Law Discussion: Strange but quiet

Tue, 03 Jan 2012 00:00
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A referee often gets more flak when he is right than when he is wrong. Here are some incidents which passed without comment.

A referee often gets more flak when he is right than when he is wrong. Here are some incidents which passed without comment.

1. It's just wrong.

Harlequins play Exeter Chiefs at Sandy Park. Rory Clegg, the Harlequins flyhalf, kicks high and races after the ball. Luke Arscott of the Chiefs catches the ball and immediately Clegg and Matt Hopper tackle him. Other Harlequins get in behind Clegg and Hopper and the group goes to ground.

There are no Chiefs other than Arscott involved. It is not a maul. This is an important point. It is not a maul.

A maul begins when a player carrying the ball is held by one or more opponents, and one or more of the ball-carrier’s team mates bind on the ball-carrier. A maul therefore consists, when it begins, of at least three players, all on their feet; the ball-carrier and one player from each team. All the players involved must be caught in or bound to the maul and must be on their feet and moving towards a goal line. Open play has ended.

The only Chiefs player is Arscott, the ball-carrier. There is no other players from his team. This is not a maul.

What is it?

It is a tackle.

A tackle occurs when the ball-carrier is held by one or more opponents and is brought to ground.

That is what happens here.

In this case the referee decided that the ball was unplayable.

Who gets the ball to put into the scrum?

If the ball becomes unplayable at a tackle and there is doubt about which player did not conform to Law, the referee orders a scrum immediately with the throw-in by the team that was moving forward prior to the stoppage or, if no team was moving forward, by the attacking team.

The team moving forward was the Harlequins. They should get the put-in at the scrum.

That did not happen here. The referee made the catching gesture and awarded the scrum to the Chiefs. That was wrong. That would apply only if there was a maul before the ball became unplayable. There was no maul and so that simply did not apply.

The referee was wrong and nobody said a word!  It is a common refereeing mistake which surely should not happen at the top level.

2. Montpellier play Racing-Métro at Stade Yves du Manoir in Montpellier.

Racing are down 22-7 There is a line-out five metres from the Montpellier. The referee awards a free kick to Racing. The scrumhalf Nicolas Durand puts the ball on the ground and steps back about a metre from it while the Racing players get into positions for something clever.

Durand takes a step forward and put his hand down to the ball, and stops.

When Durand took a step towards the ball, big Mamuka Gorgodze of Montpellier charged off the goal-line. The referee stopped play, sent Gorgodze back and had Durand take the kick again.

Why on earth for?

It was a free kick.

(e)  Charging the free kick. Once they have retired the necessary distance, players of the opposing team may charge and try to prevent the kick being taken. They may charge the free kick as soon as the kicker starts to approach to kick.
(f)  Preventing the free kick. If the opposing team charge and prevent the free kick being taken, the kick is disallowed. Play restarts with a scrum at the mark. The opposing team throw in the ball.

When Durand approached to play the ball, Gorgodze was entitled to charge.

The kick was not taken. The result should have been a scrum, Montpellier's ball. They would have liked the law to have been applied thus.

3. Racing miss a kick at goal and Montpellier, leading 8-7 go to drop out. They try a clever one, passing it to their left to centre Thomas Combezou who is unmarked. He outs the ball on the ground and some how knocks it backwards with his hand. He then picks up the ball and sets off.

The referee blows his whistle, says that there was no play and orders Montpellier to drop out.


If the ball is kicked with the wrong type of kick, or from the wrong place, the opposing team has two choices:
To have another drop-out, or
To have a scrum at the centre of the 22-metre line and they throw in the ball.

This 'kick' was certainly incorrectly taken. Racing should have been given the option and in all likelihood would have opted for the luxury of a scrum at the middle of the 22.

4. Leicester Tigers play Sale. Leicester put the ball into a scrum and heel it. They hold it and the scrum wheels around beyond 90 degrees. The referee stops play and penalises Sale, saying: "Right around."

What he says is not an explanation for a penalty. It is legal to wheel a scrum and to do so deliberately provided that the methods are legal. The explanation here does not say that anything was illegal.

5. Bath play London Irish at the Rec. At scrum to London Irish, the ball is slow in coming out and Anthony Perensee, on the Bath tighthead, stands up. The referee penalises him and gives standing up as the reason.

Law 20 deals with the scrum. Nowhere does it say that it is an offence to stand up in the front row. It says that it is an offence top push up, but to stand up.

The law would be hard pressed to punish standing up as often it is a safety mechanism for a prop under pressure.

By the way, there was one five-metre scrum in that match that lasted 3 minutes 11 seconds and ended in a penalty try.