Brian Smith's Analysis - Character Building - Green and Gold Rugby

Brian Smith’s Analysis – Character Building

Brian Smith’s Analysis – Character Building

It was a typical wet November day at Twickenham and it’s fair to say things got pretty heated in the stands, as the Wallabies were forced to accept some difficult decisions and England made it five consecutive wins over the men in gold.

However, the final score belied the nature of the contest. It was in fact an arm-wrestle in treacherous conditions that either team could have won. Unfortunately, rugby and life are not always fair and even though we have an expectation for natural justice that’s not always what we get. That’s why this sport is such a great game for kids. – it instills discipline, humility and resilience. In old fashioned language, it’s character building. It’s fair to say the Wallabies collective character got well and truly pumped up after this clash against the old enemy at Twickenham.

Dubious Double

For mine Ben O’Keefe, the young Kiwi referee, had a stinker. He seemed to relish in demonstrating his knowledge of the laws when a quality referee simply interpret the laws in order to ensure we have an even contest. Hence, we’re going to have a look at two of his most controversial calls that were pivotal to the outcome of the game.

The first of these was midway through the first half as the Wallabies looked to spread the ball to their left edge. Samu Kerevi had tipped on a lovely pass under pressure to put Tevita Kuridrani and Marika Koroibete into space. As you watch the footage, you’ll see that Koroibete indicates he wants the ball put in behind the defence and Kuridrani obliges.

Had Koroibete been able to control the ball he scores; instead Michael Hooper dots the ball down. If you watch Hooper’s support line he clearly checks his run when the ball is kicked. What else is he meant to do to get back in the game? This was a brilliant piece of play and deserved to be rewarded with points.

The second massive call from the rookie whistle blower came deep into the second half and was the defining moment in the game. Had the Wallabies been awarded the try it’s 13 v 13 and Australia has all the momentum for the remaining 10 minutes of play.

Instead, it’s fair to say that England’s Owen Farrell got into the ear of O’Keefe who disallowed the try based on an obstruction call.

It was another brilliant piece of attack that deserved to be rewarded, but yet again the Wallabies were denied.

If you watch the clip you’ll notice that when Koroibete makes the bust he has Karmichael Hunt and Reece Hodge on his right in space. Had he released these support players the try would have been guaranteed and the result may well have been different. Instead Koroibete cuts to his left and finds Foley who threatened to score and could have offloaded to Hooper to score. As it was I believe Koroibete scored the try and Stephen Moore’s involvement was insignificant. Yet again O’Keefe seemed very quick to regurgitate the laws of the game whilst showing a lack of feel for the game. These two calls were massive.

Finishing Masterclass

I was fortunate enough to work with Ben Youngs and Danny Care in England’s preparation for the 2011 Rugby World Cup. They are very different players and the perfect combination for test match rugby, which makes them the perfect if you want to pick up the tempo with fresh legs at the 50 minute mark.

Ben Youngs is a 95kg bruiser with a great all round game. He can pass, run kick and defend. In international coaching language, Ben’s a test match animal  (just like his dad).

If Youngs is the perfect scrum half to start a test match, Care is the perfect “jack-in-the-box” scrum half to be let off the leash against a tiring defence. Danny is an 80kg high octane maverick who you could easily imagine playing alongside Lionel Messi up front for FC Barcelona. He is pure class and he put on a show in the last 10 minutes of the test match to blow the game wide open.

This kick from the base of a ruck was perfectly concocted and executed. Notice how all the players on England’s left edge recognised there was no sweeper behind the ruck. Jonathan Joseph signals with his hand for the ball to put behind Hodge and Nick Phipps. The tactic was tailor made for the conditions, a wonderful example of playing “heads up” rugby.

A short time after Care conjured up another try, and again his short kicking game caused the Wallabies back three embarrassment.

This one started at the base of a scrum on England’s right edge.  He put a another beautifully weighted kick in behind Hodge and Jonny May was good enough to do the rest. Both kicks highlighted a weakness in Australia’s kick defence coverage. On both occasions Hodge was slow to turn and Kurtley Beale was too far away to effectively play the sweeper role. Had Care been coming on wearing a gold jersey it’s arguable that the Wallabies would have been good enough to win the match. Such was the impact of the man they call the ‘Mighty Mouse’.


The Wallabies may not have won this test match but they certainly did not lose any supporters based on their gutsy performance. The team was brave and fought back whenever we were on the receiving end of a poor call or when points were conceded.So the signs are good and the team has lost no momentum off the back of this match.

However, as the November Tour is coming to an end there are a two questions that keep coming up for me. First if Moore and Tatafu Polotu-Nau are both being phased out, is it time to see more of the young guns at hooker? Second, if we have a more impactful scrum half finisher, is it time to give him (whoever he is) a go? No doubt Michael Cheika will have pondered these questions and we may see some fresh faces in these two positions going forward.

Until next week…Go the Wallabies!

  • MungBean

    Mate, I absolutely agree. I’m no fan of Cheika, Hooper or Beale but they got the rough end of the pineapple, big time.

