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Law discussion: touchline decision queried

IN THE SPOTLIGHT:  @rugby365com’s  Law guru Paul Dobson takes a look at a contentious incident during the Hurricanes win over the Chiefs on Friday.


Just after the Hurricanes scored to draw level with the Chiefs, Wes Goosen of the Hurricanes is penalised for an aerial tackle on Damian McKenzie of the Chiefs.

The penalty is just inside the Chiefs’ half and about five metres from touch. Aaron Cruden of the Chiefs takes the kick and aims to get the ball out into touch close to the Hurricane’s goal-line. It is a long, soaring kick to his left. But waiting for the ball is Jordie Barrett, the Hurricanes fullback. He is waiting for the ball about five metres in touch. As the ball drops towards him, Barrett runs forward, leaps and catches the ball. His leap lands him in the field of play.

The referee allows play to go on. He is heard to say that this was a new law.

Later, during an injury break, the incident is replayed and it showed clearly that the ball had flown beyond the line of touch when Barrett caught it.

The commentators spoke of the plane of touch.

Plane of touch: The vertical space rising immediately above the touchline or touch-in-goal line.


The replay shows that the ball had travelled beyond the plane of touch. One commentator claimed to have been told by a referee that Barrett would have been right if he had caught the ball before it reached the plane of touch, which was clearly not the case here.

So what does the law say?

Law 18.2 The ball is not in touch or touch-in-goal if:
b. A player jumps, from within or outside the playing area, and catches the ball, and then lands in the playing area, regardless of whether the ball reached the plane of touch.

Barrett jumped from outside the playing area, caught the ball and landed in the playing area.


Therefore, according to law, the ball was not in touch.

Therefore, the referee was right to play on.

Therefore, those who were concerned about the plane of touch, need not have been concerned.

This clause was brought into the laws in 2018 as an amendment.

It was clever play by Barrett, who clearly knew the law. What he did was important in the context of the match.

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