Law discussion: maul and afterwards
After a lineout on England’s right, George Ford, England’s flyhalf, kicks high towards his left. England chase, Jordan Larmour of Ireland catches the ball and immediately Elliot Daly and Owen Farrell grab Larmour.
Bundee Aki is the first member of the Ireland team to join in to help Larmour, followed by Sean Cronin. Manu Tuilagi and Maro Itoje of England join in and the English players succeed in keeping Larmour on his feet.
The referee blows his whistle because it seems that play cannot develop. He makes a gesture of catching the ball and indicates a scrum with Ireland to put the ball in.
Farrell. England’s captain, disputes the decision, but the scrum goes to Ireland.
Who was right – referee or Farrell?
For the answer, we must look to the law.
Maul: A phase of play consisting of a ball-carrier and at least one player from each team, bound together and on their feet.
England player: Daly
Irish player: Aki
All on feet
Therefore it was a maul.
If play goes on away from the maul, the maul is said to end successfully.
If the referee stops play with the ball still in the maul, the maul is said to end unsuccessfully.
This maul ends unsuccessfully.
Law 16.7 says that, when a maul ends unsuccessfully, a scrum is ordered.
This is what happens here. But whose ball is it? That’s what Farrell was disputing.
Law 19.1 SCRUM deals with who gets the put-in.
The abbreviated laws have a table. We give its requirements here.
Stoppage: A maul that ends unsuccessfully.
Who throws in: The team not in possession at the start of the maul.
That would suggest that it should be England’s ball. BUT….
Stoppage: An unplayable maul after kick in open play.
Who throws in: The team in possession at the start of the maul.
That confirms that the referee was right. England kicked, Ireland had possession when the maul commenced, i.e. when Aki joined Larmour and Daly.
The referee was right and Farrell was wrong to suggest otherwise. He was also wrong to dispute the referee’s decision.
Law 9 MISCONDUCT
Players must respect the authority of the referee. They must not dispute the referee’s decisions.
Because Farrell was England’s captain did not give him the right to dispute the referee’s decision. In fact there is nothing in law that even allows the referee to ask a question of the referee or obliges the referee to give a reply. It is the custom that referees allow the captain to ask the reason for a decision and referees give him the courtesy of a reply. But there must be no dispute.
It has been like that since 1896!
The law that Farrell clearly did not know is not new nor is it unusual.