    Beale didn’t deliberately knock the ball down, he was either attempting an intercept or he wasn’t, and it was the former.

    Hooper wasn’t warned before being sent; yet Robshaw & Launchbury were given multiple final warnings. Moore didn’t obstruct, the TMO went searching for a reason not to award that try. They checked for a grounding, that didn’t work, then they went for the forward pass, that didn’t work, then they pinged Moore for obstructing Robshaw even though Robshaw was between Moore & the try scorer. All the time, the ref fhad Farrell in his ear dictating what to do. It was a disgrace that am international ref can be verballed like that.

    How Coles stayed on the park is beyond me. Australian props would’ve been sent for that performance.

    If Daley’s try was fair then so was Hooper’s. Hooper was in front of Kerevi but was put back onside by Koroibete. The exact same thing happened in Daley’s try. It was an absolute nonsense that the try was disallowed.

    Time after time, decision after decision, Australia was on the wrong end.

    People need to step back from trying to appear magnaminous in defeat for fear of being labelled bad losers. Australia may not have been robbed of a win but were robbed of a fair chance.

    • Grins

      Re Moore / Robshaw, this picture – courtesy of the Times – begs to differ.

      And you have no risk of appearing magnanimous in defeat!

      Re Daley’s try, if he was offside of course it should not have been given, but I didn’t hear Moore asking the ref to check for it? And I haven’t seen any pictures or replay that shows the answer.

      • MungBean

        As I said, I’m not trying to be magnanimous. Australia made mistakes (including selection and replacements) but were ultimately screwed over. No team could withstand two yellows and twe disallowed tries, like that. They were taken out of the game by a referee who allowed himself to be verballed.

        Daley was ahead of Youngs on the kick. Check the replay. Not that the TMO bothered. It only gets checked back two phases on an Australian score. Oh and the ball touched the line. An overhead shot, that the Twickenham production crew would’ve magically conjured if the boot had been on the other foot, strangely went missing.

        Convenient photo. I prefer to make my judgement from watching video. Moore did not obstruct. Moore was in the position he was because he overran the play; he then moved away and ended up on the other side of the tackler. Robshaw made full contact with Koroibete and was in no way obstructed. What isn’t lineball is that Robshaw tackling from an offside position.

        • Grins

          Not much point entering into debate with you when you choose to ignore the facts.

          You say Moore did not obstruct, but he did and the people that matter thought so too. Robshaw’s left arm had to slip off Moore to wrap Koroibete (as the video shows). Overrunning the play puts you offside – and, as you admit, he overran. They just let it go if you don’t interfere with the defence. Moore did.

          The ball may have touched the line, but the touch judge and the TMO couldn’t see that it had. If it did, it was very, very marginal and they spent long enough looking at it – very much umpire’s call to use a cricketing term.

          Can’t comment on Daly’s offside as can’t find a replay that shows it well

          Still you’ll be laughing at the back end of this week in the cricket, so hopefully you can take some comfort there.

        • Grins

          Have looked again for Daly offside on his try, all replays I can see the camera is close in on Youngs for the kick and as it pans it only shows (v.briefly) Joseph. You don’t see Daly until way later on a zoomed out shot so no way to tell if he is on or off. Will happily review with an open mind any evidence you provide to show otherwise, but suspect it will not be forthcoming.

        • Assistant TMO

          The replay of the try (not the live show) has the wider angle and Daly is 100% onside. It is line ball whether level on the actual frame of the kick, but he is shuffling back at that point and the kickers momentum from the kick clearly moves him in front of Daly (thus playing him onside even if you consider he was offside).

        • Greg

          Watching the replays I think that there was no practical obstruction from Moore. There was full contact on the attacking player.

          I thought the decision was pedantic but could be supported by the Laws.

          The carry on by Farrel really gets up my nose. I thought it was poor… same when other players do it from any team. Play the fucking game not the referee. I suspect a more experience ref would have told him to get nicked.

        • Kristian Thomas

          Moore was there as a receiver. If he catches the pass he scores. His arm is behind Koroibete. He is beside him. You are allowed to support the ball carrier.

        • Grins

          Look at the photo above. It took me a while with photoshop to get it like that but Moore is clearly in front and clearly blocking.

        • Parker

          In the video you can see Robshaw grab the back of Moore’s jersey and pull him down.

      • McWarren

        Play the video mate. Robshaw was retreating from an offside position. How can you obstruct an offside player?

        • Grins

          Sure he was offside? The previous pile up was a tackle not a ruck – no Australia player engaged to form one. In any case, Genia takes the ball about 6/7 metres out. By the time Robshaw makes his tackle he would have been onside even had there been a ruck as he is about 2 metres off the try line.

        • McWarren

          By the time Robshaw is supposedly impeded by Moore he is still offside, when he makes the tackle he is onside and no longer being the impeded. If they had not awarded the try because of no clear grounding I wouldn’t disagree. And then gone back to the penalty advantage we supposedly had.

        • Grins

          No ruck, so no offside.

    • 30 mm tags

      What a great comment. Well thought out.

