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Incidents - November ii

A debatable penalty try and a remarkable mark

We have already given the statistics for the second weekend in November and have discussed the prickly matter of the spear tackle. Now we are going to look at some incidents from six matches, including a penalty try at Murrayfield and a mark at Twickenham.

The matches we have been concerned with are Wales vs Fiji, Italy vs Tonga, Ireland vs New Zealand, England vs Australia, Scotland vs Argentina and France vs Canada.

1. Penalty try?

Simon Taylor was penalised at a tackle. The score was 19-16 but the Pumas wanted a win. They kicked the ball out near the corner on their left. Now they kept the Scots imprisoned in that corner.

The five-metre line-out was followed by five five-metre scrums. The pressure was intolerable. Ali Hogg was penalised, but the Pumas took a scrum. Craig Smith was penalised, but the Pumas took a scrum,. Scott Murray was penalised but the Pumas took a scrum.

The scrums were rickety, creaky, wonky things anyway. The referee tries his best to keep the Scots legal. It was a tough situation.

The Pumas pushed the fifth scrum ahead. The ball was at the feet of No.8, Juan Fernandez Lobbe who had it under control.

The scrum was not a tidy, well spread thing, and a foot came through, the foot of hooker Scott Lawson. It kicked the ball past Agustín Pichot and into touch.

The referee swarded a penalty try against Lawson for kicking the ball out of the scrum.

The Scots, gently, pointed out that Lawson was the hooker.

The penalty try stood, and the Pumas won the match 23-19.


In Sevens rugby the law states: Kicking out . A front row player must not intentionally kick the ball out of the tunnel or out of the scrum in the direction of the opponents' goal-line.
Penalty: Penalty kick

This does not occur in the Laws for the 15-man game. There Law 20.8 (c) states: Kicking out.  A front row player must not intentionally kick the ball out of the tunnel in the direction from which it was thrown in.
Penalty: Penalty kick

Law 20.9 (g) Scrumhalf. Kicking in the scrum. A scrumhalf must not kick the ball while it is in the scrum.
Penalty: Penalty kick

It was a 15-a-side match and Lawson did not kick the ball back out of the tunnel nor was Lawson a scrumhalf.

Ransack the law down the years and you will not find a penalty against Lawson for kicking the ball out of the scrum.

How Lawson got to the ball is a different matter.

Law 20.2 (a) All players in a position to shove. When a scrum has formed the body and feet of the each front row player must be in a normal position to make a forward shove.
Penalty: Penalty kick.

Law 20.8 (g) Twisting, dipping or collapsing. Front row players must not twist or lower their bodies, or pull opponents or do anything that is likely to collapse the scrum, either when the ball is thrown in or afterwards.
Penalty: Penalty Kick.

There may have been other reasons for a penalty  but not kicking the ball out.

Of course, the Scots would still not have been out of the abyss. There would have been another five-metre line-out and their nightmare would have started all over again.

2. Collared

Mirco Bergamasco of Italy has the ball out on the left wing but Chris Halaufia of Tonga reaches out a prehensile arm and grabs his collar bringing him to ground. He stops Bergamasco jerking him back and then overruns him, dragging him forward.

The referee penalises Halaufia.


Law 10.4 (e) Dangerous tackling. A player must not tackle an opponent early, late or dangerously.
Penalty: Penalty Kick

A player must not tackle (or try to tackle) and opponent above the line of the shoulders. A tackle around an opponent's neck or head is dangerous player.
Penalty: Penalty Kick

It seemed fair that the referee should have penalised 8??.

3. First infringement?

There is general rule in rugby that the first infringement counts unless there has been advantage which is now over.

The ball is coming back to England at a tackle/ruck which the Australians are contesting fiercely.

Dawson goes to gather it in but knocks on. The referee plays advantage.

Bravely Dawson gets possession back and is driven back by the aggressive Wallabies. Again a tackle/ruck occurs. The referee penalises Dawson.

Should he not go back to the knock-on which was the first infringement?


The principle of first infringement applies to infringements by different sides.

If Dawson had knocked on and then the Wallabies had gone off-side then he would have had a scrum for the knock-on.

4. Collapsing your own maul

Julien Laharrague of France is held. Players from each side gather around – three Canadians and four Frenchmen. One of the Frenchmen is Sébastien Bru, the hooker. The referee has called maul. One of the Canadians in the maul is flank Aaron Carpenter. Bru grabs Carpenter and pulls him to ground, causing the whole maul to subside.

