Law Analysis - The Tapuai Try - Green and Gold Rugby
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Law Analysis – The Tapuai Try

Law Analysis – The Tapuai Try

Over the weekend there were quite a few tries scored. Two each for the Reds and the Force, a four try bonus point for the Waratahs and the Rebels got to score their first ever try against the Waratahs, scored by the wiley old character Penalty. The one that has caused the most discussion in the forum has been the first try during the Reds v Force game on Saturday night.

Ben Tapuai scored the first try of the night team work that started with a Reds scrum 15m out from their line, a Mike Harris clearance kick was taken by Nick Cummins and he started the kick return from 10m inside Force territory. The Reds kick-chase line came up strong and in the tackle Beau Robinson pilfered the ball. Harris picked it up and took it to the line where he passed to Albert Anae, he took it to the line and took the tackle. Jake Shatz and Harris secured fast ball which was picked up by Will Genia. Genia sniped and as he was tackled by Brett Sheehan, he offloaded in front of the tackle to Ben Tapuai, who showed incredible handling to take the ball behind him and reel it in. With open space before him he took off for the line with Digby Ioane in support. Tapuai pushed off Force Hooker Nathan Charles and Napolioni Nalaga before diving over the line with Ioane still in support and David Pocock close behind.

The try was awarded but the discussion came from the fact that Pocock was unable to tackle Tapuai because Ioane was in between the two of them. Some people, the referee included, thought there was nothing illegal going on. These people said that Ioane was quite within his right to be there as he was simply running a (good) support line. Some considered that Ioane had infringed Pocock’s ability to make the tackle and therefore it was no try and a Force penalty.

The discussion started in the Shoutbox and was continued in the forum by this comment from Tiger:

There was some chatter in shoutbox about whether Digby obstructed Pocock in getting to Taps. I thought it was fine at the time because he was trailer the ball carrier in a position to take the pass so thought it was pretty hard to say he intended to obstruct. Any had any further thoughts on it?

The first reply was from Seahorse, and it said:

My thoughts at the very beginning was that he was indeed obstructed from making a tackle. The fact that Pocock ran into Digby who was just about right next to Taps tells me Pocock was within range to make a tackle & was denied the opportunity. But for whatever reason the officials decided to let it slide. I find it strange but thats just me & I’m not out there with the whistle myself.

So I put this video together to get it clear in my mind who and where the players were:


The questions seem to focus on the role of Ioane and determining if his positioning interferes with Pocock’s ability to defend the line. Looking at the relevant parts of the laws we can see the following:

Law 10.1 a, b and c

10.1(a) The ball wasn’t being chased so that doesn’t apply;

10.1(b) Ioane is not in front so doesn’t apply;

10.1(c) says Digby cannot move or stand intentionally in a position that prevents Pocock making the tackle

This is the most relevant of the laws to this case, for this to be a Penalty Offence, you would have to argue that Ioane was intentionally running in support to block Pocock, given no where in the footage can you see Ioane check to see where Pocock was, nor any unusual acceleration/deceleration or swerves you would have to say he clearly wasn’t.

In fact you could argue the only infringement in the whole play comes from Pocock himself. When Pocock, seemingly because there is nothing else he can do, tackles Ioane he could be charged with breaking law 10.4(f), which says;

Law 10.4(f)

When Pocock tackled Ioane he should have been penalised under this law, but in this case, despite the infringement, Tapuai is still able to successfully ground the ball so obviously advantage applies and no penalty is required.

The officials got it right, it was a fair try.

Let’s not stop there though, let’s go Mythbusters style and push it as far as we can to see what might happen. Matty_K posted this comment:

Since Digby is allowed to hold his line and since Pocock can’t obviously phase through Digby is Pocock allowed to bundle them both out of the field of play or tackle Digby into Taps to disrupt the try.

If Pocock’s tackle on Ioane had of caused them to collide with Tapuai and he was to go into touch or lose the ball which prevented the try from being scored, the laws would have given the referee the right to award a penalty try as Law 10.2(a) says:

Law 10.2(a)

There is an argument that though the Law refers to if a try would probably have been scored, it is actually more customary for referees to award penalty tries only if a try would definitely have been scored so that is the actual interpretation that would apply. Given the sequence and distances involved, I think it was definite that Tapuai would have scored anyway so same result.