  • Grins

    Have to say I don’t agree at all about Hooper’s try. You see lazy forwards getting pinged for this during the aerial ping pong phases not infrequently. Hooper has to stop advancing towards the ball to be capable of being played onside, not advance towards it less quickly. If he stops, does he make it to the loose ball first? The idea that the ref is a bad ref for applying the rules is wrong. The notion that brilliant play somehow deserves a score is a nonsense in sport – it’s just not like that.

    • Upfromdown

      Check the above comment & clip from dabiged . It says it all. I watched the Hooper try and instinct was try. @ hours later watching the Jones try my instinct was the same. The comments above from Who are also telling.

    • John Tynan

      I just don’t think it’s realistic to go from flat out to stop in two steps. He slows and is run on, IMO.
      And I don’t even think that’s my bias, same is I don’t reckon the “line ball” was out.
      If you need 15 replays, there’s nothing conclusive, go with what the refs saw.

  • skip

    I’m old enough to remember their fullback being in touch and Moore not “being obstructed enough” by Owen Farrell himself 90 meters later. Like you say, life isn’t fair.

    Off all the tests this weekend, this was the one (along with SA v France) that deserved a top referee, not Bryce Lawrence’s step child.

    I was fuming at Hooper’s card, not cos we didn’t give away 4 penalties but cos the one that put us on our line was for Genia offside after we demolished the English scrum and got nothing for it when we ought to have. Seriously, it’s an 8 man intact Wallaby scrum marching over 6 prostrate poms wondering where the fack their flankers went.
    Later, They got a warning, we didn’t
    Why couldn’t he look at the video ref before taking us to 13?
    If Hooper is offside for the first kick, Marika’s kick puts him back onside and he impeded no one in the mean time.
    The other way, with 80,000 screaming at him, that ball was out.
    By Farrell’s own previous form, he “didn’t obstruct enough”.
    If England beat NZ that way, the entire board of the IRB will write and apologise to NZ and the ref will be whipped naked through the streets of Rotarua chanting the words “I’m sorry Kieran”.

    I do think England are a really good side and better than the Wallabies but they needed to be tested properly to see if they could hold out. Bryce 2.0 had a huge impact denying them that.

    • skip

      p.s. Chieka has spent so long blowing up at referees the one time he had a legit gripe his words carry less weight.

      • MungBean

        Yep. Unfortunately, this is the case.

      • Dally M

        Except, apart from showing his frustration in the coaches box, he didn’t blow up about the referees.

    • Who?

      Exactly… I’ve said a few times this game felt like Twickers 2013. Felt like one of those games where the world was against the visiting team, where everything went the home way (even when there was a strong argument for decisions to go the other way). That’s not to accuse anyone of bias, impropriety or anything else, that’s just the vibe I had watching the game.
      Also, the penalty before Beale’s card? Two players won a turnover whilst their ability to maintain their weight was very debatable, plus under the new laws hands are meant to come off the second an attacking player enters the breakdown (they didn’t – the ref played the old law’s regular failed interpretation about surviving the cleanout). Then, the penalty was taken in front of the mark! It was the second time a quick penalty had been taken by England in front of the mark. If the penalty had been required to be taken on the mark, or behind the mark, play would’ve been slower and the Wallaby defence wouldn’t have had as many issues…

      • mikado

        For what it’s worth, I agree with you that all the luck was against the Wallabies (once again, as far as England matches are concerned).

        I particularly agree about hands in the ruck. It’s a perennial curse and referees aren’t even reffing to the old interpretation let alone the new version.

  • dabiged

    Great article. Thanks for the analysis.

    On the subject of “the feel of the game” and in regard to the Hooper no-try incident, it is interesting that next to no-one anywhere has mentioned the Scottish second try from the weekend where the try scorer is in a blatantly offside position from the kick and is never run onside. I would put this down to the “feel of the game” (plus it is always great seeing a try scored against the darkness :D ).

    • Who?

      Seymour is run onside, by the winger who collects the kick through. The same way that Hooper was run onside by his winger (Koroibete).
      The difference there is that Hooper did actually slow down, Seymour doesn’t visibly slow. And the ref didn’t check it… I’ve got no issue with either try.

      • mikado

        To be clear, are you proposing doing away with law 11.1(c)?

        If so, I think there’s a fair case to be made for that. But I think we need to be clear. If the law is to be ignored then it should be removed entirely.

        • Who?

