WANDERERS coach Dan Beckett fumed at a "ridiculous" second yellow card given to Ben Ham that leaves the Two Blues captain's hopes of playing in the preliminary final in the hands of the judiciary.
With Wanderers down 27-19 and time almost up, Ham was sent off after receiving a second yellow card for a tackle on Hamilton winger Hamish McKie.
From a lineout, McKie came from the blindside to hit the ball up on the outside of centre Angus Brown. He was met front-on by Ham, who caught the winger in the ribs.
However, touch judge Nick Gaal reported that Ham had not used his arms in the tackle and referee Jarryd Logan produced a second yellow card. Replay suggest the decision was harsh.
Hamilton scored a minute after Ham's departure to seal a 34-19 win.
Ham had spent 10 minutes in the sinbin in the first half for charging into a ruck with his shoulder.
"I have never seen anything as ridiculous as that on the rugby field," Beckett said. "I have taught my players to respond to violence by playing hard. That is exactly what my captain did and he got a yellow card for it. There was nothing wrong with that tackle. I have never been in a dressing room where a player is watching what he did in the game on his mobile phone and asks 'what did I do wrong'. I have never been in that situation as a coach. I did not know how to answer him."
As the second yellow card instituted a red card, Ham will front the judiciary, hoping the panel deem the red card sufficient punishment.
On Saturday, the Two Blues were without Dan Kevill, who received an automatic one-match suspension after picking up his third yellow card for the season in the 35-19 win over Maitland in the qualifying semi-final.
Maitland coach Matt Thomas was critical of a number of tackles he believed were high and went unchecked by Logan and sent an email to the referees asking them to explain why they weren't punished.
"It was foul play," he said in the Herald. "There were 10 to 12 high tackles that were missed. I sent an email to the referees with a lot of 'please explains'. To their credit they got back to me and we have been working together."
Beckett stopped short of saying Thomas' spray had influenced the referees.
"Maybe it's time to come out in the papers like other coaches and complain about referees," he said.
"I can talk about all the punches that Hamilton threw.
"I can talk about Luke Sherwood getting punched off the ball 30 seconds before Ben Ham got a yellow card for cleaning someone out
."I'd rather us be a rugby community, where rugby is rugby and we leave it at that. There was nothing wrong with that tackle."
Beckett also pointed out that Hamilton had '"out-played" his side.
"We didn't play well, we were out-played. We don't have any excuses," he said. "After half-time, we showed a little bit of what we can do. To Hamilton's credit, they smothered us and stifled us ... they did what they do."