Law discussion: Double movement etc

Fri, 26 May 2017 10:23

LAW CLARITY: rugby365 law guru Paul Dobson provides an interesting analysis of the much-debated try in the match between the Stormers and Blues at Newlands.

The try was scored by Sikhumbuzo Notshe of the Stormers at a crucial time in the match which the Stormers were leading 20-19 with 12 minutes to play.

The Stormers are attacking. Jano Vermaak passes to Pieter-Steph du Toit on his right. Du Toit is tackled and the ball comes back to Vermaak who passes to Damian de Allende who charges straight into the midriff of Sonny Bill Williams. De Allende drives Williams back to the Blues' line where Notshe clearly grounds the ball over the line.

The referee consults the TMO, saying: "My onfield decision is a try. I have no issue with the grounding but I glanced up to see offside and I'm not sure if there was a double movement or not."

There are replays, the TMO says that there was no double movement. The referee tells the Blues this and awards the try.

There are some things worth talking about and reasons why the try is, at least, questionable.

But before we get there, what is "double movement"? It is commonly used even though it is not in law. It is much better if match officials talk in terms of the law, because that is something all can understand and are used to.

By the way, what is regarded as the first part of the double movement that presumably is not the penalisable part?

The referee's question appears to refer to what Notshe did, though that is also not clear.

"Double movement" seems - only seems because there is no definition of it - to refer to the action of a tackled player. Notshe is not tackled, and so he was not guilty of "double movement" in picking up the ball and grounding it over the line.

But - and there are several buts.

De Allende charged into Williams who held De Allende. De Allende held is brought to ground. De Allende then uses his knees and left hand to propel himself forward.

That would be illegal and fall perhaps within what is meant by a "double movement".

De Allende is tackled: Law 15 DEFINITIONS
A tackle occurs when the ball-carrier is held by one or more opponents and is brought to ground.

Law 15.5 THE TACKLED PLAYER
(b) A tackled player must immediately pass the ball or release it. That player must also get up or move away from it at once.
Sanction: Penalty kick

De Allende did none of the three.

Then SP Marais of the Stormers grabs Williams about the neck to pull him away from De Allende. That is a penalisable offence.

Law 10.4 DANGEROUS PLAY AND MISCONDUCT
(e) A player must not tackle (or try to tackle) an opponent above the line of the shoulders even if the tackle starts below the line of the shoulders. A tackle around the opponent’s neck or head is dangerous play.
Sanction: Penalty kick

Before Notshe takes the ball over the line he uses his hands to loosen it from De Allende's grasp. In other words he plays the ball.

Law 15.6 Other players
(a) After a tackle, all other players must be on their feet when they play the ball. Players are on their feet if no other part of their body is supported by the ground or players on the ground.
Sanction: Penalty kick

If his knees are off the ground and if his hands and arms are off the ground when he plays the ball, he is acting within law.

When his knees go to ground, he releases the ball and uses his hands to lift himself so that his knees are clear of the ground. That is the right thing to do, as it would mean gathering the ball with his hands was legal. But....

There are so many buts.

If Sione Mafileo (18) of the Blues, made contact with Notshe before he played the ball, it was a ruck and he was not entitled to use his hands.

If Notshe played the ball before Mafileo drove into him and formed a ruck, he was entitled to keep playing the ball with his hands.

We are talking about nanoseconds here.

Law 16.4 (b) Players must not handle the ball in a ruck except after a tackle if they are on their feet and have their hands on the ball before the ruck is formed.
Sanction: Penalty kick

The except part would apply to Notshe.

There are certainly compelling reasons not to award the try, but the TMO may have found the question restrictive. Maybe it would have been better if the referee had given him a wider scope, such as with a question that said: "My onfield decision is a try. Is there any reason not to award the try?"

Surely, nobody would pretend that it was always easy to be a match official.