16 Feb 2019
What the commentator, Justin Marshall, has to say may cause some confusion. It follows the penalty try and yellow card decision in the first half of the Super Rugby match in Auckland between the Blues and the Crusaders.
By Paul Dobson, Moonsport
Richie Mo'unga of the Crusaders kicks a penalty into touch for a lineout some 12 metres in from the Blues' goal-line. Scott Barrett of the Crusaders catches the ball in the lineout.
He brings it down and flank Matt Todd of the Crusaders gets possession of the ball. The Crusaders drive the maul rapidly towards the Blues goal-line. Tom Robertson of the Blues attempts to get the ball.
He is going lower and lower on Todd, and centimetres from the goal-line, the maul collapses. The referee awards a penalty try and sends Robinson to the sin bin.
Marshall says: "It's a massive call. The penalty try justifies the infringement (sic). However, he [the referee] has decided to double penalise you, if I may. He has decided to go penalty try AND put the player who was responsible for stopping it solely and forcing the penalty try in the bin as well. So that's a huge call but massive for the Crusaders who decided to kick for touch and they get the ultimate out of it."
(The idea of the penalty try justifying the infringement may well be confusing as it probably meant to mean that the penalty is justified by the infringement.)
In reviewing the incident, Tony Johnson, the main commentator, says: "I don't think he [the referee] had any other option."
Marshall: "I think he had no other option than a penalty try, but I'm not sure about the sin bin as well. A penalty try is a pretty harsh punishment. It justifies the infringement."
Let's look at the laws of the game.
Law 8.3: Penalty try
A penalty try is awarded between the goal posts if foul play by the opposing team prevents a probable try from being scored, or scored in a more advantageous position. A player guilty of this must be cautioned and temporarily suspended or sent off. No conversion is attempted.
The referee's job is to apply the laws and the law requires that a player who causes a penalty try to be awarded must be temporarily suspended, i.e. sent to the sin bin. The referee did what he was required to do.
And by the way, intentionally breaking the law is an aspect of foul play as it intentionally collapsing a maul.
Law 9, in the newest version of the laws, is the one dealing with foul play,
Law 9.7: Unfair play
A player must not:
a. Intentionally infringe any law of the game.
Law 9.20: Dangerous play in a ruck or maul.
c. A player must not intentionally collapse a ruck or a maul.
Well into the second half, there is a second penalty try, this time with no yellow card.
The Crusaders have a scrum five metres from the Blues line and the Crusaders get a strong shove on. The Blues break up just short of their goal-line, and the referee awards a penalty try.
There is - correctly - no yellow card here because no individual can be identified as the guilty party.