That being the case, should Pocock have been given a yellow card if his tackle caused a penalty try? We saw in the Waratahs v Rebels penalty try that Tatafu Polota-Nau was yellow carded after the penalty try was awarded. This is because, as the law states, the player  who prevented the try being scored MUST be cautioned and temporarily suspended (Yellow Card) or sent off (Red Card).

This however is not the whole story, in 2004 the IRFU applied to the IRB to have a ruling made on this law, and the following clarification was issued:

Ruling in Law by the Designated Members of the Rugby Committee

Ruling: 9-2004

Union: IRFU

Law Reference: 10, 22

Date: 23 December ’04


The IRFU has requested a ruling with regard Law 10-Foul Play and Law 22-In Goal.

Rewrite and amendment of 10.2(a), and consequential addition to Law 22.

The first paragraph states:

Intentionally Offending. A player must not intentionally infringe any Law of the Game, or play unfairly. The player who intentionally offends must be either admonished, or cautioned that a send off will result if the offence or a similar offence is committed, or sent-off. After a caution a player is temporarily suspended from the match for a period of ten minutes playing time. After a caution, if the player commits the same or similar offence, the player must be sent-off. Penalty: Penalty Kick

The final paragraph states:

A penalty try must be awarded if the offence prevents a try that would probably otherwise have been scored. A player who prevents a try being scored through foul play must either be cautioned and temporarily suspended or sent off.

The final paragraph does not appear to offer the possibility of an ‘admonishment’ by the referee; nor does it refer to ‘intentionally’.

The clarification sought is:

Is it the intention of the Law (as now rewritten) to ensure that in each and every circumstance, where a penalty try is awarded, that the offending player is temporarily suspended, whether or not the foul is intentional?

Is it the intention to remove the discretion of the referee to admonish, rather then temporarily suspend or send off a player in such circumstances?

The reason clarification is sought is that there are circumstances where the offence is not intentional: e.g. mistimed (early or late, but not dangerous) tackle; unintentional instinctive high, but not dangerous, tackle -when an attacker steps inside a defender; certain incidences of scrum collapsing.

In these circumstances, the sanction of a penalty try, and a temporary suspension appear exceptionally severe. While it will not be a frequent occurrence, the effect on a match outcome could be hugely significant. It could also, in the event of a front row forward, lead to uncontested scrums.

Finally, it would appear inconsistent for an offence which, taking place in mid-field, would not merit a temporary suspension but would merit a temporary suspension close to a goal-line.

Ruling of the Designated Members of the Rugby Committee

Law 10.2(a) is Unfair Play relating to Intentional Offending.

The two paragraphs in Law 10.2(a) must be read in conjunction, having due regard to the heading ‘Intentionally Offending’.

Therefore, if a penalty try is awarded as the result of a player intentionally offending, then the player must be either be cautioned and temporarily suspended or sent off.

Examples of this would be after penalty tries resulting from:

  • a collapsed scrum
  • a collapsed maul
  • a defending player intentionally offside
  • a defending player intentionally knocking down the ball.

If a penalty try is awarded as the result of a player unintentionally offending, the player, as well as being liable to cautioning and temporary suspension or send off, can be admonished by the referee.

Examples of this may be after penalty tries resulting from:

  • mistimed tackle (early or late, but not dangerous)
  • unintentional reactionary high tackle, but not dangerous.

As we can see from the clarification issued, a Yellow or Red card is still to be issued on the awarding of a Penalty Try, however if the Penalty Try is caused by a player UNINTENTIONALLY offending, the referee has a third option available, and that is to admonish the player who offended. The referee in the Waratahs v Rebels match obviously deemed that Polota-Nau INTENTIONALLY brought down the maul and therefore once he’d made the decision to award a penalty try he had to follow the ruling below and issue a yellow card. Pocock’s tackle, in my opinion, would probably be deemed a mistimed tackle and therefore not intentional and therefore no requirement for the referee to give a yellow card and a penalty try.

But then, is there really such a thing as an unintentional tackle?



  • Reds apologist

    • Unashamed neutral.

