There’s been lots of comment about whether the McCaw try on Saturday should have been disallowed because a) McCaw broke early from the scrum and now b) whether Woodcock’s arm hit the ground.
When have you ever seen a game of rugby where the referees made no mistakes? Refereeing mistakes are part of the game – they have been since day dot, they were on Saturday and they will be in future games.
Mistakes are made even when the TMO system is used to adjudicate on whether a try has been scored or not – no matter how many angles people look at, we are human beings and we are all capable of having different opinions even when looking at the same footage. The NFL system in the USA where general field calls can be referred to the video referee produces the same disputes and holds the game up for long periods of time whilst a decision is made that is often disputed anyway if the decision doesn’t go the way someone wanted it to.
Do we really want to watch a game that is constantly interrupted whilst a TMO views more and more angles at normal speed, then in slow motion, then frame by frame? I doubt many of us want more stoppages during a game, so unless someone has come up with an all seeing, all knowing robot referee that can make decisions on the run during a game, we have to accept that mistakes will be made by referees and get on with it.
To give you an idea of how tough it is for a referee and his assistants to pick up everything we can assume from Gagger’s video that the assistant was watching Woodcock in the scrum so that leaves Lawrence to watch everything else. Here’s what Lawrence had to consider.
The relevant laws regarding that scrum are:
- 20.3(f) which says that “All players in a scrum, other than front-row players, must bind on a lock’s body with at least one arm.”
- 20.3 Definition which says that “When a player binds on a team mate that player must use the whole arm from hand to shoulder to grasp the team mate’s body …”;
- 20.1(f) which says that “… All eight players must stay bound to the scrum until it ends…”;
- 20.10(c) which says that the scrum ends when “… the hindmost player unbinds from the scrum with the ball at that player’s feet …”.
The first image below shows the last frame before McCaw loses contact with the scrum. Is he bound? Not according to the laws because he only has his hand on the scrum but it’s become one of those laws that seldom gets enforced so we shouldn’t be surprised and you can see that Elsom is also not bound as he’s only got his hands on the scrum. It’s a bit like that rule that says you must feed the ball straight into the scrum!
Did McCaw unbind before Read – yes. According to the laws, did Elsom unbind before McCaw – yes. Should it have been a free kick to the All Blacks – yes. Should advantage then apply to the All Blacks or does McCaw infringing cancel out Elsom’s infringement? This is getting a bit complicated!! Referees let players use a hand bind all the time, so I can live with it being play on at that stage.
The next image shows the last frame before Read unbinds and the scrum ends. The time difference from when McCaw lost contact with the scrum and when Read lost contact is 32/100ths of a second! Should the play have been pulled up at that time because McCaw didn’t even have a hand on the scrum – yes. In 32/100ths of a second though I can understand how you might blink and miss that.
Did Woodcok’s hand hitting the ground have any impact on the result of the scrum? No, but should Lawrence have pulled the scrum up and awarded a free kick against Woodcock first – yes. Having not done so, should he have pulled up the scrum for Elsom unbinding – yes. But he didn’t pull it up and the try was allowed and as I said earlier that’s what happens in the game of rugby.
It’s subsequently been claimed that the refereeing mistakes at this scrum cost the Wallabies the game. Did it really? I’m a passionate Wallaby fan and I like nothing more than seeing the Wallabies beat the All Blacks (okay maybe beating the Poms might rank a little higher) but I can’t believe any Wallaby supporter genuinely believes that the referees cost the Wallabies this game.
If you believe it did, I say to you, what about the O’Connor try that came from a scrum that should never had occurred because the pass from Jane was clearly not forward – don’t those refereeing mistakes cancel each other out?
What about Pocock not being allowed the advantage when it appeared he was in the clear after the All Blacks lost the ball in the first half I hear you say. Well, what about the fact that the whistle had already gone before Pocock broke the line and Vito pulled out of the tackle that would have stopped Pocock?
What about what happened when Muliaina was tackled (brilliantly I might add) by Turner – Turner got to his feet and played the ball legally in my opinion but O’Connor tackled Jane without the ball as he was about to pick up the ball and fall over the line to score a try – in my opinion that was a penalty try to the All Blacks and a yellow card for O’Connor.
What about the question of whether the referee should have halted play in the lead up to the Ashley-Cooper try when he got in the way? Did he only impede the attacking team and was therefore right to take his whistle back out of his mouth? If you were sitting here with me I’d take you through a frame by frame playback from which I think you can make a good case that he should have pulled up play and awarded a scrum to the Wallabies.
My point is that for every argument from a Wallaby fan about what the referee did, I think there’s a valid argument from an All Black fan that the refereeing decisions actually cost the All Blacks more than the Wallabies.
Rather than having these circular arguments as to what would have happened if the referee had made this decision or that decision, don’t we have anything better to talk about? I thought it was a great game of rugby with some good attack and defence from both sides.
Turner and Beale both had blinders. Turner’s desperation to make that tackle on Muiliana was fantastic. Sharpe and Pocock were outstanding. Pocock’s desperation to make that tackle on Smith from behind late in the game when he’d already worked himself to a standstill should have us all applauding.
I believe the Wallabies took another step forward on Saturday. There are still many more steps to take but the improvement over the last three games has been really good. That’s more interesting to me than what the referees did or didn’t do.