Law discussion: Barrett's try

Thu, 24 Nov 2016 20:13
Large jaco peyper puzzled

EXCLUSIVE: rugby365 law guru Paul Dobson looks at Beauden Barrett's controversial try against Ireland last weekend.

Options. The match officials have more than one in this case.

Beauden Barrett of New Zealand breaks from a scrum and races down the midfield some 35 metres and is well over the line when Jonny Sexton tackles him, the pair sliding towards the dead-ball line. Prudently, the South African referee consults the Welsh TMO who tells the referee definitely and a second time that he had seen the ball grounded. The referee awards the try, though Sexton is upset and Ireland boos.

What the TMO decided was that Barrett had grounded the ball before he went over the dead-ball line. If he had not it would have been a drop-out

Law 22.7 Restarting after a touch down
(a) When an attacking player sends or carries the ball into the opponents’ in-goal and it becomes dead there, either because a defender grounded it or because it went into touch-in-goal or on or over the dead ball line, a drop-out is awarded.

That was an option before the referee and the TMO?

The only option?

No.

In fact Ireland may have got off more lightly than could have otherwise been the case. Perhaps, if they had realised that, they would have been cheering instead of booing and Sexton would have been mightily relieved.

Why?

Look at the tackle. It is a high tackle, a tackle above the shoulders, a dangerous tackle, a form of foul play.

Had the try not been awarded, the referee would have been obliged to award a penalty try and issue Sexton a yellow card. The same seven points but a yellow card in addition.

Why a penalty try?

Law 10 deals with foul play.

Law 10.4 (e) Dangerous tackling
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

In the week before the match between Ireland and New Zealand, World Rugby had reinforced the need for stricter application and tougher sanctions in the case of aggressive acts against an opponent's head, including the high tackle.

Law A 10.2 (a) A penalty try must be awarded if the offence prevents a try that would probably otherwise have been scored. A player who prevents a try being scored through foul play must either be cautioned and temporarily suspended or sent off.

If Barrett had not scored the try and would probably have scored but for Sexton's illegal tackle, the referee would have been obliged to award a penalty try - and a yellow card.

Could the referee have awarded the try and then restarted play with a penalty to New Zealand on the half-way line?

No - because the infringement occurred before the try was scored.

Law 22.17 (c) Any other foul play. When a player commits any other foul play in the in-goal while the ball is out of play, the penalty kick is awarded at the place where the game would otherwise have re-started.
Sanction: Penalty kick

The ball was still in play, being carried by Barrett, when Sexton tackled him illegally.

All this would have been saved if Barrett had done what normal people do and scored the try when over the line, near the posts and under no immediate pressure.