Law discussion: The post slide
The Highlanders are attacking and strong Malakai Fekitoa rushes towards the Hurricanes' goal-line. First Vince Aso, then Ardie Savea of the Hurricanes tackle him. Fekitoa and Savea both go to ground and Fekitoa reaches out with the ball for the padding of the post.
The ball in his grasp makes contact with the padding. Other players get involved and the padding of the post is ripped away.
The referee consults the TMO. He asks 'Try/no try.'
This question requires the TMO to be able to see that the ball was grounded.
Law 22.4 OTHER WAYS TO SCORE A TRY
(b) Grounded against a goal post. The goal posts and padding surrounding it are part of the goal-line, which is part of in-goal. If an attacking player is first to ground the ball against a goal post or padding, a try is scored.
Grounded – That is an important word which has an obvious meaning.
Law 22.1 GROUNDING THE BALL
There are two ways a player can ground the ball:
(a) Player touches the ground with the ball. A player grounds the ball by holding the ball and touching the ground with it, in in-goal. ‘Holding’ means holding in the hand or hands, or in the arm or arms. No downward pressure is required.
(b) Player presses down on the ball. A player grounds the ball when it is on the ground in the in-goal and the player presses down on it with a hand or hands, arm or arms, or the front of the player’s body from waist to neck inclusive.
As TJ Perenara of the Hurricanes points out to the referee, the player, the ball, the post and the ground must be simultaneously in contact.
The ball's initial contact with the post is clearly above the ground. But there is nothing to suggest that play has to stop because the ball made contact with the post.
The ball, still in Fekitoa's, grasp does not leave his grasp. There is no knock-on. Play does not end because the ball has made contact with the upright, any more than it does when the kick at goal rebounds off an upright.
If the ball in Fekitoa's grasp slides down the post, play goes on. Where it ends is now important.
To give the referee sound advice, the TMO now needs to be able to see Fekitoa, the ball, the post and the ground in simultaneous contact. If not the post, the goal-line or the ground beyond it.
The TMO tells the referee that he did not see this happen. His view is crucial. The referee – perhaps reluctantly – accepts this advice and so that try is not awarded.
The player, the ball, the post and the ground may well have been in simultaneous contact but the TMO needed to see that. He was not allowed to guess.
There was no reward for probability – and there certainly was not a case of "the benefit of the doubt". He just needed to see all four in contact at the same time. He did not and so he gave the referee the best advice that he could.
His advice to the referee is that he cannot see this.
By Paul Dobson