Mon 30 Dec 2019 | 10:16

Law discussion: What's wrong with this?

Law discussion: What's wrong with this?
Mon 30 Dec 2019 | 10:16
Law discussion: What's wrong with this?

REFEREE IN THE SPOTLIGHT: @rugby365com law guru Paul Dobson takes a look at an incident in a Top 14 match in France, when Bayonne played Brive.


In an incident in the match, there is a lineout. Bayonne are to throw in and they line up with four players and a receiver, Brive with two players and a receiver. It is a duly constituted lineout. Maxime Lamothe of Bayonne throws into the lineout. Guillaume Ducat of Bayonne goes up and catches the ball with help from Jean Monribot and Baptiste Heguy, while Brive make no attempt to contest the lineout.

The Brive players group together. Ugo Boniface and Edwin Maka join Ducat, Monribot and Heguy. This formation lumbers forward till Peet Marais of Brive, who has direct access to Ducat drives into the group. The referee with big gestures penalises Brive.


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It is a lineout.
It is still a lineout when Ducat comes to ground and his team-mates pack round him.
There is no obligation on the two Brive players in the lineout to join the Bayonne formation.
This Bayonne group is NOT a maul. It is not a maul because there are no Brive players involved.
Ducat and his group then move forward. In doing so they end the lineout.
Then Marais makes contact with the group, thus creating a maul.
Then Karlen Asieshvili (1) of Brive moves forward to make contact with Heguy (7) of Bayonne.

Before we go further, let’s quote some laws.


Maul: A grouping of players of the same team do NOT constitute a maul.

It consists of a ball-carrier and at least one player from each team, bound together and on their feet.

Till Marais joins in, there is no maul.
When Marais joins in, the maul is constituted.

The lineout ends when:
a. The ball or a player in possession of the ball:
i. leaves the lineout.


Mark of touch: An imaginary line in the field of play at right angles to the touchline through the place where the ball is thrown in. The mark of touch cannot be within five metres of a goal line.

When Ducat, the ball-carrier, and his group move across the mark of touch and plod on, the ball has left the lineout. There is no more a lineout.

The two Brive players who were in the lineout when it started, i.e. when Lamothe (16) threw the ball in, do not move back. They stay standing where they were and do not make contact with the Ducat group and they do not move back in the direction of their own goal-line.

Let’s listen to the referee’s reasoning.

First he says: “The ball is being held by the player in front.”
That declares that there is no obstruction by the Bayonne players.

Then, when he penalises Brive, he says: “You are leaving the lineout. You are retreating out of the lineout space.”

The two Brive players in the lineout shuffle backwards as the Bayonne formation advances. When the referee penalises them, the Bayonne formation are some eight metres beyond the place where the lineout took place, i.e. beyong the mark of touch.

Surely play should be allowed to go on, though Asieshvili looks penalisable, for when Marais moves in it forms a maul and Asieshvili then joins from the side ahead of Marais and on the Bayonne side.

4. Each team has an offside line that runs parallel to the goal line through the maul participants’ hindmost foot that is nearest to that team’s goal line. If that foot is on or behind the goal line, the offside line for that team is the goal line.
5. A player must either join a maul from an onside position or retire behind their offside line immediately. Sanction: Penalty.
6. Players who leave a maul must immediately retire behind the offside line. These players may re-join the maul. Sanction: Penalty.

7. Players joining a maul must:
a. Do so from an onside position.
b. Bind on to the hindmost player in the maul.
Sanction: Penalty.

Just a thought: which is worse – missing something wrong or sanctioning something that is not wrong?

In fact, if an unusual  situation suddenly pops up, it is better to do nothing than to take fright, blow the whistle and then try to find a reason for blowing the whistle.

PV: 2417