Do you know the laws?
by Len Kaplan
South Africa are playing against Australia at Newlands. South Africa lead 28-3 as time runs out.
Matt Toomua launches a strong Wallaby attack from inside his own half. After a long run which has the Springboks scrambling in defence, he passes to Adam Ashley-Cooper, who is tackled close to the touchline by Jean de Villiers. Pat Lambie is first to arrive at the tackle. As he picks up the ball, he is tackled into touch by Toomua. It will be Australia’s line-out. Complying with the law, Lambie releases the ball which rolls towards assistant referee Pascal Gauzére. The ball touches the assistant referee’s boots.
Australia take a quick throw-in and assistant referee Gauzére lowers his flag. Quade Cooper kicks an excellently judged, long diagonal kick towards the far touchline, where Chris Feauai-Sautia catches the ball out of the air and with no Springbok defender close enough to challenge him, crosses the goal line for a try. Or is it a try?
A few metres in from the right touchline from where Australia took the quick throw-in, Lambie tells referee Jérôme Garces – politely – that the ball had touched assistant referee Gauzére. The referee ignores Lambie, and then runs across to where Feauai-Sautia grounded the ball. He asks the assistant referee on that touchline, Nigel Owens, whether Feauai-Sautia was onside from Cooper’s kick. He then asks the TMO, Graham Hughes, whether Feauai-Sautia was onside from Cooper’s kick.
While this is happening, Lambie, who has followed the referee across the field, repeats to the referee, again politely, that the ball had touched Gauzére. The referee again pays no attention to Lambie. Lambie then approaches Owens to report, politely, that the ball had touched Gauzére. Owens shows no interest in what Lambie has to say.
The TMO reports that Feauai-Sautia was not offside when Cooper’s kicked the ball and referee Garces awards the try to Australia. Australia have reduced the deficit to 28-8.
If you were the referee and had seen exactly what had transpired, or you had asked the TMO to go back to video footage from when Lambie was tackled into touch, rather than merely to the footage from immediately before Cooper’s diagonal kick, what would you have done?
Look at Law 19.2 on quick throw-ins and at Law 6.B.5 on when the assistant referee / touch judge should lower his flag. If anyone has touched the ball apart from the player throwing it in and an opponent who carried the ball into touch, the quick throw-in is NOT permitted and the assistant referee / touch judge must keep his flag up. Gauzére should have kept his flag up. Gauzére should have told referee Garces the ball had touched him. The assistant referee was in constant radio contact with the referee, which made it easy to communicate the fact. Even with Gauzére failing to do so, the referee could certainly have listened to Lambie and asked the TMO for the TV replay to start a few seconds earlier than he did, which was from Cooper’s kick.
The quick throw-in should not have been allowed. If correct law had been applied, would Australia get another opportunity to throw in at a formed line-out where Lambie carried the ball into touch, or would the Springboks have been given the choice of scrum or line-out? The former – it should have been Australia’s throw-in at a line-out and not five points for a try.
Lambie was right and the officials wrong.