      The Law is the Law man…

    • RJ

      If anything, Pockock should have been binned for tackling the man without the ball.

    • Brax

      I’m wondering what the Reds or their supporters have to apologise for?

      • bill

        The rest of the world not being from qld of course. Jealousy is a curse, then so is being a victorian, a new south welshman, a west australian and lets not forget our esteemed friends across the dutch(though that could be kind of fun, maybe), just look at their rugby you know it’s true.

        Fair try, but, easy to see some casts of mind considering otherwise. I can remember the brumbies running obvious obstruction in their support lines that…arguably deserved a penalty in the past. Back in the days that dan herbert was playing for qld and incidentally, that sith lord eddie jones was coaching the colts from old regret.

        • bill

          on the other point, though it may have been technically incorrect, if pocock, or anyone else had saved the try by canonning ioane into taps i would have said well played and just shook my head at the guy’s prescence of mind and ability. Assuming no injury had resulted. If it had been a isaac ‘scumbag’ luke tackle…thats a whole ‘nother matter.

  • armatt

    good read timmsy, interesting law variations with a good pinch of common sense.

  • Burgs

    That is an awfully long winded way to say you don’t like the Force!

    I would be more concerned about the “flat” pass and probable foot in touch in the earlier attempted tackle.
    While running in support Ioane actually draws level, if not passes momentarily, and gets closer to Tapuai.
    It was and is a try, but don’t try building some High Court case that his positioning wasn’t deliberate.

  • BloodRed

    First impression (at the game), second impression (big screen replay), third and fourth impressions (tv replay next day) all the same; Digby is running a support line in an on side position (ie behind the ball carrier) and only an idiot would suggest he has to move out of the way to make life easy for a chasing tackler and Pocock was the only player to do anything illegal when he tackled Digby without the ball in a fruitless attempt to canon him into taps. Quite honestly I’m surprised that anyone suggested that the try was anything but legitimate. Ref should have at least talked to Pocock about deliberate illegal play (no such thing as a “non-deliberate tackle” as you put it Mr T) and put him on a last warning.

    • BloodRed

      PS Pocock wasn’t able to tackle Taps because he isn’t fast enough to have gotten either in front of Digby or caught Taps from directly behind. If he was he’d probably still be playing in the centres himself?

      • Amanda

        Spot on, but being in Pocock’s shoes, I would probably have done the same thing – it was immaterial either way, but always nice to feel as though you at least tried, lol.

    • RJ

      Pockock should play soccer with his recent antics.

  • Tangawizi

    I think the question that really needs to be asked here (and probably was by Link) is why the f*$k didn’t Anae pass the ball?

  • zuzu

    anyone got any footage of Adam Byrnes eyegouge? Was it Putin backstabbing or cheap vodka?

    • bill

      I only saw a quick replay of that and to me it didn’t look deliberate.On the basis of that footage i’m shocked he got that much, especially since inbred, inveterate twats like bakkies or schalk have received a quarter as much for blatant delibrate acts of malicious mischief. two wrongs don’t make a right, but from that view the officials are making a rod for their own back. I don’t mind TCarter but i hope he felt there was something going on.

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  • Bally Moore

    Storm in tea cup. Simple advantage of having made a break behind the defensive line, and 2 against 1 (chaser). I have little doubt that Digby’s thoughts were to position himself between the chaser and taps – and given the line he had in support – he had every right. Advantage of two against 1.

    If that doesnt sit – then perhaps a more acceptable alternative for how it should have played out: In the spirit of fair competition, outside backs taps and digby slow down to let the opposition flanker catch up. Digby steps aside to give him access to taps. taps draws, passes to digby, who scores under the posts.

    Maybe if quade was kicking instead of Harris, they might have done that…

  • ellabroz

    great analysis Timmsy.

    It was very clear, even when watching live, that Pocock’s diving effort was to get the ref’s attention.

    I’m staggered at how easy Tapuai got past Nalaga. Afterall, he’ll be defending much more often than attacking for the Force this season.

  • Robson

    Watching the vid from 0.22, Pocock isn’t even in shot, he came from a long way back and did really well to be close to Tapuai at the death, fact is that Digby was running in support for the whole of that time and had every right to be where he was – in front of Pocock.

