Law Discussion - Super 14, Week 13

Thu, 15 May 2008 00:00
It is astonishing how the Super 14 has rushed to its end. There is just one ordinary week to go and still we have points of law to discuss from the fascinating competition.

It is astonishing how the Super 14 has rushed to its end. There is just one ordinary week to go and still we have points of law to discuss from the fascinating competition.

We have given the statistics.

On the South African Referees' site (www.sareferees.co.za) there are eight clips of incidents from the weekend. We shall include those in our discussion as there are people who cannot open the clips.

Players and referees are still, it seems, not altogether settled into the experimental law variations. There are still players kicking a taken-back ball out on the full and then being cross with themselves. There are still refereeing errors where one would not expect them. The problem may be the confusing laws that have been thrust into the game; it may also be the amount of new law that needs implementation.

Players do best when their trained instincts take over. A player does not go through a cumbersome though process which says: "I should break now. There are only clumsy props in front of me. I shall bring the ball down and go through the motions of passing to my right. But I shall hold the ball back in a dummy, tuck it under my right arm as I accelerate off my right foot and head for the gap, ready to hand off with my left hand."

He does not do that anymore than a driver goes through a laboured thought process when changing gear. Instinct takes over and trained instinct does best. Watch how often a player with plenty of time kicks a poor kick off the side of his boot. He is thinking instead of acting on instinct.

This may all be true of the referee. He should not be thinking but acting on trained instinct but he has not had a lot of time to assimilate a lot of information and even then there are varying ways of playing the game. Must he think: "What laws am I applying?" before he applies them.

It has been a tough ask of referees and their assistants.

Less comprehensible is the way citing happens, because that has time to think and consider. It is strange that Digby Ioane and Neemia Tialata should be cited and suspended for dangerous tackles but not Zane Kirchner for his second such offence this Super 14. It is strange that Ben May should thus leniently treated for stamping on a face.

1. How long is five metres

a. Zac Guilford of the Hurricanes gets the ball out. Matt Giteau of the Western Force collects the ball and throws in to himself. He lobs the ball and collects it. When he collects the ball his feet are within five metres of touch - well within.

The assistant referee tells the referee that the ball had not travelled five metres and the referee awards free kick to the Hurricanes.

The ball, buy the way had travelled through the air, and if it did not travel five metres it was 4,9 metres or 5,1 metres. It was hardly worth a free kick.

b. The Blues are to throw into a line-out. They do some choreography and Troy Flavell ends up in front. Obediently Keven Mealamu throws to Flavell who has both feet just over infield of) the five metre-line. He reaches out over the five-metre line and catches the ball.

We have two different situations.

In a. the ball may well have travelled five metres but the catcher was not five metres from touch. In b. the catcher was five metres from touch but the ball did not travel five metres.

What then?

Law 19.2 (e) At a quick throw-in, if the player does not throw the ball in straight so that it travels at least 5 metres along the line of touch before it touches the ground or a player..... then the quick throw-in is not allowed.

If The ball that Giteau threw in had indeed travelled five metres through the air, play could go on even if Giteau was within five metres of touch.

Let's go from quick throw-in to the throw into a formed  line-out.

Law 19.5 HOW THE THROW-IN IS TAKEN

The ball must be thrown in straight so that it travels at least 5 metres along the line of touch before it first touches the ground or touches or is touched by a player.

Flavell was wrong. He deserved a free kick.

a. happened after 10 minutes, b. after 49 minutes.

2. Off-side?

Matt Giteau kicks a high ball. Cory Jane of the Hurricanes falls back to catch the ball. He is running back with his back to the Western Force. He reaches out his hands and touches the ball as it drops. The ball falls to earth and, being of perverse shape and nature, it bounces back in the direction of the Western Force where Piri Weepu picks up the ball.

The referee penalises Weepu.

Why?

For being off-side at a knock-on?

No. Jane did not knock on. Even though the ball bounced forward it was not a knock-on. Weepu was off-side for the oldest form of off-side in the book - being in front of a team-mate who last played the ball.

In the Rugby School rules of 1845 it is the second rule and reads: OFF SIDE. A player is off his side if the ball has been touched by one of his own side behind him, until the other side touch it.

Now, 163 years later, the law reads: In general play a player is off-side if a player is in front of a team-mate who last played the ball.

3. Time, gentlemen, time

When do you stop a half?

Dear and precious consistency! It's so hard in such a complex game, but surely the time at the end of a half could be consistently applies.