          No, I’m saying that the law needs to be refereed with intelligence and empathy. Hooper was at full speed, chasing where he thought the breakdown would be. His view of the kick wasn’t necessarily a certainty, and he slowed when he saw the ball had been kicked. He wasn’t ever going to be able to stop within 5 metres, and Koroibete ran him onside in 5 metres.
          I have a greater issue with the Seymour try, because he was running directly downfield, where Hooper was running across the field. And, even more critically, Seymour didn’t really slow down. But I would likely still want to allow it, because if Seymour hadn’t dropped behind his winger before he received the pass, then it’s a forward pass. So, he’s onside before he plays the ball. At that point, the question is, just how long is he offside before the winger puts him onside? That’s harder to determine than Hooper’s offside from the camera angles. Further, he didn’t impede anyone, and I’m not sold that him slowing before being put onside (bearing in mind that players running at top speed can’t stop on a dime) would’ve seen him unable to score the try.
          These tries are both somewhat unusual, in that these sorts of kicks – kicks at full pace in broken play – don’t usually come up each weekend. Normally we’ll see lots of gerryowens, or wipers kicks, but they’re more set plays (i.e. everyone knows it’s coming). Kicks through to advantage at pace like this are harder to predict.
          Whilst it’s fair to say that being in front of the ball means you’re offside in general play, reality is that some positions need to spend more than 80% of the game offside in order to be effective. I’m thinking flankers, but I’m also thinking scrumhalves. And I don’t mean cynically offside – I mean they’re going to run directly sideways to the next breakdown, whilst the ball moves back (through passing) until it hits a forward runner, who hopefully (from the perspective of the scrummie and his flankers) gets through the gain line, meaning they’re suddenly onside to enter that breakdown or distribute the ball.
          So being offside by being in front of the ball is something that is already refereed with some empathy. And if we’re honest, we see chasers in front of the kicker on almost every kick. The first two kicks on Saturday, the entire English backline was in front of Ford and chasing at full pace before he kicked it. On a planned move. That’s completely different to what we saw in the two tries referenced above, where players were at full pace before being surprised by a kick. Running from an offside position before a planned kick is much more deliberate infraction than failing to stop instantaneously for an unplanned kick, yet it’s the infraction that’s faced the greater sanction.
          So, not asking for a law change, asking for empathy in the ruling. This isn’t the only area where we can stand to show some understanding. We have many areas of the game where referees ignore infractions as they are immaterial. We have many others where they just don’t bother to impose the laws (when did you last see a Cavalry Charge or Flying Wedge penalty blown, yet we regularly see pre-bound forward pods – a direct violation of those laws?!). If Hooper had slowed further, I’m not sold that he wouldn’t still have scored the try. He didn’t impede anyone. SO I don’t believe his momentary offside was a material infraction.

        • Assistant TMO

          In general play (not a kick) you are not offside in front of the ball unless you are obstructing.

          To your main point, so its ok to be offside if youre running at full speed? How do you judge that? This is the same law as for long clearing kicks (and all kicks in play) as well – how do you distinguish and ref differently between the scenario’s?

          Hooper deliberately put himself in front of the ball, it should absolutely be his risk to get back onside with no advantage if offside through his own team’s kick. His advantage by only “checking” is that he will get to the next phase much much quicker (which is the intent!)

        • Who?

          In general play you are offside the moment you throw a pass (because the ball is behind you). You’re just not liable for sanction unless you’re obstructing.
          My main point is that Hooper was offside in general play until the moment TK kicked the ball. This form of offside is allowed constantly – every scrum half is offside for 90% of all the time their team is in possession of the ball. Every flanker who chases breakdown to breakdown will be offside most of the game (because if they’re not, they’re not going to get to the breakdown in time to have any impact). Thankfully, given he was a decoy runner, Hooper got through the line without impeding any defenders in the slightest and then continued in a manner that did not impede any English players. He was well ahead of the play, but moving towards the likely location of a prospective breakdown.
          He’s offside and liable to sanction when TK kicks the ball, provided he moves “towards opponents who are waiting to play the ball, or (move) towards the place where the ball lands”. So no question, he’s open to sanction. But the questions then are the same one asked at every breakdown about the multitude of infringements that occur at every breakdown – did the player make reasonable attempts to rectify the situation, and did the infraction have material impact on the game.
          This is complicated!!! First off, you’ve got to ask – when did Hooper know the ball had been kicked? When TK kicked the ball, two English players were directly between Hooper and TK. I think it’s quite reasonable to think he’s likely unsighted until the ball gets past the English defenders, when it bounces a metre or two in front of him (i.e. closer to the try line, not literally that close to Hooper).
          The next question is about action after the player realized the ball has been kicked and he’s offside. Hooper immediately threw his hands up and checked his run. That lasted about two steps, as by that time he was being passed by Koroibete, who was onside. No one call pull up – or even change direction – that fast from close to full pace. After Koroibete passes him, Hooper is onside again and legal to chase the ball.
          The fact that it was a grubbing kick is relevant, given the ball landed about the same time I believe Hooper likely first saw the ball. So the question of ‘moving towards the place where the ball lands’ is tough – should a player be sanctioned for having a ball they didn’t realize was kicked (i.e. not a planned kick, like a box or clearance) land in front of them when they were offside?
          Hooper was clearly initially offside, but not liable for sanction until the kick. Once the kick was made, given the impeded vision of the kick, I believe Hooper made fair and reasonable efforts to redress the situation – he slowed whilst offside, and there’s nothing to indicate he wouldn’t have continued to slow until he stopped had he not been put onside by Koroibete. Further, he chased, but the next key involvement was 20m upfield, where everyone else had overrun the ball. I’d argue that, had he been able to slow further, Hooper would’ve been in a better position to dive on the ball. And I’d also mention that the first action after the try by Robshaw was to point at the spot and call to O’Keeffe, claiming that Hooper was offside. Hooper, meanwhile, had avoided impeding Robshaw, and allowed Robshaw to outpace him to the ball.
          To your question of whether being offside is acceptable because you’re running at full pace, the reality is that you’re misrepresenting the statements of myself and others. No one has said ‘not offside because you’re running at full pace when the ball is kicked,’ the statements have been consistently, ‘offside, but have they attempted to stop moving forward?’ Because no player running at any sort of pace can stop instantaneously! You have to slow to a stop until you’re put onside. Hooper did that – he was slowing towards a stop but was almost immediately put onside by Koroibete. That said, it’s a very different situation between a grubber (like the Hooper no try and the Scottish try) where the players are already at full pace and a box/gerryowen/clearance, where players know the kick is coming and start running for the chase, but may mistime their run (and very, very rarely check their run once they start). And I can recall a number of occasions (not regularly – most times, referees don’t pick up the offside chasers – as O’Keeffe mostly didn’t during the game on the weekend) where a player has been called out by a ref to hold off on their chase until they were put onside by another team mate who was ‘more’ onside when the ball was kicked. These players, after slowing (not always stopping), are never penalized…

