Law discussion: Grounding the ball

Tue, 26 Nov 2013 14:44
Large francois louw tackled630

rugby365 law expert Paul Dobson looks at Springbok flank Francois Louw's try against France which should have been awarded but was disallowed by the TMO.

When South Africa played France on Saturday, South Africa came close to scoring tries on two occasions but on each occasion the TMO advised the referee not to award the try.

In the first instance the TMO detected a knock-on when Morné Steyn tried to catch a high, floating pass and so Jaque Fourie was denied a try. The second one is of interest in this discussion - and it is just a discussion to try to gain clarity on law from an action in a match.

It is a much easier way of getting things right than referees and TMOs have for they are required to produce rapid decisions in the heat of battle - not in an armchair.

South Africa go right from a tackle/ruck. Willie le Roux grubbers ahead. Falling back Yoann Huguet foots the ball back into the French in-goal. Huguet and Francois Louw of South Africa go for the ball, Huguet with right arm extended.

If Huguet grounds the ball first it will not be a try.

If Louw grounds the ball first, it will be a try.

The TMO's advice to the referee is that a Blue Player (Huguet) had taken the ball back and had grounded the ball. A So it would be a five-metre scrum to South Africa.

But did he ground it?

The law in this regard is most specific. There is a difference between the way a player carrying the ball is required to ground the ball and what a player is required to do if he is not carrying the ball.

There are two ways a player can ground the ball:
(a) Player touches the ground with the ball. A player grounds the ball by holding the ball and touching the ground with it, in in-goal. ‘Holding’ means holding in the hand or hands, or in the arm or arms. No downward pressure is required.
(b) Player presses down on the ball. A player grounds the ball when it is on the ground in the in-goal and the player presses down on it with a hand or hands, arm or arms, or the front of the player’s body from waist to neck inclusive.

A player holding the ball is not required to put downward pressure on the ball.

A player not holding the ball is required to put downward pressure on the ball.

Huguet is certainly not carrying the ball, and so (b) above tells us what he has to do.

And it tells us that Huguet is required to press down on the ball.,

Huguet's hand touched the side of the ball. There is no sign of downward pressure at all. The one who puts downward pressure on the ball is Louw. who puts both hands and his torso on the ball, certainly exerting downward pressure.

That says that Huguet did not ground the ball.

Louw grounded the ball.

The try should have been awarded.