Law discussion: Cancelled try
In the Currie Cup Final, Lwazi Mvovo of the Sharks went over for a try. All that Mvovo did was clearly correct but the try was disallowed.
In the Currie Cup Final, Lwazi Mvovo of the Sharks went over for a try. All that Mvovo did was clearly correct but the try was disallowed. There are two aspects to this decision.
Let's look at the whole action.
Gio Aplon kicked downfield to Patrick Lambie who had plenty of time to react. He kicked downfield to Cheslin Kolbe who had plenty of time to react. Kolbe was in his 22 but chose to run. Lambie and Louis Ludik tackled Aplon.
Players of both sides gathered - Keegan Daniel, Tendai Mtawarira and Bismarck du Plessis of the Sharks and De Kock Steenkamp. Patrick Cilliers, Steven Kitshoff, Siya Kolisi and Scarra Ntubeni of Western Province. Western Province win the ball with Aplon at scrumhalf. He passes straight back to Dimitri Catrakelis while Bismarck di Plessis and Pieter-Steph du Toit charge at him.
The ball goes through Catrakelis's hands and lands behind him. He turns and is immediately confronted by the two Sharks. Du Toit tackles Catrakelis and wins the ball of him. Du Toit takes as step or two forward and Duane Vermeulen fells him.
Sharks gather and Damian de Allende on the Western Province side. Marcell Coetzee picks up the ball and charges to the right where Eben Etzebeth and Ntubeni bring him suddenly to earth. The Sharks win the ball and go left. Frans Steyn throws a brilliant, long pass to Mvovo who races over to score a try.
The referee immediately consults the TMO, asking him to look at the tackle on Catrakelis, who was injured in the incident. The referee's assistant suggests that he also looks at the ruck where Kolbe had been tackled. The referee adds that to his request to the TMO.
The TMO reports back that Bismarck du Plessis had been offside and so the try is not awarded. Instead the referee penalises the Sharks.
Was Bismarck du Plessis offside? Did his presence at the tackle on Catrakelis have a material effect? Was the TMO entitled to examine that far back?
First of all we must look at what phase of play it was where Kolbe was tackled.
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.
What happened where Kolbe was tackled was certainly a ruck.
It then stays a ruck till the ball emerges or until the referee decides that it is unplayable. That players are not on their feet during the whole ruck is not relevant. It certainly started out as a ruck.
Law 16.5 OFFSIDE AT THE RUCK
(a) The offside line. There are two offside lines parallel to the goal-lines, one for each team. Each offside line runs through the hindmost foot of the hindmost player in the ruck. If the hindmost foot of the hindmost player is on or behind the goal-line, the offside line for the defending team is the goal-line.
(b) Players must either join a ruck, or retire behind the offside line immediately. If a player loiters at the side of a ruck, the player is offside.
Bismarck du Plessis goes around the side of the ruck, beyond the sedentary Kitshoff and well beyond the last Shark foot - that belonging to Ludik. Bismarck du Plessis was offside.
When Du Toit tackles Catrakelis, no ruck is formed.
When Vermeulen tackles Du Toit and De Allende joins in, a ruck is formed.
When Etzebeth and Ntubeni tackle Coetzee, no ruck is formed as no Western Province player joins in. It is just a tackle.
How far back does the TMO protocol allow play to go?
Up to now the protocol has stipulated that the TMO could go back to the last restart but not for more than two phases (phase = ruck or maul).
This has been changed for the Currie Cup. The phase limitation has been removed but in any case it is not relevant as the ruck around Kolbe is two rucks back.
Global Trial Law 6.A.6 Referee Consulting With Others
iv. Where match officials believe an infringement may have occurred leading to a try or in preventing a try providing that the potential infringement has occurred since the last restart in play . (restart = scrum line-out, penalty/free-kick, kick-off or drop-out)
To sum up: Bismarck was offside and the TMO's advice was within protocol. That means that the penalty was fair.