Law discussion: try or penalty try
In the Super Rugby match between the Lions and the Jaguares at Ellis Park in Johannesburg, there was discussion about an incident that involved a penalty, advantage, a try and a penalty try.
It had a practical point – a guaranteed seven points or five points and some more work to bring it up to seven.
Let’s look at the incident. Then let’s look at the law. Then let’s see if we can see who was right.
Elton Jantjies of the Lions grubbers, and Joaquín Díaz Bonilla, the Jaguares flyhalf, sets up a counterattack. Ruan Vermaak of the Lions is penalised at a tackle and Díaz Bonilla kicks out for a five-metre lineout. Julián Montoya throws in, Matías Alemanno catches the ball and a maul is formed. The Jaguares drive the maul towards the Lions’ line. Just short of the line, the maul is collapsed and the referee declares that it has been done illegally, identifying prop Carlü Sadie of the Lions as the guilty party, but the referee plays advantage for the infringement which was penalisable. Eventually Montoya grounds the ball on the Lions’ goal-line.
The referee wishes to award a try but consults the TMO, saying: “My onfield decision is a try. Please, advise otherwise…. I’m coming back for a penalty try for collapsing the moving maul by Number 3, if not a try.”
There are replays and the commentators discuss the matter.
Commentator 3: “What’s the greater advantage?”
Commentator 2: “If I were the captain, I’d just take the penalty try.”
Then the TMO says: “You may award the try.”
Commentator 1: “Now Bonilla has the tough conversion to get the two points that they would have got as a matter of course.”
He says this because a penalty try is worth an automatic seven points, not requiring a conversion.
Díaz Bonilla misses the conversion.
Commentator 1: “Bonilla’s kick has sailed wide. We can only draw attention to it and wonder whether it may make a difference later.”
Now for the law.
Law 8.3 PENALTY TRY
A penalty try is awarded between the goal posts if foul play by the opposing team prevents a probable try from being scored, or scored in a more advantageous position. A player guilty of this must be cautioned and temporarily suspended or sent off. No conversion is attempted.
Collapsing a maul is an aspect of foul play contained in Law 9.20, but the Jaguares scored a try. It was not a probable try; it was a real try.
Furthermore the try was scored where it would have been scored without Sadie’s illegal intervention. Scoring in a more advantageous position does not apply.
That means that the law concerning a penalty try does not apply at all.
The referee’s decision to award the try is the correct one. The Jaguares got advantage – the scoring of the try.
The final score was 47-39. The extra two points would have given the Jaguares a loser’s bonus point.
It is the referee’s job to apply the laws, which the referee did here. Hard luck is not written into the laws!
By Paul Dobson,