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