Referee Ben O'Keeffe. Photo: Twitter

Referee Ben O’Keeffe. Photo: Twitter

Super Rugby final referee responds to shocking abuse

Referee Ben O’Keeffe has spoken out about the abuse he received after the Super Rugby final this past weekend.

Referee Ben O'Keeffe. Photo: Twitter

Referee Ben O’Keeffe. Photo: Twitter

The Crusaders successfully secured a seventh Super Rugby title on Saturday, overcoming the home team, the Chiefs, in Hamilton.

The Chiefs were bidding for their first Super Rugby title since 2013, having lost just once all season, but when it mattered most they ultimately couldn’t get the job done.

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However, many Chiefs fans felt Ben O’Keeffe favoured the Crusaders with a host of decisions that went the way of the visitors, and the referee was also notably booed at the post-match presentation of medals.

He has now shared a social media post highlighting all the online abuse he received, while expressing the importance of rugby supporters changing their behaviour.

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You can see the post from referee O’Keeffe below:

Abuse in any form is never OK.

Unfortunately, as a union referee at the highest level, I have had to accept and grow accustomed to the post-match vitriol that fans normalise post game.

It’s a sad reality that it doesn’t affect me anymore, but that doesn’t mean it’s ok.

I think back to the Europa League Final referee walking through the airport and his family getting chairs thrown at them – I hope my family is never subjected to this but the direction some fans are going now in rugby, I know we are closer than we have ever been. This is one of many recent examples when someone has crossed the line towards a match official in Rugby.

Referees are part of the game, and we need support from players and coaches to have the tough conversations privately but to publicly back and support their officials – not criticise. This will change the way the fans treat us.

Abuse is out there and for anyone going through it right now in any form please understand there is support there, people do love you, there is help available and if all else fails, send me a message and I would be happy to talk with you.

Let’s celebrate the season, let’s celebrate what was a great final from the players.

There were some excellent decisions, and some poor ones that I accept I made and need to improve on – continual growth is something that excites me to be better for the game.

We need Rugby to be the best game in the world, on and off the field – let’s do it together.

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Ben O’Keeffe shared the following image on social media. Photo: Instagram

How the match panned out

The Crusaders led 15-10 at the break, having enjoyed dominance in the first half largely due to a high penalty count from the home side that proved extremely costly.

However, there was a big shift in momentum just after the interval when the Chiefs orchestrated two beautiful tries to suddenly go into a 20-10 lead, although two missed conversions always threatened to haunt them.

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As it was, in the 73rd minute, Crusaders veteran Codie Taylor burst over the tryline from the back of a powerful lineout maul, and the conversion from Richie Mo’unga put the visitors into a crucial 22-20 lead.

That try came just after Sam Cane was sent to the sin bin – becoming the third Chiefs players to receive a yellow card in the final – and from there the Crusaders held on for victory, with Mo’unga knocking over one final penalty to seal the deal.

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