17 May 2013
When the Rebels played the Stormers in Melbourne on Friday, there were two incidents that provoked discussion. In total they were worth two points to the Rebels.
The one concerned the retake of a penalty, the other a penalty try.
(i) Retaking the penalty
Deon Fourie is penalised at a tackle. The Rebels' captain Scott Higginbotham tell the referee that they were kicking at goal. Jason Woodward of the Rebels, receives the kicking tee, places the ball on it and takes careful aim at the posts which are straight ahead of him.
Meanwhile the Stormers gather in a close group for some kind of meeting.
Woodward comes forward to kick and at the lest minute swings across the ball and sends it bouncing near the cornerflag on his left as two Rebels and a Stormer race towards the ball.
The referee stops play and tells Woodward that he had indicated a kick at goal and was required to make a genuine attempt to kick at goal.
Then he says to the Rebels: Take it again."
Law 21.5 SCORING A GOAL FROM A PENALTY KICK
(b) If the kicker indicates to the referee the intention to kick at goal, the kicker must kick at goal. Once the kicker has made the intention clear, there can be no change of the intention. The referee may enquire of the kicker as to the intention.
Sanction: Unless otherwise stated in Law any infringement by the kicker’s team results in a scrum at the mark. The opposing team throws in the ball.
There is nothing in the law that suggests that 'take it again' is an option to the kicker's team. It should have been a scrum to the Stormers.
It is not great if a referee makes a mistake in law.
(ii) Penalty try
The ball is bouncing all over the place. It seems to go forward from Luke Jones but the referee says it went backwards.
Nick Phipps of the Rebels gets the ball and passes it to Higginbotham on his right. Higginbotham kicks low with his left foot. It strikes the foot of Deon Fourie of the Stormers and bounces back towards Higginbotham. The ball strikes Higginbotham's foot and rebounds forward. Martin Bezuidenhout gathers the ball. Higginbotham tackles Bezuidenhout, his left hand and arm going round Bezuidenhout's front. Bezuidenhout drops the ball as he is tackled by Scott Higginbotham. Phipps foots the ball through towards the Stormers' in-goal. Phipps goes to chase it as Bezuidenhout tries to hold him back, pulling on Phipps's jersey.
The ball goes into the Stormers' in-goal where three players dive for it - Bryan Habana, Gary van Aswegen and Nick Phipps. Habana seems marginally ahead.
The referee consults the TMO saying: 'Please advise try, no try. And just go back to the last passage.'
The TMO examines the incident and says: 'I've got confirmed foul play on a pull-back. Otherwise a try would probably have been scored.'
The referee repeats the information and then says that in other words the TMO was recommending a penalty try and a yellow card for Bezuidenhout - which is what happened.
Bezuidenhout's foul play - is clear and obvious.
Law 10 deals with various forms of foul play.
Law 10.4 (e) Playing a player without the ball is dangerous play.
Law 22.4 OTHER WAYS TO SCORE A TRY
(h) Penalty try. A penalty try is awarded if a try would probably have been scored but for foul play by the defending team.
The TMO used the word probably. That was his judgement and it has the probability of being right. After all Habana just beat Phipps to the ball even though Phipps had been held back. It seems probable that he would have beaten Habana to the ball and so scored a try.
Accept all of that but what about the possible knock-ons by Jones and Higginbotham. The TMO appeared not to have examined them.
He was right not to have examined them.
The expanded TMO functionality includes identifying foul play, and clear and obvious infringements in the last two phases before a try is scored. All officials (the referee, assistant referees and TMO) are allowed to initiate a referral and make recommendations.
This would include a possible knock-on but applies only to a case where a try is scored. In this case the try was not scored. Then, according to the IRB's protocol, the possibility of a knock-on could not be considered. Ands so the experienced TMO did not consider the possibility of a knock-on.
It may be a pity that the protocol did not allow for a case such as this but the IRB decided it had to draw the line somewhere other wise the number of referrals to the TMO would escalate.
If the referee missed a knock-on in Higginbotham's tackle, it is understandable. It would not be easy to see where his left hand made contact with Bezuidenhout - the forearm, the hand, the ball. At east he did not guess.
In the case of the penalty try there is no infraction of law. One can only then discuss judgement and there is no evidence that it was faulty.
The protocol says this of dealing with an infringement other than foul play. Foul play my be examined anywhere on the field and at any time during play. It is not limited the way the examination of infringements is. Please, note again that it may not be used if a 'try' has not been scored.
Additional jurisdiction protocol .
2. Potential infringement by the team touching the ball down in opposition in-goal
2.1. If after a team in possession of the ball has touched the ball down in their opponents in goal area and any of the match officials have a view that there was a potential infringement, of any nature, before the ball was carried into in-goal by the team that touched the ball down, they may suggest that the referee refers the matter to the TMO for review.
2.2 The potential infringement must have occurred between the last restart of play (set piece, penalty/free-kick, kick-off or restart) and the touch down but not further back in play than two previous rucks and/or mauls
2.3 If the referee agrees to refer the matter to the TMO he will indicate what the potential offence was and where it took place. Potential infringements which must be CLEAR and OBVIOUS are as follows:
• Forward pass
• Player in touch
• Tackling a player without the ball
• Foul play
• Double movement in act of scoring
2.4 Referee judgement decisions for all other aspects of the game are not included in the protocol and may not be referred to the TMO.
2.5 In reviewing the potential offence the TMO must use the criterion, on each occasion, that the infringement must be clear and obvious if he is to advise the referee not to award a try. If there is any doubt as to whether an offence has occurred or not the TMO must advise that an offence has not occurred.
2.6 For forward passes the TMO must not adjudicate on the flight of the ball but on the action of the player who passed the ball i.e. were the players hands passing the ball back to that player’s own goal line.
2.7 If there has been an infringement, the TMO will advise the referee of the exact nature of the infringement, the recommended sanction and/or where play will next restart.
2.8 The TMO may mention issues viewed in addition to those requested by the referee if it is appropriate to the situation under review.