Monday 18 June 2018

Deliberate knock on.

I have a question regarding the referee's sanction for a deliberate knock on. 
In most Super Rugby games and most internationals, a Yellow Card is awarded yet my understanding is that a penalty is the sanction recommended under Law 11. 
Why are referees awarding Yellow Cards for this then?  It's very frustrating as was seen in the Australia v Ireland game today when some were penalised and one was Yellow Carded.
Any clarification on this would be greatly appreciated.
Hi Rob

Good question, when does a referee decide to issue a yellow card?  This is not just a deliberate knock on question, it can apply to many offences.

Generally speaking referees may issue a yellow card for one of the following reasons:

  • Repeat offending by a team
  • Repeat offending by a player
  • Deliberate offending by a player (cynical offence)
  • Preventing a possible try or breakaway

A deliberate knock on would usually fall under the last two on that list. If the deliberate knock on was a blatant attempt to stop the attack, or disrupt a pass that may have broken the gain line it could be a yellow card offence.  If it happens near the offending teams goal line it will almost certainly be a yellow card and maybe even a penalty try, but at the other end of the field it would only be a penalty.  

A deliberate knock on may just be a clumsy attempt at intercepting the ball, rather than a "professional foul".  

So the referee has to balance many things when deciding on a sanction.  Was it deliberate or accidental?  Was it just clumsy or just a lack of skill?  Where did the offence happen on the field?  What might have happened next?  All of this goes through the referees mind in a split second.

At the top end of the game referees also get directives as a group to deal with trends in the game that World Rugby or the Unions decide is becoming a problem.  So if it not impossible that deliberate knock on's have become more prevalent and a tactic to disrupt the flow of the game in Super Rugby, and referees have been told to come down hard on it.  If that is the case then all of the teams involved will probably have been warned in advance about this.

The Rugby Ref

Tuesday 12 June 2018

Tackled player releasing the ball?

Dear Rugby Ref;
Law 14. item 7a, does not say nor imply that a tackled player may, while lying on the ground, hold the ball up in the air for a number of seconds on the back side of a ruck waiting for a teammate to grasp the ball in a hand-to-hand transfer. How can this be legal? Are referees simply letting players get away without complying with "Make the ball available so that play can continue by releasing, passing or pushing the ball...?" 
Claude Hughes 
U19 Backs Coach 
Hi Claude

A tackled player must, as you state, do the following:
Law 14
7. Tackled players must immediately:
a. Make the ball available so that play can continue by releasing, passing or pushingthe ball in any direction except forward. They may place the ball in any direction.
b. Move away from the ball or get up.
c. Ensure that they do not lie on, over or near the ball to prevent opposition playersfrom gaining possession of it.
The key phrases for the referee are "Make the ball available so that play can continue" and "Ensure they do not...prevent opposition players from gaining possession".

In other words, the referee is looking for a fair contest and not having to blow the whistle unless necessary, to keep the game flowing.

Whether the tackled player holds the ball on the ground, or a few inches off it doesn't matter as long as it has no material affect on the game.  If an opposition player legally makes a play for the ball and the tackled player releases it...Play on.  If the tackled player prevents the opposition from playing the ball, he should be penalised.

What you describe is not technically legal, but it's not really illegal either.  It's what happens next that really counts. Let's look for ways to keep the game going, not for ways to penalise players on a technicality.  After all how many times do you see a tackled player penalised for 7b, not moving away from the ball?  Never, unless they prevent the ball from being played.

Thanks for the question.
The Rugby Ref