        • Assistant TMO

          Good debate. Extra bigger picture points:
          – if you want to allow this, then how does the defensive team who have done nothing wrong reasonably defend against the offside player? Is then the balance (attack v defence) correct for how this law is being applied? (we have a direct comparison in this video – compare actions of Hooper and Foley whom were both at the same point ahead when the kick is put through. Foley’s actions whilst not stopping completely are fairer)
          – also if you want to allow this and its difficult to defend against, then every coach will run this play ALL the time…zzzzzzzz

          – this law covers every scenario for players in front of a kick – how do you judge how far ahead is ok? or what speed moving forward is ok? or what is reasonable redress?

          The scenarios and speed at which this occurs in game make it impossible for a referee (with only 2 eyes and the direct line of sight he is running in) to be able to factor in all those interpretation elements you are implying from wanting this try to stand. Thus the simplest and fairest position (and more likely to be consistently applied across different referees) is to enforce what the law says.

          Having said that, if rather than score the try it had a been another phase of play/ruck 1m out from the try line and Hooper was still there to fall on the ball or clean out I am 100% certain he would not have been called offside (assuming Kori had still got ahead of him prior). Inconsistent, yes but at least the defensive team has another crack at defending.

          As you say, players are in front of the ball all the time. This is the next big challenge for the game as there are two key areas where is has big impact:
          – defenders in the 10/12 channel now have lots of offside traffic with dummy runners/blockers/players in front specifically coached to either stop the drift defence, block line of sight or restrict access for a tackle
          – the Hooper style scenario above (focus came 5+ yrs ago on the players in front of long kicks)

          – guard pillars in front of 9, blockers in front of catchers have/are being tackled with varying success.

        • Who?

