Law discussion: Common sense

Tue, 30 Aug 2016 15:55

IN THE SPOTLIGHT: rugby365 law guru Paul Dobson looks at the incident leading up to Grey College's last second victory over Paul Roos.

The short answer is that the game is over when the referee says so by blowing the final whistle.

Nobody else decides that the game is over.

Law 6.A.8 THE REFEREE’S WHISTLE
(a) The referee must carry a whistle and blow the whistle to indicate the beginning and end of each half of the match.

But when should he blow to end a half? When time is up and the ball is dead.

Does the siren end the half?

No, only the referee does, but he is allowed to have help with timekeeping.

Law  5.3 Timekeeping
The referee keeps the time but may delegate the duty to either or both the touch judges and/or the official time-keeper, in which case the referee signals to them any stoppage of time or time lost. In matches without an official time-keeper, if the referee is in doubt as to the correct time the referee consults either or both the touch judges and may consult others but only if the touch judges cannot help.

The match we are talking about this time was a schools match between Grey College and Paul Roos in Bloemfontein.

Paul Roos are leading 32-27 when Paul Roos kick off with 80 seconds to play. Grey win possession and play. Paul Roos are penalised and Wihan Kloppers of Grey taps and Grey play on. The siren sounds to indicate that time for the half and therefore the match is up.

Grey attack down the left and the referee plays advantage.

Grey come right and the referee announces that advantage is over. The ball goes out to Juan Venter the Grey flank who is tackled and in the tackle the ball flies out of his grasp into the arms of Paul Roos's left wing, David-Ley Moses, who is in front of Venter. Moses turns to his left and quite deliberately throws the ball into touch.

The referee penalises Moses, saying that this was cynical play.

Grey kick out for a line-out, Moses is again penalised and Grey again kick out for a line-out at which Kloppers is credited with a try.

But we should get back to the siren, advantage over, the knock-on, the throw into touch and the penalty. That is the order of these critical events.

Siren - an indication to the referee that the time is up. Presumably the siren operator was the official timekeeper. If there is such a person it relieves the referee of the chore of checking the time and so it is best to heed his advice.

Advantage over - means that Paul Roos have been exonerated for their infringement and have no form of penalty to pay. Their sheet is clean.

Knock-on - when a player loses possession of the ball and it goes forward. Does it go forward in this case? It certainly looks like it, as Moses' feet are in front of Venter and the ball goes to Moses.

Throw into touch - Moses catches the ball gifted to him and throws it straight out over the touchline. It is illegal to throw the ball into touch:

Law 10.2 (c) Throwing into touch. A player must not intentionally knock, place, push or throw the ball with his arm or hand into touch, touch-in-goal, or over the dead ball line.
Sanction: Penalty kick on the 15-metre line if the offence is between the 15-metre line and the touchline, or, at the place of infringement if the offence occurred elsewhere in the field of play, or, 5 metres from the goal line and at least 15 metres from the touchline if the infringement occurred in in-goal.

What Moses did was wrong, but...

1. Before Moses infringed, Venter had infringed.
2. Because Venter had infringed, there was no possibility of Grey's gaining an immediate advantage. Whatever Grey did to get the ball back from Moses would not have mattered. There was still the scrum sanction for the knock-on.
3. But that scrum would come after time was up. The ball was dead. Law 5.7 (e) The ball becomes dead when the referee would have awarded a scrum, line-out, an option to the non-infringing team, drop out or after a conversion or successful penalty kick at goal. What Moses did was after the ball was dead.
4. Penalisable throwing into touch, when it happens which is rarely, is usually the act of a player under pressure to stop opponents from getting the ball and profiting from it.
5. Moses was not stopping Grey from playing in any way because they had already infringed and were not entitled to play.
6. What Moses did was not harmful to anybody at all.
7. Common sense can always play a role, and in this case, common sense says that Moses' reaction was the result of excitement and jubilation - not malice, not to deprive the opponents of a chance to win the match.

This may well have been a refereeing error in reaction to what was an act which in itself was wrong. If it was indeed an error, that is all it was - not some dishonest act to secure the home side a win.