Law discussion: Wind power

Mon, 06 Mar 2017 16:04
Large blitzboks v fiji las vegas sevens 2017 800

IN THE SPOTLIGHT: rugby365 law guru Paul Dobson looks at the power of the wind on a rugby field.   

We have three examples to discuss of the power of the wind. Two of them in Las Vegas.

1. In Las Vegas, there is a powerful wind blowing straight down the Sam Boyd Stadium and on out into the Mojave Desert. In the first half the USA play into the strong wind. Folau Niua, his hair blowing like a sail in the wind, kicks off high to his right. The ball travels high in the air and then the wind carries it back towards the USA. Madison Hughes catches the ball a metre or two on his side of the South African 10-metre line. Hughes passes to Niua who races off on a long, telling run. He passes to Andrew Duratulo who passes to Stephen Tomasin on his left and Tomasin scores in Rosko Specman's tackle.

This gives the USA an early lead, but what about the kick-off?

There is a good view of the kick-off. The ball certainly travels beyond the South African 10-metre line before it is blown back and it is certainly caught short of the  South African 10-metre line. This is covered by law.

Law 13.5 Kick-off of 10 metres
If the ball reaches the opponents’ 10-metre line or reaches the 10-metre line and is blown back, play continues.

The second half had a similar start. Cecil Afrika kicked off for South Africa, a high kick to his right. The ball went beyond the USA 10-metre line and was then blown back. Werner Koch of South Africa caught the ball on his side of the 10-metre line and gave to Afrika who ran and gave back to Koch who scored.

2. You will never see this in real life, but it's worth looking at. And the poor referee has to deal with a freak such as this.

The wind blows in New Zealand, too, and, after Mid Canterbury score, North Otago kick off into the wind. This kick-off does not travel the full 10 metres before the wind takes it and blows it back into the North Otago half where the ball bounces at speed down, over the goal line and over the dead-ball line. The referee orders a scrum at the middle of the half-way line.

Law 13.7 Kick-off of under 10 metres and not played by an opponent

If the ball does not reach the opponent’s 10-metre line the opposing team has two choices:
To have the ball kicked off again, or
To have a scrum at the centre of the half-way line and they throw in the ball.

    
3. The pass that sails.

In the Final of the Las Vegas Sevens, South Africa are playing with the powerful wind. Fiji are leading 5-0 but they are penalised, South Africa tap and Cecil Afrika throws a long pass out to Siviwe Soyizwapi on his left. When Africa passes the ball he is about two metres on the South African side of the 10-metre line. The ball bounces and when Soyizwapi gets the ball he is on the Fijian side of the 10-metre line. He grabs the ball, runs with it and passes to Afrika who scores.

From pass to catch there is nearly three metres with the catch three metres towards the Fijian line. But play was allowed to go on.

Law 12 Definition: Throw forward
A throw forward occurs when a player throws or passes the ball forward, i.e., if the arms of the player passing the ball move towards the opposing team’s dead ball line.

Look at Afrika's arms and hands. They do not go forward. It is the wind that takes the ball forward. But the wind does not infringe - nor did Afrika.

As referees will tell you, it is a forward pass, not a forward catch.

It was right for play to go on. Ignore the "mile forward" and "unlucky" Fiji.