          We’re coming at this from rather different directions. In that, it appears you believe this is a request for a change in law. It’s not. The law requires players immediately stop advancing, but there should be understanding that players moving at pace need time to stop. So the requirement should be understood that players will slow down towards a stop until such time as they’re onside. If they’re put onside, they’re not required to go back to a particular place to restart play – play from where they’re put onside.
          This is similar to a question a few years ago about offside players on long range kicks, after the ball goes into touch. You’d see an aerial battle, a few kicks either way, and eventually one team would put it out. But given there might’ve been 2 or 3 kicks each, the chasers from the previous kicks wouldn’t have fully retired, and generally the forward packs had just stood in midfield the entire time. The question was, if there’s a quick lineout taken, are the formerly offside chasers entitled to defend it? Or, are they entitled to ‘form the lineout’ (i.e. put two players in there) to prevent the quick lineout? There’s nothing in law to say they can’t, because play has ended when the ball is put in touch, so they’re not longer offside. But they’ve clearly profited significantly from being 20-50m offside!
          Back to the question of Hooper in this play… You’re asking about defending against an onside player here who was behind the English defence at the time when he became a material part of the play (inside the 5m line). He’d been onside for 20m. Robshaw had run ahead of him. Hooper wasn’t looking to collect the ball, he was (shown by his pace) in a support line – either to receive the ball from MK or clean out the prospective tackler in the shape of Robshaw.
          In terms of Foley’s actions against Hooper’s, it’s not a surprise that the 4th closest man to the ball, who is a sub-90kg back, wouldn’t necessarily decide his best course of action is to be right up the clacker of the primary attackers. He too is positioning himself in case of a breakdown – he’s expecting that TK can quickly clear the ball after Hooper cleans off Robshaw, and he (Foley) can then spread the ball against an English defensive line that is now completely offside (thanks to the new laws regarding the creation of offside lines, an overreaction to the England/Italy 6N’s game). But even then, he slowed AFTER Hooper, and AFTER he was put onside! Foley actually ACCELERATED when he first saw the kick in behind.
          Hodge is an interesting case in point – he wasn’t (to my eye), offside. He saw Hooper’s hands go up, and he threw his hands up and slowed down. Honestly, if players I was coaching decided not to chase in the way that Hodge did (and, to a lesser extent, Foley), I’d have been grumpy. I’d expect Hooper-style chasing – slow down in an attempt to stop when you’re offside, then go hard when you’ve been run onside.
          Further, if you’re wanting another opportunity to defend if a tackle is made, then you can’t be a fan of the law changes that WR brought in. Because before this tour, making the tackle wouldn’t create an offside line, but the slowed tackle would give an opportunity for defenders to get closer to making a tackle. On this tour, the prospective tackle and arriving attacking player create an offside that means the vast majority of the defending team would never have had a chance to defend, because they’d all have remained offside… It’s a major mistake and unbalancing of the laws, favouring attack too strongly over defence.
          That’s something that happens all the time – you see forwards moving forward after a box kick (even pillars) or gerryowens, usually starting and accelerating, but they don’t go hard until they’ve been clearly put onside again. Referees already manage that ok – not perfectly, but ok. If they see someone moving forward, they call them out. Provided the player slows, they generally don’t penalize, even if they then get involved in the next phase, 20m down field.
          In terms of every coach running this play all the time, you can’t tell me that teams (some more than others – for a long time, England!) don’t already try to run their decoy runners into blocking positions. Hooper’s decoy line in this play (off Beale) is actually quite brilliant – he’s a genuine ball carrying option, not THAT far from the line, yet he got through the line cleanly without impeding defenders. More often than not we find decoys deliberately blocking defenders, stopping just in front of them if not hitting them, and then (if they don’t hit the defender) running the ‘flanker line’ across to the next breakdown. I remember a TMO check for obstruction in exactly these circumstances for a try against Australia this year. I think it was NZ, but I’m not 100% certain. I also remember Owen Farrell blocking Stephen Moore at Twickenham in 2013, which was deemed ‘not enough’ obstruction (which was no less obstruction than Moore provided for MK’s no-try this game – Moore didn’t get near the attacker due to Farrell’s blocking, whereas Robshaw still got MK).
          I agree that it can be very difficult to adjudicate this during the game, live. I’d debate the bit about only two eyes – AR’s aren’t called AR’s for no reason (even if many are more interested in providing calls on foul play and finickity details than their key roles – touch, offside and forward passes). And in this instance, all the action occurs within a 15m window, where the ref and AR are both very well sighted. But I don’t think O’Keeffe picked it live – I think it was Robshaw’s complaint after the try was scored that created the TMO referral (the same way that Farrell managed to badger O’Keeffe into calling the obstruction by Moore – I can’t imagine you’d allow a player to badger you for three minutes about a single point!). And that’s shown by the non-referral of the Scottish try.
          Given there was no referral in the Scottish try, it’s very arguable that there’s no greater likelihood of consistent application.
          I consider the blocking of forward pods and, critically, pillars at box kicks, as being a much greater problem for the game. Along with pre-bound forward pods (we have the cavalry charge and flying wedge laws, how’s it safe for a singular tackler (because tacklers can’t reasonably pre-bind) to be expected to take down two or three attackers?!) and the unnecessary law changes wrought by WR for the NH this year. This issue is an unusual one, given it happened twice on the one weekend, with two different rulings, and this ruling (Hooper’s ruling) being rather unempathetic to the realities of playing the game.

        • Assistant TMO

          Not after a law change (but will be really interested to see what the project that has supposedly reduced the law book by 50% comes up with!) Not miles apart though – its about what we consider “immediately stop advancing” means in practical terms.

          Players at pace need time to stop – yes, but do need to be attempting to actually come to a stop. Not just coast or decelerate slowly until play catches up.

          I believe there needs to be some jeopardy for deliberately putting yourself offside – its kind of accepted and refereed that if it remains general play (with no kick) all is OK to join in play as long as put back onside and Im good with that. If there is a kick, this was a concious choice of the attacking team and this is where I think it should be a stricter or tougher “stop advancing” criteria.

          On the AR assistance – ARs are never going to help live with this other than to pick out the advancing offside player strictly under law. All comms from AR to ref need to be 100% factual info that the ref can use in their “on the run” assessment of the situation. Anything else simply does not work – needs to be experienced to fully understand but if you listen carefully the language ARs use for live calls is actually reasonably standardised such that the ref is getting information in a form he can quickly comprehend without too much distraction from current focus.

          PS I absolutely hate players appealing for reviews – Farrell is bloody terrible for it and the Kiwis for that matter. It truly is a double edged sword with players having greater law knowledge!! ;o) I’d like some jeopardy for them doing it as well – ask for a referral and be wrong – next restart FK against.

        • Who?