The Super 14 uses the siren, which is a warning to the referee that the time is up. The referee is still the judge of time but sense demands that they obey the siren's call. Sometimes such obedience is obvious - ball in play, siren goes and then there is a stoppage and so the referee ends proceedings.

A try ended both halves of the match between the Sharks and the Cheetahs, a great way to end, reminiscent of the game's early history when the goal ended the match. A try ended the match between the Lions and the Chiefs as well.

It's when there is a stoppage and then the siren that there may be some confusion.

When the Hurricanes played the Western Force, a scrum was ordered and then the siren went. The scrum was played and was followed by a free kick before a knock-on ended the half.

It is worth noting that a free kick or a penalty kick does not end the half. When the Stormers played the Waratahs in the rain there were two free kicks after the siren before Bolla Conradie kicked the ball out to end the match.

Let's look at line-out occasions.

a. Hurricanes vs Western Force - end of second half. The ball is kicked out from a free kick. The players form up for the line-out. The whistle goes and the ball is thrown in.

b. Bulls vs Brumbies - end of first half. The Brumbies kick the ball out. The Bulls throw in. The throw is on its way when the siren goes. The referee decides the throw was skew, which it certainly was, and then gives the Brumbies the option of a scrum or a line-out, saying: "First infringement was not straight. Option."

c. Reds vs Crusaders - end of first half. The Crusaders kick into touch. The touch judge is in position and shows a line-out to the Highlanders. The  siren sounds and the referee blows the whistle for half-time.

d. Stormers vs Waratahs - end of first half. The Stormers kick out near the Waratahs' corner. Lachie Turner of the Waratahs holds the ball in touch, seeming to look for the possibility of throwing in quickly. He stands there quite some time while the forwards start to assemble. The siren goes and the referee blows the whistle for half-time.

e. Lions vs Chiefs - end of each half.

1st half: Chiefs win aline-out and kick the ball out. Then the siren sounds. Then the referee blows the whistle for half-time.

2nd half: Lions kick the ball out,. Then the siren sounds. Then a Chief throws in quickly. Then the referee calls: "Play on. Line-out awarded before the whistle was gone."

How does the second half ending differ from the endings in c, d and the first half of e? To an extent b. also fits in as a query.

Who was right b. and second half e. or the others?

Trivial stuff? Not really. The Chiefs go a bonus-point try after the siren and a quick throw.

Law 5.7 (e) If time expires and the ball is not dead, or an awarded scrum or line-out has not been completed the referee allows play to continue until the next time that the ball becomes dead. If time expires and a mark, free kick or penalty kick is then awarded, the referee allows play to continue.

OK. So when is the scrum or line-out awarded. In c. the throw was skew before the siren, the scrum awarded after the siren. The scrum was awarded after time was up. In fact there had even been a option given

Why at the end of the first half between the Lions and the Chiefs was the line-out regarded as awarded but not at the end of the second half of the same match.

It is inconsistent.

Should it not be something like this?

Ball out, then siren, line-out happens
or
Ball out, then siren, half ends.

And that for all.

4. That said

Just a trio of Mextedisms, two from Murray himself:

a. Hurricanes vs Western Force and Tim Fairbrother got the ball: "Tim Fairbrother all by himself was looking around like a player who knew he was a prop out in the open."

b. After David Pocock had won a turnover and Drew Mitchell had kicked the ball out on the full: "That's what breaks the heart of openside flankers. Spectacular tackle, recovery of ball, all for nought."

c. After Odwa Ndungane had scored his second try in two minutes for the Sharks: "He knows where the try-line is. He was there a minute ago."

The rest of these may be seen as clips on www.sareferees. co.za

5. Off-side on your own ball.

The Lions win a scrum against the Hurricanes. Under pressure, they still manage to hold the ball at the back. Flank Joe van Niekerk of the Lions detaches from the scrum and comes round the balk in what is clearly a planned move.

Willem Alberts, the Lions' No.8, picks up the ball and feeds Van Niekerk as he sweeps round.

\The referee penalises Van Niekerk, washing his hand down his arm to signal that he had broken his binding.

Right?

Law 20.1 (f) Number of players: eight. A scrum must have eight players from each team. All eight players must stay bound to the scrum until it ends. Each front row must have three players in it, no more and no less. Two locks must form the second row.
Penalty: Penalty Kick

When Van Niekerk left the scrum, the ball was not out, which means that the scrum was not over.

