Law discussion: Tackling dangerously
@rugby365com Law guru Paul Dobson looks at yet another dangerous incident that went unpunished by match officials.
The Bulls have a lengthy attack on the Highlanders line as time is running out. They have been battering away for some seven minutes when Handré Pollard, the Bulls flyhalf gets the ball and cuts for the line.
About four metres from the line, Waisake Naholo awaits Pollard. Naholo is crouched and as Pollard arrives, he lunges forward into Pollard’s lower legs.
This sends Pollard flying up, legs on high, head and shoulders down below. As Pollard is falling, James Lentjes (7) of the Highlanders attacks him and Pollard comes to ground about a metre from the line.
The Bulls continue to attack but when Hanro Liebenberg is held up, a five-metre scrum is awarded.
The Bulls continue to attack for another six minutes, till Jaco Visage scores the try that produces the 24-all draw.
Naholo’s “tackle” on Pollard is of interest. He uses no arms as his shoulder makes contact with Pollard’s lower leg.
This action has been referred to as a grass cutter. It once earned Tomás Lavanini of Argentina a yellow card in a Test match for a tackle on Coenie Oosthuizen which was not as wild/dangerous as this one.
* Watch the clip and then read what the law says …
Let’s quote some law.
Law 9 DANGEROUS PLAY
11. Players must not do anything that is reckless or dangerous to others.
16. A player must not charge or knock down an opponent carrying the ball without attempting to grasp that player.
17. A player must not tackle, charge, pull, push or grasp an opponent whose feet are off the ground.
18. A player must not lift an opponent off the ground and drop or drive that player so that their head and/or upper body make contact with the ground.
There are two replays of the incident, but, surprisingly in this age of zealous TMOs, there is no further reference to the tackle by the referee, the TMO or the two assistant referees.
Naholo does not grasp Pollard. Had he done so, he would have prevented Pollard’s uncontrolled falling. In other words, it would have made the ball-carrier safer.
In making contact with Pollard, Naholo moves upwards and the effect on Pollard is the same as a tip tackle – legs well above the horizontal, head and shoulders making first contact with the ground.
Naholo’s actions are certainly illegal and worthy, at least, of a penalty for foul play.
That would also make a penalty try worth considering.
In recent years, World Rugby (previously known as the International Rugby Board) has been at pains to make tackling safer.
Not long ago,
it was legal to tackle a player in the air if he had possession of the ball;
it was legal to tackle above the line of the shoulders;
it was legal not to use arms in tackling/blocking an opponent.
Rugby’s attack on the dangerous tackle started in 1989. That means that for 30 years it has been illegal to tackle without using arms to grasp a ball-carrier.
By Paul Dobson