    What was he supposed to have done? Stopped running and said “sorry David, I’m in your way.

  • Forcefield

    The Reds deserve the try. Force fans should complain about the poor decision making/poor support of Nick Cummins and the poor tackling that led to the try more than anything else. Having said that, there is no way Digby was positioning himself to receive a pass towards the try line. He was far too close from the 5 metre line onwards. You don’t need to turn your head to know how to position yourself to be a nuisance. Not something you could really penalise. But Pocock deserved to be able to tackle both of them at the same time if he could, which I doubt even Dave could do, even if it doesn’t say that in the laws of the game. Games should be reffed to the spirit- not to the letter- of the law and it wouldn’t have been unfair if Pocock could have taken them both in to touch.

    • Great point on the spirit rather than rule, but how could it be fair for Pocock to take them both into touch?

      If you put Digby and Poey back a couple of metres it wouldn’t be fair for Poey to tackle Digby without the ball, I can’t get my head around tackling the ball carrier plus someone else ever being alright.

      • Forcefield

        I guess it is a bit of a grey area. You can’t prove that Digby did or didn’t run where he was running on purpose. Intentional or not, it was obstructing a fair tackle and everyone deserves a fair crack.

        Look I have no problem with the try. I also doubt that Pocock would have made a difference even if Digby hadn’t been there. I just think that calling into question what Pocock did is laughable. Digby certainly didn’t appear to be complaining.

        • Garry

          Re: ‘intentionality’

          When the majority of players are penalised for obstruction (when in posession), for example when a player runs behind his own player obstructing the opposing player from the tackle, I’d guess that almost 100 % of the cases where un-intentional. From the look on their faces, and the resulting penalty, I’m guessing they wish they could have stepped the other direction.

          If we start judging obstruction on whether it was intentional or not, we may be opening the doors for the great actors in our game. Look at all the dives taken in soccer.

      • Forcefield

        I would say because Digby’s positioning prevented a fair tackle. Now it comes down to your definition of a fair tackle. Although if Digby hadn’t been there, he would have been in a position to take a pass if Pocock had’ve got to Tapuai.

        • Forcefield

          Oops. Didn’t see the other one post.

  • D.

    Slow week for articles?? Really this is a mute point to discuss. Diggers had every right to be where he was. There is no argument. Can we please get back to the Tom Carter bashing!!! We Are RED!!!!!

    • Sorry mate, a few people were discussing it and some of the questions weren’t answered so I thought I would get in there and have a proper look.

      I enjoyed the exercise and hoped it would bring some clarity to some of the laws.

  • Skippy

    How can anyone say Genia is out of form? His little play in the lead up was brilliance. As was Tapuai’s.

    • bill

      He’s only out of form compared to what we’ve come to expect of him, not in comparison to every one else. The force game was a welcome kick in the teeth to his fans/detractors, long may it continue. He has been a bit ordinary in his effect on games prior though.

      Not all of that criticism can be put down to his platform. In some ways I still think Lucas is a better half. I’d actually enjoy seeing Lucas at half and Genia at 5/8.

    • The other thing too is plenty are saying Mike Harris is only worth his boot to the team, but he did plenty in the lead up to that, clearing kick, half back from the ruck and then clearing out at the next tackle.

      He is going alright.

  • Who?

    It’s been pointed out elsewhere that, if there was an illegal try in that game, it wasn’t Taps’ try (I was watching from dead ahead, I was surprised Taps didn’t pass to Diggers before the second attempted tackle, if Diggers had truly held his line, he would’ve blocked Pocock an extra 2-3m infield), it was Pocock’s try. The restart (penalty tap) wasn’t taken properly. The ball didn’t leave the hands, so the penalty should’ve been re-taken.

  • Reds Fan 2012

    What great work from a brilliant breakaway to get this sort of discussion going. It was Pococks intention no doubt to try and ‘milk’ a penalty from this incident it didn’t work the world moves on or so we thought. Really how anyone could realistically say that it could be a penalty is laughable in any shape.

Northern Provincial Rugby

Steve Timms, He likes watching the odd game of Rugby, occasionally writes about it.. Proud member of the original Mudchooks.

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