Techno Terry and friends are fall­ing short

Marlborough Express - - FRONT PAGE -

Sport is sup­posed to be a lit­tle bit ran­dom, a lit­tle bit un­fair, at least that’s how the Vic­to­ri­ans largely saw it. It was a way to put a bit of sinew into our youth, to ready them for the great in­jus­tices and pud­dles of death that swirled on the edges of life.

Then along comes Techno Terry with his cam­era an­gles and re­plays, with his mi­crochips and pix­els and lenses, and tells us that or­der must be brought to this chaotic world of sport. There must not be mistakes. Oh no, be­cause now there is money at stake, a far more valu­able com­mod­ity than sto­icism or hu­mour.

But, as we found out time and again over the last week­end, it’s no good mak­ing Techno Terry head of the supreme court be­cause man will keep stuff­ing up. In fact we will make an even greater of hash of things than if you had left well alone.

Ge­orge Ay­oub, the man whose name cu­ri­ously is an ana­gram of that well-known Vic­to­rian army of­fi­cer and or­nithol­o­gist Aubrey OO Egg, was again at the heart of the first of the week­end’s great stuff-ups. Ay­oub is Aus­tralia’s TMO. Amaz­ingly he al­most never seems to get a de­ci­sion right.

At first glance, I thought Ay­oub had been cor­rect to sup­port An­gus Gard­ner’s in­stinct to send off France’s Ben­jamin Fall for a dan­ger­ous tackle on Beau­den Bar­rett in the air. The head is sacro­sanct.

But on re­view it was clear that Fall’s at­tempt to jump for the ball had been im­peded by An­ton Lienert-brown’s block­ing run­ning-line, the thing that War­ren Gat­land did his nut about ahead of last year’s Lions se­ries. It wasn’t much, but it was enough to break up Fall’s stride pat­tern.

And we had ev­i­dence of Fall’s stride pat­tern when pre­par­ing to con­test a ball in the air, be­cause min­utes ear­lier he had suc­cess­fully jumped against Jordie Bar­rett. That pat­tern had now un­rav­elled. Fall was like a long jumper who is brushed on his run-up and made to stut­ter step in the mid­dle of his ap­proach. All Fall’s tim­ing and rhythm was gone. But Ay­oub failed to re­view this cru­cial se­quence.

So well done World Rugby and its ju­di­cial trio of Aussies for over­turn­ing the de­ci­sion. As for­mer ref­eree Jonathan Ka­plan has pre­vi­ously re­marked, it was ir­rel­e­vant that Fall’s eyes were on the ball if he didn’t take due care. But in this in­stance, Fall’s abil­ity to take due care was com­pro­mised by the il­le­gal ac­tions of an All Black.

How­ever, these sort of hor­ren­dous mid-air col­li­sions would not hap­pen if World Rugby out­lawed the ridicu­lously dan­ger­ous tech­nique of leap­ing high to catch the ball. It was im­ported from AFL and it is a men­ace.

But World Rugby was right to say that the ref­eree Gard­ner was not at fault. It was Ay­oub’s job to pro­vide the ev­i­dence for con­sid­er­a­tion and he failed. Just as he failed to award France a try by ne­glect­ing to re­view the footage in real time when the prop was reach­ing for the line.

Note to Aubrey. Life is not played out in slow mo­tion.

Over in foot­ball land, the World Cup is well on its way to be­ing de­cided by video as­sis­tant ref­er­ees or the VAR as it is omi­nously known. These chaps and chapesses come swoop­ing to the as­sis­tance of the ref when they feel a penalty or red card may have been missed. They can also rule on cases of mis­taken iden­tity, al­though if you gave that beer to the wrong bloke, that re­mains your prob­lem.

Cru­cially, France were given a penalty against Aus­tralia thanks to VAR. The Aussie goal­keeper Mat Ryan said: ‘‘I don’t feel like we were beaten by a bet­ter team, al­most by tech­nol­ogy.’’

Soc­ceroos coach Bert van Marwijk said: ‘‘The body lan­guage was that he didn’t know. Let’s say from 10, seven peo­ple say ‘penalty’, three say ‘no penalty’. So I don’t know.’’

There was quite a lot of don’t know­ing. The Ar­gen­tini­ans thought they should have had a sec­ond penalty against Ice­land. Brazil were de­nied an ob­vi­ous penalty against Switzer­land. Where was VAR? Where was Ge­orge Ay­oub when you needed him? It was a man-made sham­bles.

Mean­while, over at the US Open, there were all sorts of re­views go­ing on. Never mind that the of­fi­cials had stuffed up the third round with pin po­si­tions and a firm­ness of greens that were in­ap­pro­pri­ate for the wind that had blown in.

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