rugby that people wanted to see, and having a real clear identity that our fans could identify with.

"And I think over the three years we've well and truly done that."