Fri 24 May 2019 | 08:57

Law discussion: 'We wuz robbed'

Law discussion: 'We wuz robbed'
Fri 24 May 2019 | 08:57
Law discussion: 'We wuz robbed'

SUPER RUGBY SPOTLIGHT: @rugby365com law guru Paul Dobson gets his teeth into the controversies at Newlands last week and claims the ‘We wuz robbed’.


Or wuz we?

“We wuz robbed” was the mournful complaint of Joe Jacobs, the boxer’s manager when his fighter Max Schmeling lost to Jack Sharkey in 1930. It is a cry that has echoed round the sporting world for the 89 years that followed, most recently from the city of Christchurch on New Zealand’s South Island.

It follows a decision about a forward pass in the match at Newlands between the champion Crusaders and the home side, the Stormers.

We have taken three incidents from the match for a law discussion. It is for the reader to decide who, if anybody, wuz robbed.

1. 73/74 minutes: that pass

The score is 19-16 to the Crusaders with time running out. The Crusaders have the ball and are going right. On the half-way line, Braydon Ennor passes to right wing Sevu Reece. Reece sprints ahead and then, hemmed in, kicks. Damian Willemse of the Stormers is leading the race for the ball but it breaks to the right in in-goal. Reece gets the kind bounce and scores. The try is awarded, but…

The TMO suggested a look at the pass. The referee consults the TMO. The TMO first says: “I am going to show you a forward pass.”


Then, after a couple of replays, the TMO Marius Jonker says: “We have a forward pass, it is clear and compelling evidence of a forward pass”.

The try is cancelled and instead the Stormers put the ball into a scrum on the half-way line.

There has been debate about the pass. The ball leaves Ennor’s hands on the half-way line. Reece catches it about a metre over the half-way line. Does that make it a forward pass?

Not necessarily.


In the Law book, the forward pass is referred to as a throw forward.

Throw forward: When a player throws or passes the ball forward, i.e. if the arms of the player passing the ball move forward.

It’s not about where the ball is caught. That can be affected by the momentum, of the player passing the ball. It’s easy to see the effect of momentum. Drive down a street and when you get opposite a pole throw a ball out of the window straight at the pole. The ball will land well ahead of the pole. (There are other even more telling tests that you can do.)

Forward: Towards the opposition’s dead-ball line.

It’s about the movement of Ennor’s arms in the act of passing. Do his arms move forward?

If they do not, the pass was not forward.
If they do move forward, the pass was forward.

clear and compelling?

It is interesting that forward passes and knock-ons, such basic bits of rugby law, are not all that easy to decide and are often wrongly treated, sometimes one feels for the look of the thing.

2. 45 minutes: and this pass

Early in the second half, with the score 12-10 to the Crusaders, Joshua Stander of the Stormers kicks downfield. Just inside his half, Sevu Reece of the Crusaders catches the ball and passes to David Havili. Havili runs ahead and is stopped and held upright by two Stormers, Pieter-Steph du Toit and Cobus Wiese. George Bower of the Crusaders joins in but the referee calls “Tackle!”. Havili is released and the ball comes back to Bryn Hall. The Crusaders go left as Hall passes to Ethan Blackadder who passes to Richie Mo’unga. Mo’unga holds his pass till Codie Taylor is through a gap. He passes to the hooker who charges downfield. Confronted by Damian Willemse (15), Taylor passes to Braydon Ennor who races down the left and scores. Mo’unga converts.

The interesting pass to look at is Mo’unga’s to Taylor.

Are Mo’unga’s arms and hands parallel to the goal-lines or inclined towards the Crusaders’ goal-line or are they more inclinded towards the Stornmers’ goial-line?

If the arms and hands are across the parallel line and inclined towards the Stormers’ goal-line, the pass is forward, but undetected.

3. 27/28 minutes: playing the man without the ball.

The Stormers are penalised at a tackle. Richie Mo’unga of the Crusaders kicks out for a five-metre lineout. Codie Taylor, the Crusaders’ hooker, gets ready to throw in and eventually six Crusaders line up in the lineout with six Stormers to oppose them. Herschel Jantjies, the Stormers’ scrumhalf, takes up a position in the tramlines as Taylor’s immediate opponent.

Taylor throws in to Scott Barrett who catches the ball at No.2 in the lineout. The Crusaders form a maul, spin it round and Todd goes over for a try, which is awarded.

But whoa! Look what happens to Jantjies. He does not join in the maul but stays in position to guard the tramlines. Taylor’s goes up behind Jantjies and gives the scrumhalf a hefty push in the back that sends him sprawling some five metres from his station. Then Todd has a free run around the front of the lineout.

Law 9.14 A player must not tackle an opponent who is not in possession of the ball.

Instead of scoring a try, the Crusaders should have been penalised.

By Paul Dobson

PV: 2041