Tech­ni­cal doubt

Rugby’s rules again have ob­servers tear­ing their hair out.

New Zealand Listener - - THIS LIFE -

The tele­vi­sion match of­fi­cial’s (TMO) de­ci­sion to rule out a try that prob­a­bly would have given Eng­land vic­tory over the All Blacks in their re­cent clash was heav­ily crit­i­cised, mainly but not ex­clu­sively in Eng­land, and left some tee­ter­ing on the edge of rea­son.

Stuff colum­nist Mark Rea­son, an ex­pa­tri­ate English­man, opened the valves and let it all out: “How I hate the TMO. How I hate its soul-crush­ing propen­sity to re­write his­tory. How I hate the way it wipes the smiles off peo­ple’s faces. How I hate the way it smugly tries to con­trol us with sci­ence. How I hate its dic­ta­to­rial supremacy. How I hate how it crushes ev­ery­thing that is hu­man.”

Rea­son’s pri­mal scream notwith­stand­ing, a more press­ing con­cern for the game is the di­ver­gence of opin­ion over the os­ten­si­bly straight­for­ward is­sue of whether Eng­land’s Court­ney Lawes came from an off­side po­si­tion to charge down TJ Per­e­nara’s kick, thereby cre­at­ing the op­por­tu­nity for the even­tu­ally dis­al­lowed try.

Opin­ions ranged from “clearly on­side” to All Blacks coach Steve Hansen’s view that Lawes “was in [Per­e­nara’s] pocket”. Be­tween those ex­tremes, most Kiwi ob­servers seemed to think Lawes was just off­side, whereas former South African test ref­eree Jonathan Ka­plan could find no “clear and ob­vi­ous” ev­i­dence of a disqual­i­fy­ing in­fringe­ment.

Let’s leave the last word to an Ir­ish­man. In 2011, Ka­plan wrongly, and with­out re­fer­ring to the TMO, awarded a match-win­ning try after Wales had taken a quick li­ne­out us­ing a dif­fer­ent ball to the one that went into touch. “We were robbed,” said Ire­land’s cap­tain, the great Brian O’Driscoll. “You have a ser­vice avail­able to cover all bases. That’s what the TMO is there for. What’s the point if you don’t use him?”

Eng­land’s Sam Un­der­hill on the way to scor­ing a try that was then ruled out.

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