          I hate the concept of reducing the number of laws in the game… I’m quite the conservative in that regard. Just ref what’s there, with a little understanding (i.e. don’t expect humans to do the impossible, but do require them to ruck on their feet and not collapse rucks, etc).
          Your second paragraph is the key to the Hooper no try issue. It’s about how long and how rapidly he slowed. Many would argue he didn’t slow soon enough – he didn’t slow the second the ball was kicked. I think that’s unreasonable, as there’s no proof he was sighted to know the kick was made. I think the tighter call is whether he slowed enough. If the call was clearly, “Michael, you didn’t give enough effort to slow to a stop whilst you were offside,” that would be debatable, but understandable. For mine, though, the way he slowed wasn’t dissimilar to what we usually see from players advancing in front of a kicker who are about to be put onside by a charging chaser, and that’s why I think he was ok. Because it’s not penalized in those situations, and 20m between being offside and involved isn’t insignificant.
          I don’t completely agree with your view on jeopardy with offside and kicks. I think there should be more focus on not obstructing defenders in general play (i.e. your openside or scrumhalf can’t run interfering support lines in front of the ball carrier – which regularly happens, and without reason (it can be better for both teams if they step through and get behind the defenders – it means defenders are less impeded in moving towards the ball, and it means they’re better able to support the next breakdown provided they don’t overrun it – which is already significant enough jeopardy). I don’t see that then further punishing players in the rare situations we saw with the Hooper and Scotland tries is really relevant. They’re not common.
          I agree that AR’s aren’t going to give anything other than “player is offside” – that’s fine. That’s all they need to do. Or, “Can you check back, I think player ***** may have been in front of the kicker.” But the AR made no call on Hooper being offside, and he had arguably the best view of all officials.
          In terms of appealing… I think that captains should be allowed to represent a case, once, concisely and respectfully. But I don’t know that Farrell was captain. Robshaw certainly wasn’t. And once, not for three minutes! I don’t think that players should have the right to refer a decision upstairs (I hate that about the cricket DRS – it should be an Umpire DRS, with the exception that every no ball is checked as the player walks to the boundary – which adds no time to the decision making process), it should be the referee. But the referee should be strong enough to stand up and threaten action if they’re not respectful. O’Keeffe had the option to put Farrell in his place (warn, FK, penalize, whatever), but he didn’t. And it wasn’t to his best interest to allow himself to be badgered in that manner. Not by Farrell, not by Genia and Beale, not by anyone.

  • jamie

    Feel like we were gutsy but dumb at times.

    What was Beale thinking not sprinting to the ball, regardless of whether it was in or out?

    Foley meh, Genia poor. Not helped by having so much fluff in the pack, that’s for sure. In saying that though, our scrum was good. Simmons to a tee, great set piece, shit impact elsewhere.

    Why Foley and Beale kicked so much in play when we have Hodge’s Super boot I still don’t understand.

    • Jason

      I disagree about Genia, he started poorly and really struggled but it’s really fucking hard for a halfback to have a good game when your forwards are getting you so little front football.
      But after that first 20 minutes or so, he was pretty good given the cards he was dealt.

      Foley was fucking awful — and the worst part is he’s been incredibly inconsistent if he is going to keep playing like that we have no choice but looking at other options at fly half. Even Hamish Stewart if he gets some Super Rugby time could be an option. If Foley is going to continue to play like this Cheika can’t ignore Quade Cooper — he’s got 70 test caps and is a genuinely World Class Fly Half he can’t be left out of the squad.

    • John Tynan

      I felt we were chasing/pushing the game from the start. For the sake of urgency we retreated on accuracy.

  • Haz

    You sounds like Cheika mate. Both those tries should have been tries because korobeite should have dived on it and slid over and korobeite should have put hunt away. Beale should have worked harder to get across and make sure the ball for the Daly try was in touch.

    That’s the difference. Take the referee out of the equation and the bottom line is in all 3 cases the referee shouldn’t have been in the equation except for a lack of execution under pressure/lack of effort.

    • Brian Smith

      Fair enough…I agree with you on the execution but we’ll need to agree to disagree regarding Ben O’Keefe…he overplayed his hand.

      • Haz

        I think there’s always going to be feelings like that though. If England had lost then what about in the first few minutes when they could have got a try but it was called back for a knock on that wasn’t?

        I think on balance the better team won and that the ref made some interesting calls and maybe Aus did get the rough end of the stick a bit but I don’t think it changed the outcome of the game.

        England obviously came with the plan to play high tempo in the belief they were the fitter team with the stronger bench and I think that showed through in the last 10.

        • Greg

          I think it is fair to argue that 14 points denied changed the outcome of the game. England would not have played the same game if they had another 14 points against them.

          We can debate the decisions but in the end it is in the score book.

          We need to do better.

        • Haz

          Yeah but again it’s the what ifs. What if England hadn’t been called back in the first few minutes and by minute 10 they’re 10 points up? That’s a different game as well is all I’m saying.

          A lot of it is pretty straightforward. Better execution of simple skills and not being lazy (looking at Beale tracking across for the Daly try here)

    • Greg

      “Take the referee out of the equation”

      This is indeed the point.

      For each/most of the 5 losses we have been lamenting what might have been. We need to change something.

