Law discussion: When is time up?
Friday night at Broadwood Stadium in Cumbernauld, near Glasgow was miserable – dank and wet and won in the last minute.
The score was 15-all and the match was running out of time. Jennie Finlay of Ireland threw into a line-out. It was an overthrow but prop Ciara O'Connor caught it and charged downfield.
This was the start of an Irish attack that went left, right and left again, till Louise McMillan of Scotland was penalised at a ruck. That penalty was awarded at 79 minutes 38 seconds, according to the TV clock, which is not an official timekeeper.
The referee checked with the official timekeeper and, when the Irish asked if there was time for the line-out, the referee told them that there was. A penalty goal would have won it for Ireland but they had missed three conversions and so Nora Stapleton kicked out for a five-metre line-out.
It was a poor kick but Jenny Maxwell failed to catch it and it went into touch for an Irish lineout. Jennie Finlay threw in and Marie Louise Reilly leapt high to catch the ball.
Before she had come back to earth, the Scots, with Emma Wassell most obvious, drove in on her and the referee showed advantage in favour of Ireland. She allowed play to go on and Claire Molloy was held up over the Scottish line.
The referee then went back to the penalty against Emma Wassell and others in the lineout. Mary Healy tapped and Ciara O'Connor charged close to the line.
The ball came back to Ireland and Mary Healy passed to Nora Stapleton who gave to outside centre Jenny Murphy cutting back, and the centre raced over for the winning try.
Time was the issue here and there was some confusion about it.
That there was confusion about time is understandable as it is played in different ways in different places and in different competitions.
There is a basic law concerning the ending of the match and there is an amendment. The amendment is now most used but not in Six Nations matches – senior Men, Under-20 and Women.
Law 5.7 Other time regulations
(e) If time expires and the ball is not dead, or an awarded scrum or lineout has not been completed, the referee allows play to continue until the next time that the ball becomes dead. The ball becomes dead when the referee would have awarded a scrum, lineout, an option to the non-infringing team, drop out or after a conversion or successful penalty kick at goal. If a scrum has to be reset, the scrum has not been completed. If time expires and a mark, free kick or penalty kick is then awarded, the referee allows play to continue.
That is clear and so Nora Stapleton had to kick the ball out before time was up – the timekeeper's time, that is, which sometimes differs from television time.
LAW AMENDMENT TRIAL
If a penalty is kicked into touch after time has elapsed without touching another player, the throw-in is taken and play continues until the next time the ball becomes dead.
This trial went a step further when it was one of five law changes made by World Rugby for 2017. It took effect in the South on 1 January 2017 but it does not take effect in the North till 1 August 2017
Law 5 Time
Add to 5.7 (e) If a penalty is kicked into touch after time has elapsed without touching another player, the referee allows the throw-in to be taken and play continues until the next time the ball becomes dead.
Reasoning: To discourage teams from infringing in the dying moments of the game.
Timeline, as seen on TV and it is interesting that when the referee called time off around this time, the TV clock ticked on:
79 minutes 37 seconds: penalty against Louise McMillan
79 minutes 57 seconds: ball goes into touch
So there is no need to blow the final whistle and the line-out could take place.
80.34: Lineout starts
80.57: Claire Molloy is held up and the penalty comes into force
Because there was a penalty to come, the referee had to let play continue, in this case, allow the penalty kick to be taken. But, because of the Six Nations mode of play, there could not be a lineout and so Ireland tapped.
81.38: Mary Healy takes the tap kick
81.50: Jenny Murphy scores
There was nothing wrong in the application of the laws but that there was confusion is inevitable, given the piecemeal way the laws are changed.