Law discussion: Penalty, upright, touch
EXCLUSIVE: Africa, an old Roman said, keeps coming up with something strange. Rugby, it seems, is the same.
In the match between Australia and Argentina in Perth last weekend, Nicolás Sánchez kicks at goal. The ball hits the left upright and from there bounces into touch without being touched by an Australia. The referee immediately tells his assistant that it is a line-out and that Australia are to throw in.
Whoa. Wait a minute. It was [penalty that Argentina kicked. Should it not be their ball?
Law 19.4 Who throws in
(a) The throw-in is taken by an opponent of the player who last held or touched the ball before it went into touch. When there is doubt, the attacking team takes the throw-in.
Exception: When a team takes a penalty kick, and the ball is kicked into touch, the throw-in is taken by a player of the team that took the penalty kick. This applies whether the ball was kicked directly or indirectly into touch.
But then it was a place kick and it is forbidden to kick a place kick into touch. Should it not be a scrum where Sánchez kicked the ball?
Law 21,4 (e) Place kicking for touch. The kicker may punt or drop kick for touch but must not place kick for touch.
Sanction: Unless otherwise stated in Law any infringement by the kicker’s team results in a scrum at the mark. The opposing team throw in the ball.
We have Peter Shortell of Cheltenham to thank for this conundrum.
Way back - in 1879 to be exact - there was a Law 36 - Irregularities not provided for. Should this incident fall into that category?
No. Remarkably there is a ruling/clarification that regulates this.
The law above dates back to 2000. In 2006, there was a request for a ruling from France.
Following a penalty kick and after the ball was kicked, the ball hits the goal post and goes into touch without having been touched by another player.
What decision should the referee give?
If the penalty kick is for goal, then it is a line-out, defending team to throw in.
If the penalty kick is for touch, therefore no place kick, then it is a line-out attacking team to throw in.
The line-out in either of these situations may not be closer than 5 metres from the goal line.
A ruling/clarification has the force of law.
All of that means that the decision of the referee and his assistant to have a line-out with Argentina to throw in was the correct one.
The second would be a rare incident indeed - a kicker kicking for touch and the ball bouncing off an upright on its way to touch. That seems an "any weird eventuality" bit of law.
Peter Shortell cannot work out the logic behind the ruling, but then in rugby football you pass backwards to move forward, which may sound illogical!
Shortell says: "If the referee deems that the kick was illegal under 21.4 (e), then the sanction is a scrum at the mark, not a line-out.
"Does 21.4 (e) apply? That depends on the interpretation of "kicking for touch". Quite clearly in this case the player intended to kick for goal, not touch. Does 21.4 (e) cover kicks than unintentionally to go into touch?
"If so, the "logic" appears to be that kicking the ball into touch off a goal post invalidates the exception in 19.4. But the exception does not mention the restriction on place kicking. That is only in Law 21, which should surely therefore take precedence.
"On the other hand if unintentional kicks into touch are not forbidden, then the Exception in 19.4 must apply and the kicking team gets the throw in.
"The Ruling uses the phrase "If the penalty kick is for goal" which appears to acknowledge intention, so surely 21.4 (e) should be interpreted in the same way
"The so-called clarification makes a laconic statement with no attempt to explain how it comes to its conclusion. I for one find the hidden argument impossible to swallow."
Law 19.4 Exception: When a team takes a penalty kick, and the ball is kicked into touch, the throw-in is taken by a player of the team that took the penalty kick. This applies whether the ball was kicked directly or indirectly into touch.
Law 21.4 Penalty and free kick options and requirements
(e) Place kicking for touch. The kicker may punt or drop kick for touch but must not place kick for touch.
(f) Kicker’s freedom of action. The kicker is free to kick the ball in any direction and may play the ball again.
By Paul Dobson