The referee says to Bru: "You keep collapsing your own maul."

Are you allowed to collapse your own maul.

Collapsing scrums, rucks and mauls is illegal and it is illegal as it is liable to cause injury.

Law 17.2 (e) A player must not intentionally collapse a maul. This is dangerous play.
Penalty: Penalty Kick

Bru was certainly liable to penalty.

5. The ball was up, sir

Italy roll a maul towards the Tongan corner post on their left. This thing falls down, apparently legally as the referee has no inclination to penalise it. The heap of players lying there is about three corpses high. There is only one player on his feet in contact with the heap – Inoke Afeaki, the experienced Tongan lock.  He reaches over and with his left hand pulls the ball back from where it is resting on an Italian leg. The referee palsies him.

What grounds could the referee have for penalising him?

There was certainly no ruck. There were no ;players on their feet to form a ruck and the ball was not on the grounds.

If it could be deemed a tackle, Afeaki was coming from behind.

What if Afeaki was off his feet?

Law 14.2 (b) 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.

(c) 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.
Penalty: Penalty Kick


(a) After a tackle, all other players must be on their feet when they play the ball. Players are on their feet if no other part of their body is supported by the ground or players on the ground.
Penalty: Penalty Kick

There. Perhaps the reason for the penalty was that Afeaki was leaning on the heap on players in front of him. To get his long arm down to the ball, he would have to do that even though he was really supported by his own two feet.

At the time Afeaki said to the referee: "But the ball was up."

6. The remarkable mark

Five nmetres from the Australian goal-line, Matt Dawson of England chips ahead. Under pressure from Mark Cueto Chris Latham of Australia jumps up, catches the ball and claims a mark. The referee awards the mark.

The place where Latham caught the ball is more than 10 metres behind his own goal-line.

Our wise man of Cheltenham reports the following:

There was an interesting conversation in in-goal at the England vs Australia match yesterday. I could hear it clearly via Reflink, but it was not audible on the TV feed when I reviewed the tape.

Latham made a Mark deep in in-goal from a Dawson chip kick. There was a pause while a player was being attended to, and the referee seemed to be talking to the Australians. I clearly heard Latham say (roughly) "If I tap kick and then ground it, that would be a 22 drop out wouldn't it? England put the ball into in-goal." Curiously, although I could hear Latham (and it must have been via the ref's mike), I could not hear the referee himself (or at least not recognisably – and his voice is fairly distinctive). The upshot was that Latham kicked for touch from the spot of the Mark, in in-goal.

If he had been instructed on the law by the referee, it must have been to the effect that tapping and grounding the ball would be a 5 metre scrum to England. This subject came up on a referee's forum a while back, and some strongly held opposing views were expressed.

The law does not explicitly cover this. Law 18 allows for the scrum alternative to the Free Kick, and Law 22 does not mention a Mark in in-goal at all.

Latham's argument is one view. The other is that the ball is dead after a Mark, and so re-starting by grounding the ball means the defender is deemed to have put the ball into in-goal.

I think the latter argument OUGHT to prevail, but I am not sure it DOES.

What is your view? Do you know of any previous incidents? Is there a ruling anywhere?

Comment: Law 18 A player from the defending team may a mark in in-goal.

That's what Latham did.

Law 18.3 The kick is taken at or behind the mark on a line through the mark.

Law 18.5 The provisions of Law 21 – Free Kicks – apply to a kick awarded after a mark.

Law 21.4 (g) Out of play in in-goal. Of a penalty or free kick is taken in in-goal and the ball goes into touch-in-goal or on or over the dead-ball line or a defending player makes the ball dead before it has crossed the goal-line, a 5-metre scrum is awarded. The attacking team throws in the ball.

From that it seems clear that the referee was right if he told Latham he had to kick the ball out of the in-goal. It seems clear enough.

There is, by the way, a scrum alternative.

law 18.6 (a) The team who made the mark may choose to take a scrum.

(b )Where is the scrum. If the mark is in the field of play, the scrum is at the place of the mark, but at lo east five metres from the touch-line. If the mark is in in-goal, the scrum is five metres from the goal-line on a line through the mark, and at least 5 metres from the touch-line.


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