Scrappy contest ... All Blacks captain Richie McCaw wrestles with Scott Higginbotham after an alleged headbutt. Photo: Getty Images
The All Blacks have labelled Scott Higginbotham's knee and headbutt on Richie McCaw as a 'cheap shot' in a fiery wash-up to last night's Bledisloe Cup battle in Brisbane.
Higginbotham was cited twice for punching or striking McCaw during the incident in the 26th minute of the 18-18 draw at Suncorp Stadium, the Australian Rugby Union said today.
An initial hearing will be held by duty judicial officer Jannie Lubbe on Monday via a conference call.
Wallabies hold the All Blacks
The Wallabies surprise the rugby fraternity by halting the rampaging All Blacks' tilt at 16 straight wins with a gritty 18-18 draw in Brisbane. Photo: Getty Images
While Australian rugby fans will be both greatly encouraged and frustrated by the result, the New Zealanders were up in arms at the treatment of McCaw, who once again found himself on the wrong end of a stray Wallaby knee in Brisbane.
A year after Quade Cooper transformed himself into rugby arsenic across the ditch for kneeing McCaw in the head at Suncorp Stadium, Higginbotham repeated the act and added a little headbutt for good measure.
Last night Deans said he was “taking notes” when the incident happened in the first half but his opposite number, Steve Hansen, pulled no punches. He called it a cheap shot that should be dealt with harshly by rugby's judiciary.
“I saw the headbutt. It was another cheapshot. He [McCaw] seems to get them every week but everyone seems to miss them.
“You people [New Zealand media] see it week-in, week-out. If you don't think it's right, then write it, or say it on TV. We saw it, it was a cheap shot and we hope the judicial people can sort it out.”
McCaw said he became frustrated as he clashed with the Wallaby flanker after Higginbotham became tangled with him as he tried to clear a ruck.
“It annoyed me at the time but it will get dealt with I guess. It gets a bit frustrating at times. It's a bit annoying,” he said.
Meanwhile, Kurtley Beale says he wishes he could have had the moment again but his captain Nathan Sharpe has backed the five-eighth's decision making after the Wallabies neglected to fire a shot at drop goal in a last-ditch attempt to snatch the drawn clash.
The Wallabies looked as if they were going to have the final say in front of a sold-out Suncorp Stadium as they strung phase after phase together in the dying seconds. Both Beale and Mike Harris looked in position to attempt drop goals at various points but neither had their chance to be the hero in the 18-all draw.
Instead, the Wallabies ground away for too long, giving away a penalty. It almost ended in disaster as the All Blacks took a scrum after the siren and went close to pinching it themselves, with Dan Carter's boot letting him down for a rare occasion.
Beale said he wishes he had been bold enough to call for the ball in the final seconds and snap one at the posts.
“Yeah, I was [getting ready]. We had Mike Harris there as well. I had a lot of trust there in the forwards. We were getting paid in the first half with penalties,” Beale said.
“I'm was umming and ahhing. Thinking back now, I should have taken the shot. But that's how it is.”
The Wallabies had earned penalties throughout the match with an aggressive approach to the breakdown but couldn't get one from referee Craig Joubert when they needed it most. But Sharpe said Beale made the right call in urging them forward.
“We back him 100 per cent. He made the right call. We were making yards through the middle. Sometimes you get penalties, sometimes you don't. Tough Test match. That's what you expect when Australia plays New Zealand,” Sharpe said.
Hansen said it was “one of the ugliest games of of rugby I've ever been involved in” and Deans said while proud of the efforts of his understrength side, he was frustrated not to get the win.
The gutsy showing from the Wallabies has taken the heat off his job for the time being.
“I suspect they'll be pretty frustrated because it was a game we could have won. We're not happy with the outcome. I'd imagine the All Blacks aren't either,” Deans said.
Sharpe, who played his final Test on home soil, said he felt the game was in good hands moving forward.
“It's frustrating not to take the points there. What we showed out there tonight was great character and tremendous resolve. I'll leave the game in four games and I know it's in good hands. They'll take Australian rugby forward,” Sharpe said.
When asked what was going through his mind as Carter struck a potentially match-winning kick, Sharpe replied: “I thought 's--t'.