TMO right on Stormers call

    2013-05-20 11:12
    Ged Robinson tackled by Pat Cilliers and Martin Bezuidenhout (Getty Images)
    Cape Town - The Stormers may feel hard done by a penalty try awarded against them over the weekend, but technically the right call was made, according to the SA Rugby Referees website.

    The Rebels, who beat the Stormers 30-21 to claim their first ever South African Super Rugby scalp, were awarded a penalty try late in the game when scrumhalf Nick Phipps was held back by hooker Martin Bezuidenhout close to the Stormers tryline.

    Phipps received the ball after it looked to have gone forward from reserve utility forward Luke Jones, but the referee, New Zealand's Mike Fraser, allowed play to continue.

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    Phipps then passed to captain Scott Higginbotham on his right, who kicked the ball forward, and, as it struck Stormers hooker Deon Fourie, it bounced back into Higginbotham's foot and rebounded forward, where Bezuidenhout gathered it.

    Bezuidenhout then dropped the ball as he was tackled by Higginbotham, upon which Phipps footed the ball through towards the Stormers' in-goal area. Bezuidenhout then held back Phipps by pulling his jersey.

    The ball went into the in-goal area where three players dived for it - Bryan Habana, Gary van Aswegen and Phipps. Habana seemed marginally ahead.

    Fraser then consulted the television match official (TMO), Matt Goddard, asking: "Please advise try, no try. And just go back to the last passage."

    Goddard examined the incident and said: "I've got confirmed foul play on a pull-back. Otherwise a try would probably have been scored."

    The referee repeated the information and confirmed the TMO was recommending a penalty try and a yellow card for Bezuidenhout - which is what happened.

    Bezuidenhout's foul play was clear and obvious and, according to the law, a penalty try "may be awarded if a try would probably have been scored but for foul play by the defending team".

    Goddard ruled that a try would probably have been scored, given that Habana just beat Phipps to the ball even though Phipps had been held back. It was therefore probable that he would have beaten Habana to the ball and thus scored a try.

    The Stormers and their fans felt aggrieved about previous knock-ons by Jones and possibly Higginbotham as well that the TMO appeared not to have examined.

    However, according to the SA referees website, he was right not to have done so.

    The expanded TMO functionality includes identifying foul play, and clear and obvious infringements in the last two phases before a try is scored. All officials (the referee, assistant referees and TMO) are allowed to initiate a referral and make recommendations.

    This would include a possible knock-on, but applies only to a case where a try is scored. In this case the try was not scored, so, according to the IRB's protocol, the possibility of a knock-on could not be considered.

    While it may be a pity (for Stormers fans) that the protocol doesn't allow for a case such as this, the IRB decided it had to draw the line somewhere otherwise the number of referrals to the TMO would escalate.

    Meanwhile, the Stormers can feel rightly aggrieved about another incident that occurred earlier in the match when the Rebels converted a penalty.

    Fourie was penalised at a tackle, with Higginbotham indicating the Rebels would kick for goal.

    Rebels fullback Jason Woodward received his kicking tee, placed the ball and took careful aim at the posts straight ahead of him.

    The Stormers meanwhile had gathered in a huddle, awaiting the kick to be taken.

    But just as Woodward came forward to kick he swung across the ball at the last moment, sending it bouncing near the corner flag to his left, with two Rebels and one Stormers player racing after it.

    However, the referee stopped play and ordered Woodward to retake his kick as the Rebels had already indicated they would kick for goal.

    Fraser told Woodward: "Take it again."

    But Fraser was wrong, and according to the rules a scrum to the Stormers should have been awarded.

    The law states the following:

    "Unless otherwise stated in Law any infringement by the kicker’s team results in a scrum at the mark. The opposing team throws in the ball.

    "There is nothing in the law that suggests that 'take it again' is an option to the kicker's team."

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