Law discussion: Cancelled tries
EXCLUSIVE: rugby365 law guru Paul Dobson looks at two incidents in matches this past Saturday where tries were 'scored' and then cancelled for what happened earlier in the move.
The more celebrated of the two was in the match between Australia and New Zealand in Auckland. The other is in the South African Under-21 Final between the Golden Lions and an Western Province in Bloemfontein.
In the first one, Australia had hopes of scoring a try and eventually lost the match; in the second incident, Western Province had hopes of scoring a try and eventually lost the match.
This happens early in the second half with New Zealand leading 15-10.
Bernard Foley of Australia dummies and breaks inside Kieran Read of New Zealand. He races ahead and when confronted by Ben Smith (15) of New Zealand passes to Henry Speight (11) on his right, about 38 metres from the goal-line. Speight races to the goal line and dives to score the try.
The referee awards the try but before the conversion is taken the TMO suggests that he checks something.
The referee then tells the TMO to "show me and tell me what I'm looking at".
The incident is then replayed from different angles. It shows that Dane Haylett-Petty (14) of Australia moved to his right and made contact with Julian Savea (11) of New Zealand when Speight was about 26 metres from the goal-line.
When he has a look from a few angles, the referee says to the TMO that he had seen Haylett-Petty alter "his line to put him [Savea] off his stride". The TMO agrees with the referee. The referee then penalises Haylett-Petty.
When first the incident was replayed, immediately there was comment from the commentators, who clearly did not agree with the eventual decision.
The first comment, before there was really much evidence, was that "it was nothing" and that "Haylett-Petty was allowed to run that line". The commentators agree and make the point that "Speight was gone", suggesting that Savea would not have caught him.
When the decision was made the commentator announced: "We reiterate that this was not Nigel Owens's call. It was called down from upstairs. It was called by Veldsman - Shaun Veldsman." (Veldsman was the TMO.)
What the commentator said certainly sounded like an exoneration of the referee and a blaming of the TMO, even though it was the referee who proclaimed Haylett-Petty's act as illegal and the referee who penalised him.
This is one of those "damned if you do and damned if you don't" situations. New Zealanders would agree with the decision; Australians vociferously disagree with it, following their coach's lead.
Here are two quotations from Law 10, which deals with foul play.
Law 10.1 (c) Blocking the tackler. A player must not intentionally move or stand in a position that prevents an opponent from tackling a ball-carrier.
Sanction: Penalty kick
Law 10.4 (e) Playing a player without the ball is dangerous play.
Sanction: Penalty kick.
Haylett-Petty got into Savea's way. That means he blocked Savea from having any chance of getting to Speight. That is a penalisable offence under the law dealing with foul play.
In doing what he did Haylett-Petty played Savea who did not have the ball. That, too, is a penalisable offence under the law dealing with foul play.
That Speight was "gone" was not relevant. They remain infringements that happened before the "try" was scored.
It would seem that the referee was right to penalise Haylett-Petty.
Be careful about following what commentators say. That it is said by "we who have played the game" does not make what they say right. After all people who play the game also get on the wrong side of the Laws of the Game. In this match players were penalised 21 times and one was cited and suspended after the match.
This incident is clearer than the first one but the principle is the same, and, by the way, it is a good example of co-operation between referee, assistant referee and TMO.
Western Province win the ball back from a tackle/ruck and go left out to left wing Edwill van der Merwe who darts for the line but is brought to ground. Western Province win the ball and go right where lock Eduard Zandberg charges and stretches to "score".
The referee is aware of a problem, presumably reported by his assistant referee, and calls timeout. He consults his assistant who reports that Jaco Coetzee, the Western Province No.8, had put his hand aggressively into the face of Wiehan Jacobs, the Golden Lions' flank. The assistant, whose pointing is certainly not a good idea, does not require TMO confirmation, which was also not a good idea, and recommends a penalty and a yellow card for Coetzee.
The referee is on the way to put this into action when he sees the incident on the big screen and then consults the TMO.
The replays suggest that Jacobs had grabbed Coetzee around the neck and face and pulled him back.
Coetzee then struck Jacobs in the face with an open hand.
Golden Lions' lock FP Pelser then grabbed Coetzee around the neck.
With remarkable strength Coetzee lifts and dumps Pelser and then flathands his head.
The actions by and to Pelser are overlooked.
The referee notes that Coetzee's action against Jacobs was as a result of Jacobs's pulling on the neck, a more serious form of foul play.
The referee then suggests that the try should stand but the TMO hauls him back and says that this could not happen because the retaliation was also a form of foul play and had happened before the 'try' was scored..
Instead the referee penalises Jacobs and then reverses the penalty by penalising Coetzee.
It could have gone on, of course, if the Pelser involvement had been taken into account.
What Jacobs and Pelser do are clearly wrong, but we should concentrate on Coetzee's action as it nullified the try and was the one penalised.
Law 10.4 (l) Retaliation. A player must not retaliate. Even if an opponent is infringing the Laws, a player must not do anything that is dangerous to the opponent.
Sanction: Penalty kick
Retaliation is forbidden by Law 10, which deals with foul play. Coetzee's retaliation was foul play. That ruled out any chance of scoring a try after it. It is a clearer decision than the Haylett-Petty action but exercises the same principle - that you cannot score a try after you have infringed.
By Paul Dobson