By MARC HINTON - Stuff.co.nz
Gutted Wales coaches have launched a scathing attack on South African referee Craig Joubert after today's 12-19 defeat, with Warren Gatland going as far as to suggest whistle-blowers are intimidated by the All Blacks.
New Zealander Gatland had mellowed his attitude a little by the time he arrived at the official post-match press conference but he told television interviewers after a pulsating test at the Millennium Stadium that he believed referees did not want to make big calls which could see the All Blacks upset.
Gatland was commenting about a 71st-minute incident where Dan Carter appeared to take replacement Welsh halfback Martin Roberts around the head with a swinging arm, after wing Shane Williams had sparked a break inside the All Blacks' 22.
The high shot went unpunished and the All Blacks were able to keep the Welsh out when a score would have got them within striking distance.
Both Gatland and assistant Shaun Edwards believe that decision cost the Welsh their chance at a famous upset which would have ended a 56-year drought against the All Blacks.
"It was a head-high tackle wasn't it," said Gatland at the press conference. "A guy makes a break inside the 22 and you feel like if that was at the other end it's three points and a yellow card.
"The officials missed it - so we were pretty disappointed about that..."
Asked if he was saying the All Blacks were refereed differently than their opponents, Gatland replied: "Ah, no."
Was he sure?
"Definitely not. No," he replied. Though his earlier comments and the way he delivered his denials made it clear there was some discontent over the matter.
Later All Blacks coach Graham Henry leapt to the defence of his player when told of the Welsh coaches' assertions that Carter should have been binned.
"I think that's a bit of a stretch," said Henry.
"I just saw it at the moment, I didn't look at the replay at all. It seemed to me he hit him around the chest and slid up, and the other guy ducked under. But who knows? Till you look at those things over several views you can't make a decision."
Henry was more direct when asked about Gatland's call that referees were too scared to make big calls against the All Blacks.
"It's complete rubbish. I think that's a huge stretch. I don't even think Warren would believe that," said the All Blacks coach.
Told Gatland did say it, Henry replied: "Yeah, but he's said a lot of things this week."
Gatland felt that non-decision, coupled with an earlier "harsh" call when flanker Martyn Williams was penalised for a deliberate knock-down, had cost his team its shot at the upset.
"It was a couple of moments... it means if we'd not given up those three points, got the high tackle on Roberts and were able to take three points from that, then the penalty in the last few minutes ends up being a shot at goal."
Edwards, who sat stern-faced throughout the press conference, weighed in on the matter when asked if the Welsh still had a psychological barrier to overcome against the All Blacks.
"I think we should have been playing against 14 players for the last 10 minutes - it's got nothing to do with psychology.
"All I know is I've seen players sinbinned for that and we should have been playing against 14 players in the last 10 minutes."
Gatland agreed: "It's a head-high tackle and a swinging arm. It should have been three points and a yellow card."
The Welsh weren't the only ones grizzling about decisions either. The All Blacks felt that they should have got at least one of the three calls that went to the TMO - all of which were turned down as they attacked the Welsh line with a fury in the third quarter.
"I thought we could have won by more, to be frank," said Henry. "I just wondered about the TMO. I thought Conrad Smith scored which would have given us a wee bit of a gap at that stage..."
Asked if he was disappointed that his side got no return from a heavy phase of pressure on the Welsh line, Henry said: "You've got to be. There was a lot of pressure. We had three tries the TMO looked at and I thought one was pretty obvious. That was a wee bit disappointing."
Skipper Richie McCaw felt if Smith's "try" had been awarded, which could have taken the All Blacks out to 23-6, the test might have run a different course.
"It would have been nice to have scored then. It would have given us some breathing space and they would have had to chance their arm a bit more.
"But we didn't get the try we were after and it kept them in the game"
It was not known immediately after the game whether Carter would be cited, but there was a chance he could join Tony Woodcock and Sitiveni Sivivatu in sitting out time on this tour.
In many ways it was fitting at the end of a week when there had been some fairly heated comments flying back and forth between the rival camps, that the match itself left both sides still at odds.
Let's just say they agree to disagree. Given they will meet three more times over the next 12 months, it's fair to say the old rivalry has plenty of heat back in it now.