Law discussion: Ball strikes referee
That he did so was a bit surprising. The 30 players on the field at the time were all wearing blue but the referee was wearing a lime-green jersey. He was quite distinct.
From a line-out, the Rebels went left infield. Flank Lopetu Timani charged ahead but was tackled by Sikumbuso Notshe and Ramone Samuels. He gets support and the ball comes back to scrumhalf Michael Ruru who picks up the ball, shapes to pass to his left but then swivels around and throws the ball at the referee, who is moving towards the left, striking him near the shoulder.
The referee awards a scrum to the Rebels.
Law 6.10 THE BALL OR BALL-CARRIER TOUCHES THE REFEREE OR NON-PLAYER
If the ball or the ball-carrier touches the referee or other non-player and neither team gains an advantage, play continues. If either team gains an advantage in the field of play, a scrum is awarded to the team that last played the ball.
The referee, in this case, was certainly right – a scrum to the Rebels who were the ones to play the ball before it made contact with him.
This law dates back to 1885: The ball is dead if it touches an umpire or referee, and scrummaged on the spot.
It has undergone changes since that simple statement.
1891: The ball is dead whenever it touches an umpire or referee, and a scrummage shall be formed forthwith at the spot where the touching occurs, but it is not dead simply because a player holding the ball touches an umpire or referee.
That's a step closer to the current law but 1892 did not agree.
1892: He [the referee] must blow his whistle if the ball or player running with the ball touch him.
1911: A player crossing the opponents' goal-line with the ball in his possession and then, before grounding the ball, touching the referee should be allowed a try on the spot where he [player] touched him [referee].
1926: Contact with the referee was given a law to itself – Law 30. In 1964 it became Law 29. Now it is a section of Law 6.
1959: If the ball or a player carrying it touches the referee in the field-of-play, he shall allow play to proceed unless he considers that either team has gained an advantage by reason of his being so touched. If he considers that an advantage has been gained for that reason he shall order a scrummage.
2018: Law 6 THE BALL OR BALL-CARRIER TOUCHES THE REFEREE OR NON-PLAYER
Law 6.10 If the ball or the ball-carrier touches the referee or other non-player and neither team gains an advantage, play continues. If either team gains an advantage in the field of play, a scrum is awarded to the team that last played the ball.
Law 6.11 If the ball-carrier touches the referee or other non-player in in-goal and either team gains an advantage:
a. If the ball is in possession of an attacking player, the referee awards a try where the contact took place.
b. If the ball is in possession of a defending player, the referee awards a touch down where the contact took place.
Law 6.12 If the ball is touched by the referee or other non-player in in-goal, the referee judges what would have happened next and awards a try or a touch down at the place where the contact took place.
The referee in our case applied Law 6.10 and did so correctly.
By Paul Dobson
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