Clip 1 – 1 May 2019 - Law 15

The Highlanders are on the attack. The Blues try to move away from the goal-line and win some extra space to exit comfortably. They are getting the ball back from a tackle.

Scrumhalf Jonathan Ruru waits for the ball and then starts rolling it back with his foot, protected on his right by two players who are sometimes referred to as pillars, props Karl Tu'inukuafe and Ofa Tu'ungafasi.

The referee calls: "Use it!", and Ruru picks up the ball as Highlanders flank James Lentjes races round from Ruru's left as Ruru starts to kick. Lentjes tackles Ruru from behind.

The ball shoots off Ruru's leg back towards into the Blues' in-goal. Three players race, neck and neck, for the ball - centre Teihorangi Walden and lock Jackson Hemopo of the Highlanders with wing Caleb Clarke of the Blues between them. The three dive, six eager hands outstretched at the ball.

The referee consults his assistant and then the TMO, who advises the referee that Clarke had first grounded the ball.

The decision then is a five-metre scrum because it was Ruru's kick which had put the ball back into his own in-goal where it was grounded.

There are three things to look at.

i. When is the ball out of a ruck/tackle?


  • 17. When the ball has been clearly won by a team at the ruck, and is available to be played, the referee calls “use it”, after which the ball must be played away from the ruck within five seconds. Sanction: Scrum.
  • 18. The ruck ends and play continues when the ball leaves the ruck or when the ball in the ruck is on or over the goal line.

In this case the referee had called "Use it". The ball was out.

ii. What are the pillars, Tu'inukuafe and Tu'ungafasi doing?

Tu'inukuafe has a left arm stretched out towards Patrick Tuipulotu. His left hand is on Tuipulotu's back. Tu'ungafasi's left hand makes contact with Tu'inukuafe.

Neither Tu'inukuafe nor Tu'ungafasi is bound.

Binding: Grasping another player’s body firmly between the shoulders and the hips with the whole arm in contact from hand to shoulder.

The assistant commentator at the match, Justin Marshall, and Nick Mallett at half time gave the correct explanation.

iii Where is the scrum awarded?

There are three options: where Ruru kicked the ball, i.e. about 14 metres in from touch; where the ball crossed the goal-line, i.e. about 14 metres in from touch; where the ball was grounded, i.e. about four metres from touch.

Law 19.1

Stoppage: The ball is taken into in-goal by the defending team and made dead.
Location of Scrum: In the scrum zone at the point closest to where the ball was made dead.
Who throws in: The attacking team.

The third option provides the answer: about five metres in from touch. In this incident, the scrum was awarded in the wrong place. advert