Law Discussion: The ricochet try

Sat, 06 Apr 2013 20:12
Large juan de jongh stormers v ch Large stuart berry Large juan de jongh stormers

rugby365 law guru Paul Dobson takes a look at the debate surrounding the second try that Juan de Jongh of the Stormers scored against the Cheetahs.

There is much debate about the lead-up to the second try that Juan de Jongh of the Stormers scored against the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein on Saturday.

It's worthwhile looking at some aspects of it.

Late in the first half of the match between the Cheetahs and the Stormers in Bloemfontein, Gio Aplon of the Stormers races from his own 22, chips and gathers. Hemmed in, he chips again, slightly infield this time. Several players of both teams rush to the ball. Deon Fourie of the Stormers is nearest to the ball but overruns it. There are five other players ahead of Aplon when he foots again towards the Cheetahs' in-goal. The ball strikes Fourie's legs when Fourie was ahead of Aplon and rebounds back towards the Stormers. It comes to Steven Kitshoff of the Stormers who drives at the line. The Cheetahs stop him but are penalised five metres from their line, next to their posts.

Instead of having a kick at goal Jean de Villiers of the Stormers taps and drives at the line. When De Villiers is stopped, and Kitshoff drives at the line before Nic Groom goes wide left where De Jongh forces his way through Burton Francis and Piet van Zyl to score a try.

The referee awards the try.

If the rebound had been seen it would have been a scrum to the Cheetahs, not a try to the Stormers.

The referee may not have had a good view of what happened.

When Aplon chipped the second time, the referee was left 20 metres or so behind play, which is understandable as many people are slower than Aplon and the kicked ball.

The referee was at ground level and did not have a bird's eye view or a replay. Near the ball there were at least five pairs of legs and the action was quick.

Perhaps he could have guessed but referees believe that guessing is dishonest and imagine the uproar if he had guessed wrongly.

But could he not have referred the incident to the TMO?

For referrals to the TMO, even in the extended use of the TMO at present being tested, the IRB has laid down a protocol. Referees have to act within the protocol.

On referrals for the TMO for infringements, the TMO protocol says the following:

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

2.4 Referee judgement decisions for all other aspects of the game are not included in the protocol and may not be referred to the TMO.

The first point to note is that, in the matter of an infringement, the referee is allowed to refer to the TMO only if he believes that a try has been scored, which is what the "the team touching the ball down in opposition in-goal" means.

In this case De Jongh touched down in the Cheetahs in-goal.

But look at 2.2. The referee could refer to what happened between the penalty kick (the restart of play) and the scoring of the try, between when De Villiers tapped the ball and De Jongh scored. But not before then.

Once the referee had penalised the Cheetahs, the option of going back to the rebound was no longer available to him. The penalty cancelled that option and no try had been scored in that period of play - between the Stormers throw-in from touch to the stopping of Kitshoff at the line. If Kitshoff had got over for a potential try, then the referee could have referred the rebound to the TMO.

The TMO could than have advised him that accidental offside had occurred and it should be a scrum to the Cheetahs.

(a) When an offside player cannot avoid being touched by the ball or by a team-mate carrying it, the player is accidentally offside. If the player’s team gains no advantage from this, play continues. If the player’s team gains an advantage, a scrum is formed with the opposing team throwing in the ball.

But as described above the referee did not have the right to refer this matter to the TMO.

That he did not see the rebound off Fourie was an error, but no more than that.