Rugby Championship

Was Richie McCaw's try legal?

2015-07-27 19:00
Legal or not? (Gallo Images)

Cape Town - Much has been made of All Black captain Richie McCaw’s match-winning try against the Springboks in their Rugby Championship match on Saturday, but the real question was whether or not it was a legal move?

McCaw scored in the 74th minute to give the All Blacks a lead they didn’t let go of, by flummoxing the Springbok defence at the lineout on the Bok line and scoring almost untouched.

But, according to the website, replays of the try show that it should have been referred and possibly even disallowed as McCaw was offside on two counts.

Not the commentators, not the assistant referees nor referee Jerome Garces picked it up live and never referred it to the television match official with the try eventually leading to New Zealand’s win in the epic game.

Watch the try again though and keep in mind what the laws say, and it becomes clear that it should never have been given and referee Garces made a mistake.

Firstly when the lineout is formed, McCaw stands in the halfback – or receiver – position and therefore is not part of the lineout.

According to World Rugby law 19.8.i - (i) Where the receiver must stand. If a team uses a receiver, then that player, must be positioned at least 2m back from team-mates in the lineout, and between the 5m and 15m lines, until the lineout begins. Once the lineout has commenced, the receiver may move into the lineout and may perform all actions available to players in the lineout and is liable to related sanctions.

McCaw is within the two metre rule and while referees don’t always police this fairly, as the receiver/halfback teams do not position their lineout defence for a halfback entering the lineout as it is illegal.

Then there are two more aspects which makes the try illegal – the first that McCaw moves before the ball is thrown in, which places him in an offside position.

Read with law 19.9 (a) – which says “The lineout begins when the ball leaves the hands of the player throwing it in”, it is clear that McCaw has moved before the ball has left the hooker’s hands, and since he is not 2 metres back, has all the advantage from an illegal position.

But to take it further, law 19.10 (f) says “A player must not jump or be lifted or supported before the ball has left the hands of the player throwing in.” If you watch the video, you can see how Kieran Read is lifted before the ball leaves the hooker’s hands, taking the Springbok attention away from McCaw.

Of course, the All Black captain went through a gap and was missed by the player the Boks had as their receiver – Adriaan Strauss – and the try was given, giving New Zealand the lead in a crucial stage of the game with six minutes to go.

But while it was planned and is a blatant offside, the referee allowed the try to stand, and didn’t query it even though captain Schalk Burger asked for it to be queried.

Of course the Boks will kick themselves for the chances they never took, including Vincent Koch knocking on with an open goalline, Lood de Jager’s “try” that wasn’t given by the TMO and a wild pass by Willie le Roux with an open Cornal Hendricks on his outside, proving again that to beat the best team in the world you need to take the chances when they come your way.

The Boks will be upset that they lost a game they came close to winning on Saturday, but they cannot be blamed for McCaw’s try, which shouldn’t have been allowed in the first place.


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