Law discussion: Control and tries

Thu, 13 Oct 2016 09:10
Large jerome garces 800

EXCLUSIVE: rugby365 law guru Paul Dobson takes a closer look at two tries, two possible knock-ons and the talk about 'control'.

South Africa play New Zealand. New Zealand are on the attack as Anton Lienert-Brown bursts for the line but is tackled by Francois Louw. TJ Perenara (No.9) of New Zealand picks up, dummies and ducks for the line as Tendai Mtawarira of South Africa tackles him. The ball ends up in in-goal with Perenara pressing down on it. The referee consults the TMO.

There is a discussion about control during which the referee says: "We never see a separation between the hand and the ball. The referee says that Perenara had "maintained control of the ball" and decides that it is a try and the TMO agrees with him.

In the second clip, Dane Haylett-Petty of Australia runs with the ball and is tackled by Joaquín Tuculet of Argentina. He flies through the air, holding the ball in his right hand and falls to the ground where a ruck is formed. The ball comes back to Australia and Adam Coleman stretches to score. The referee consults the TMO about a possible knock-on by Haylett-Petty when he came back to earth. Again control is mentioned and the TMO gives the referee the guarantee that Haylett-Petty "does not lose control of the ball. He holds onto it". On the TMO's guarantee, the referee awards the try.

The word "control" does not appear in the law book when it comes to knock-ons or scoring a try. It is a pity that match officials use the word. They should instead use the simple rugby term "knock on". The question then would be: "Does he knock on?" It would apply to the Perenara incident and the Haylett-Petty incident. To be fair to the referee in the Haylett-Petty incident, the referee does ask about a knock-on but then control makes a comeback.

A knock-on occurs when a player loses possession of the ball and it goes forward, or when a player hits the ball forward with the hand or arm, or when the ball hits the hand or arm and goes forward, and the ball touches the ground or another player before the original player can catch it.
‘Forward’ means towards the opposing team’s dead ball-line.

Perenara has the ball in his left hand while he right arm goes to ground. The ball leaves his left hand, touches the ground and is then grabbed, on the ground, by both hands and placed over the line.

It would seem that he lost possession, the ball went forward and touched the ground. That would be a knock-on.

Haylett-Petty had the ball in his right hand. The ball leaves his right hand, goes forward and touches the ground before his left-hand plays it.

It would seem that he lost possession, the ball went forward and touched the ground. That would be a knock-on.

It is hard to see how it was possible that these not be ruled knock-ons But then you go back to that business of separation between the hand and the ball.

This used to be a reason for awarding a try - continued contact between hand and ball, even the back of the hand.

But recently at a course in South Africa, Alain Rolland, World Rugby's referee boss, brought people back to the law - about holding the ball. Mere contact between hand or arm and the ball is not holding the ball, is not being in possession of the ball. It makes sense.

In these two incidents, the referees are French, the one TMO Scottish, the other English. The message may not have got through to those countries.

In the first incident, it seems there should have been a scrum to South Africa instead of a try to New Zealand.

In the second incident, it seems that there should have been a scrum to Argentina instead of a try to Australia.

The difference is huge.

By Paul Dobson