Techno Terry and friends are falling short
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.