Law discussion: Right and wrong
Referees often get more stick when they are right than when they are wrong.
Here is a case in point, taken from World Rugby's Sevens in Wellington on Saturday. And it is all taken in the build-up to a try for the Blitzboks.
Roscoe Speckman puts the ball into a scrum almost on the 22-metre line, gets it back and passes it back from near the Russian 22 to Justin Geduld. Geduld moves closer to the 22 and chips towards the Russian line.
The ball bounces about six metres from the line but Geduld cannot follow as, just inside the 22, two Russian players have blocked his way. The referee penalises the Russians about 17 metres from the line, the Blitzbokke take a tap and Speckman passes to Juan de Jongh who heads for the line but two Russians stop him and hold him up.
The three are held up with Philip Snyman of the Blitzbokke standing behind them in a scrumhalf position. The group of four who were all upright on their feet, fall to ground, Snyman steps in, wins the ball and gets it back to Speckman who passes to Geduld who passes a long way to his right where Kwagga Smith picks it up on the bounce and scores.
As the ball comes back to Speckman, the commentator says : "We've seen this a couple of times today. Referees have allowed that maul to go on for a long time without turnover play."
Spot the mistakes.
The first is possibly by the referee, the second certainly by the commentator.
The referee penalised Russia for late obstruction after a kick.
Law 10.4 (o)
- Late-charging the kicker. A player must not intentionally charge or obstruct an opponent who has just kicked the ball.
- Sanction: The non-offending team-may choose to take the penalty kick either at the place of infringement, where the ball lands, or where it was next played.
- Place of infringement. If the infringement takes place in the kicker’s in-goal, the penalty kick is taken 5 metres from the goal-line in line with the place of infringement but at least 15 metres from the touchline.
- The non-offending team-may also choose to take the penalty where the ball lands or is next played before landing and at least 15 metres from the touchline.
- Where the ball lands. If the ball lands in touch, the mark for the optional penalty kick is on the 15-metre line, in line with where it went into touch. If the ball lands, or is next played before landing, within 15 metres of the touchline, the mark is on the 15-metre line opposite where the ball landed or was played.
The Blitzbokke should have had a choice and may well have chosen six metres from the Russian line instead of the fairly arbitrary place where they got it. It does not seem that they were given a choice. If they were not given a choice, the referee erred.
Law 17 DEFINITIONS
A maul begins when a player carrying the ball is held by one or more opponents, and one or more of the ball-carrier’s team-mates bind on the ball-carrier. A maul therefore consists, when it begins, of at least three players, all on their feet; the ball-carrier and one player from each team. All the players involved must be caught in or bound to the maul and must be on their feet and moving towards a goal-line.
What the commentator said: Was this a maul at all?
The ball-carrier (De Jongh) was there. But there was no other South African and so there was no maul at all. It did not matter how many Russians were clustered around De Jongh, as long as Snyman stayed away there was no maul. Which is why Snyman stayed away till the players fell down and the ball came free.
As there was no maul, there was no possibility of a turnover.
The referee was certainly right to let play go on.