Law discussion:Goal-line complexity

Fri, 09 Dec 2016 15:38

IN THE SPOTLIGHT: rugby365 law guru Paul Dobson looks at a complex situation for the match officials.

England play Australia at Twickenham. Australia are attacking but England win a turnover and Ben Youngs kicks downfield.

Dane Haylett-Petty of Australia gets the ball and races down the touchline on his right as the English cover defence heads for him. He grubbers ahead towards the England goal-line.

Owen Farrell covers the ball and falls to the ground without a firm grasp of the ball. David Pocock of Australia arrives. The ball is lose. Mike Brown of England tries to pick it up and Tevita Kuridrani falls on the ball, claiming a try.

The referee refers the matter to the TMO.

First, they check to see if Pocock was ahead of Haylett-Petty when Haylett-Petty kicked ahead. It is clear from that examination that Pocock was not offside.

Then they examine what happened at the tackle and when they do it is clear that Pocock's left hand had knocked the ball forward. And so the referee and the TMO agree on the scrum, five metres from England line, England ball. The scrum award is correctly done according to law.

Law 22.13 Attacking infringement with scrum sanction
If an attacking player commits an infringement in in-goal, for which the sanction is a scrum, for example, a knock-on, play is restarted with a 5-metre scrum. The scrum is formed in line with the place of the infringement and the defending team throws in the ball.

There is no discussion about Pocock's action against Farrell, possibly because it was felt that there was no decision and in any case, the knock-on was clear and obvious, a non-controversial decision.

But did Pocock infringe in trying to get the ball off Farrell?

First of all, clearly it is not an automatic infringement to go to ground and play the ball. Farrell fell on the ball, which has always been legal in rugby football.

If Farrell is allowed to do that, then so is Pocock allowed to go to ground to get the ball except if it was a tackle.

Was this a tackle?

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

Pocock holds Farrell but he does not bring him to ground, because he was already on the ground when Pocock arrived.

It was not a tackle.

Law 14.2 Players on their feet
(a) Falling over the player on the ground with the ball. A player must not intentionally fall on or over a player with the ball who is lying on the ground.
Sanction: Penalty kick
(b) Falling over players lying on the ground near the ball. A player must not intentionally fall on or over players lying on the ground with the ball between them or near them.
Sanction: Penalty kick

Did Pocock fall on Farrell?
Did Pocock fall over Farrell?

It would seem that Pocock does not fall on or over Farrell but next to him. A penalty here could well have been controversial - not a clear and obvious infringement.

There was a belief that when a player fell on the ball he was not allowed to be played till he was back on his feet. This has never been the case.

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