      I think the ref spoiled the game…. but we could have avoided that.

    • Parker

      If Korobiete had dived from where he was, in the direction that the ball was going, he would have slid parallel to the tryline. I’m a bit tired of armchair waterboys (wouldn’tt even get selected as armchair players) reimagining what an actual test player should have done. The ball changed direction and MK showed terrific presence of mind and superb touch with his leg to redirect the ball so that it went in front of Hooper’s path so HE could dive on it.

      • Haz

        Mate it’s literally a carbon copy of the Joseph try – in fact it’s even closer to the line.

        It was heading towards the line, koro could have dived on it 5m out and it would have been a try.

        What so because I’m not an international rugby player does that mean I can’t criticise him? Maybe Cheika can’t tell him what to do because he’s not a winger?

  • mikado

    Thanks for the article Brian. I think that this statement is a great topic for debate: “He seemed to relish in demonstrating his knowledge of the laws when a quality referee simply interpret the laws in order to ensure we have an even contest.”

    I think from a spectator’s point of view, there’s a lot to be said for turning a blind eye to indiscretions by the attacking team. The more they get away with, the more tries they will score, and that’s what we the spectators like to see.

    I don’t agree that turning a blind eye to laws makes the game more of an even contest.

    I think also that if the ref is expected to turn a blind eye then that puts them in a horrible position. What’s the point of having a law if the ref is expected to ignore it? Should we have a law that says that rule-breaking will only be sanctioned if the team that breaks the rule gains a clear and obvious benefit by doing so?

    • Brian Smith

      Hi Mikado, the point I was trying to make about referees is that all the players, coaches and fans want is “natural justice”…the feeling that the teams got what they deserved…not sure that was the case on Saturday but that’s sport & life…

    • Birdy

      “He seemed to relish in demonstrating his knowledge of the laws when a quality referee simply interpret the laws in order to ensure we have an even contest.”
      So rather like the new philosophy in schools, there must be ‘prizes for all’ so ignore the laws so we can have a nice even contest? This debate is becoming a little bit weird.

  • Dally M

    The two disallowed tries were painful, yes.

    I thought the turning point of the match was when Aus were hot on attack 2m out from the English line & O’Keefe & the Assistant Ref both watched Hartley (I think) illegally turn the ball over at the ruck and the poms went the length of the field and scored.

    This was after they had played 2 men down and kept the score at only 6-0 down.

    • Assistant TMO

      That was a very generous turnover (I think it was actually one of the second rowers), but lots of other clever (in my mind milked PKs)
      – the 2 PKs against Eng for not rolling away were Aus support pinning the player preventing him rolling away
      – Simmons holding on post knock on – Hughes realised as he tried to pull up that he was going to half hold and then stopped pulling up making it look like clear holding on

      • John Tynan

        MOTM Launchbury with the fine work off his feet, I believe.

  • Birdy

    Some interesting points, I’m just puzzled by some of the logic. It comes close to saying that the two bits of attacking play were really good, so we should ignore the laws as some sort of reward.

  • Assistant TMO

    With you being such an excellent coach Brian, its a little disappointing as a ref to hear the comments about what Hooper should have done.

    It is deliberate coaching to put players ahead of the ball upfield to be immediate support/clear out (how many tries are scored by #9’s doing exactly that!). In general play, this is no problem at all and is good coaching for speed of ball and taking advantage of opportunitues. But the big risk is when a kick occurs, it puts those players immediately offside. This is a nightmare/impossible for a ref to pick up in real time unless looking straight at it from the ball line.

    In this instance, Hooper clearly ran a dummy line around the 10m line that puts him ahead of the ball and he continues forward both prior to and post the kick through. He clearly gains a huge advantage from moving foward, “checking” his run is no substitute (Foley was in exactly the same position on Hoopers infield shoulder and his actions are what Hooper should have done)

    In the ruck, we put the responsibility on the players on the wrong side to get out (“You put yourself there, get yourself out”)
    The same principle should apply here – Hooper deliberately put himself in an offside position and should be his problem to get back onside without advantage. If that means stopping and losing pace with the play that was the risk he took by the initial run ahead of the ball.

    • joy

      Like all good loosies Hooper anticipates where the ball will be and makes his way there. How would he know the ball would be kicked? He can only respond after it was kicked and he did. Had he anticipated a kick and pulled up early and the ball passed wide he would look like a silly billy, wouldn’t he?

      • John Tynan

        Agree, it was a perfect open side running line, which he normally doesn’t get credit for.

  • mark conley

    Thanks Brian, again.
    I have no trouble accepting Hooper’s disallowed try but Korobeite’s; doesn’t the rule state that it’s obstruction if the player runs in front TO impede the opposition?. If so then Moore did not run ‘in front of K.’ rather Korobeite was knocked back by O’Farrell and that is why K’s leg momentarily goes behind Moore’s leg.


Brian Smith is a rare breed who has both played and coached international rugby and doesn't mind telling it as he sees it. He's currently putting his Oxford degree to good use teaching Commerce and coaching rugby at the Scots College, Sydney.

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