6. A drop-out too far

After Ruan Pienaar of the Sharks missed a drop at goal, Conrad Barnard of the Cheetahs drops out. It is a long drop-out and rolls down and down and into the Sharks' in-goal with François Steyn watching over it.

When the ball has come to rest in the in-goal, Steyn picks it up and runs out of his in-goal and punts the ball downfield where Hennie Daniller catches it and starts a counterattack that ends in a try by Jongi Nokwe.

Does Steyn's ;left foot touch the ball before it reaches the in-goal. This looks entirely possible - not certain but possible. That may explain why Steyn ran the ball out of his in-goal, kicked a poor kick  which resulted in a fine try by the Cheetahs.

If Steyn's left foot does not touch the ball, Steyn's error is even bigger.

Why?

Law 13.15 DROP OUT GOES INTO THE OPPONENTS IN-GOAL

(a) If the ball is kicked into the opponent’s in-goal without having touched or been touched by a player, the opposing team has three choices:
To ground the ball, or
To make it dead, or
To play on.

(b) If the opposing team grounds the ball, or makes it dead, or if the ball becomes dead by going into touch-in-goal or on or over the dead ball line, they have two choices:
To have a scrum formed at the centre of the 22-metre line from
where the kick was taken and they throw in the ball, or
To have the other team drop out again.

(c) If they opt to ground the ball or make it dead, they must do so without delay. Any other action with the ball by a defending player means the player has elected to play on.

If the ball had tolled untouched into the Sharks' in-goal and Steyn had immediately grounded it, the Sharks could have had a scrum on the Cheetahs' 22.

7. Mark off upright

Conrad Barnard of the Cheetahs kicks a penalty kick at goal. The ball flies high, hits the upright and bounces back into the field of play where BJ Botha of the Sharks catches the ball. He stands his ground, claiming that he had made a mark. The referee tells him to play and the strong prop breaks into sudden activity.

A mark from a penalty kick? Off an upright?

DEFINITION
To make a mark, a player must be on or behind that player’s 22-metre line. A player with one foot on the 22-metre line or behind it is considered to be ‘in the 22’. The player must make a clean catch direct from an opponent’s kick and at the same time shout “Mark”. A mark cannot be made from a kick off, or a restart kick except for a drop out.

A kick is awarded for a mark. The place for the kick is the place of the mark.

A player may make a mark even though the ball touched a goal post or crossbar before being caught.

A player from the defending team may make a mark in in-goal.

There is nothing there that says a mark may not be taken from a penalty kick. The only exclusion is a kick-off.

The law says clearly that a mark may still be taken if the ball rebounds off an upright.

Of course, the referee may not have heard the prop though his body language certainly signifies that he wanted the mark.

8."Ruck formed."

But was it formed?

Kieran Read of the Crusaders charges forward. David Croft of the Reds tackles him and falls behind him. Both players fall to ground, Croft holding on to Read. It is a tackle in terms of the law and Croft is a tackler.

Croft gets up and plays the ball.

The referee penalises Croft saying the ruck had been formed.

Had it?

What's a ruck?

Law 16 DEFINITIONS

A ruck is a phase of play where one or more players from each team, who are on their feet, in physical contact, close around the ball on the ground. Open play has ended.

Two Crusader players arrived at the tackle area. That was not enough to cause a ruck. They needed and opponent to join them.

One Red was close by - Quade Cooper, the flyhalf. Cooper puts a hand on the nearest Crusader, prop Wyatt Crockett.

Does that amount of contact make a ruck? Was his action close around the ball? And in any case didn't Croft have the ball up by then?

As the tackler, Croft was entitled to play the ball from where he played it.  He did not need to "come through the gate". He was on his feet when he did so.

It's hard to find a penalty in what Croft did.

9. I'd rather drop out

"There's no 22 from a knock-on even if it's gone dead."

It's that little bit of law we are interested in here, not whether Kieran Read (No.6) of the Crusaders was on-side or off-side.

The Reds win a scrum five metres from their line. Leroy Houston picks up and drives forward. Read of the Crusaders (No.6) moves forward to tackle him. Houston tries to pass and the ball goes behind Peter Hynes and into touch-in-goal.

The referee rules that Read had touched the ball with his left hand and therefore knocked on.

Morgan Turinui of the Reds suggests to the referee that it should be a drop-out.

Several decades ago it was the case if the attacker knocked on into in-goal or in in-goal, the defenders were given a drop-out. But that is long changed. Now the knock-on is treated as a knock-on and a scrum ensues, in this case a five-metre scrum, to the defending team, in this case the Reds. That is what the referee was explaining.

Law 12.1 (c) Knock on or throw forward into the in-goal. If an attacking player knocks-on or throws-forward in the field of play and the ball goes into the opponents’ in-goal and it is made dead there, a scrum is awarded where the knock on or throw forward happened.

(d) Knock on or throw forward inside the in-goal. If a player of either team knocks-on or throws-forward inside the in-goal, a 5-metre scrum is awarded in line with the place of infringement not closer than 5 metres from the touchline.

10. What about the cornerpost?

The interest in this clip is the effect of the cornerpost and the part it plays in the experimental law variations.

Fourie du Preez of the Bulls breaks at speed and heads for the goal-line. George Smith and Stephen Hoiles of the Brumbies tackle him. Du Preez does not ground the ball which falls from his grasp and rolls against the cornerpost, coming back a little in in-goal where Bandise Maku falls on the ball.

The television match official advises the referee that Du Preez had lost the ball forward and so play restarted with a five-metre scrum, Brumbies' ball.

The interesting point is that the ball's striking the cornerpost had no bearing on the decision. That is because of the experimental law variations where striking the cornerflag, in itself, has no effect on the decision. What matters is where the ball goes after it has struck the post.

Had the ball not gone forward Maku may well have scored a try.

11. Direct from a kick

Who's free kick?

Zane Kirchner of the Bulls kicks and chases. Mark Gerrard of the Brumbies jumps, catches the ball and comes to ground. Akona Ndungane of the Bulls garbs Gerrard as Afusipa Taumoepeau of the Bulls come to his team-mate's assistance. The three fall to ground as other players gather.

The ball is unplayable and the referee awards a free kick to the Brumbies?

Right.

Only if there had been a maul

What do we need for a maul?

Three players - a ball carrier, a player who grabs him and a team-mate of the ball-carrier.
All three must be on their feet.

It would seem that Gerrard, Ndungane and Taumoepeau formed a maul.

Now we are dealing with a maul that ended unsuccessfully in that the ball did not emerge.

Law 17.6 (h) Scrum after a maul when catcher is held. If a player catches the ball direct from an opponent’s kick, except from a kick off or a drop out, and the player is immediately held by an opponent, a maul may form. Then if the maul remains stationary, stops moving forward for longer than 5 seconds, or if the ball becomes unplayable, and a scrum is ordered, the team of the ball catcher throws in the ball.

‘Direct from an opponent’s kick’ means the ball did not touch another player or the ground before the player caught it.
If a maul moves into the player’s in-goal, where the ball is touched down or becomes unplayable, a 5-metre scrum is formed. The attacking team throws in the ball.

But why the free kick? Why not a scrum?

That is because of the experimental law variations. They prescribe a free kick in such a case.

If Taumoepeau had not joined in, it would not have been a maul. Then it would have been only a tackle and the free kick would have gone the way of the Bulls.

12. Worth a yellow card?

Why would you penalise Pocock?

Rodney So'oialo of the Hurricanes darts ahead. David Pocock of the Western Force tackles him around the ankles and brings him down. Pocock and So'oialo both go to ground.

It is a tackle in terms of the law.

Pocock gets quickly to his feet, as the law requires him to do.

Clearly on his feet he plays the ball, as the law allows him to do.

Pocock is penalised and sent to the sin bin.

He got to his feet and there is no doubt that he was "supporting his own weight", which is an issue with some.

Because he was the tackler, he was not required to "come through the gate". He was allowed to play straight to the ball, which he did,

The only possible infringement was that ruck was formed because Pocock made physical contact with John Schwalger, the Hurricanes prop who arrived on the scene. The ball was still on the ground when Schwalger arrived. Schwalger was on his feet. If, when Pocock got to his feet, he then made contact with Schwalger then there was a ruck. Then picking the ball up was an infringement.

Repeated infringement?

It was not a match of many penalties.

This was the fourth against the Western Force in the second half, the third against Pocock. He was guilty of repeated infringement - if this was indeed an infringement.

But he had done so much that was right in his action and  just the possibility of something wrong that one wonders at the yellow card.

On the other hand does one count infringements not penalised because of advantage? Probably - especially if he was spoke to at the time.

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