Lack of TV footage makes refs Fall-guys

The Rugby Paper - - News Feature - PETER JACKSON THE MAN TRULY IN THE KNOW

Ben­jamin Fall goes up for a high ball and his midair op­po­nent, Beau­den Bar­rett, comes crash­ing down on his neck. Nei­ther player has a leg to stand on, nor do the law en­forcers run­ning World Rugby.

The book de­mands a red card and the baf­fled France full-back duly gets one which makes him the ul­ti­mate Fall-guy.

Seven days later an iden­ti­cal sce­nario ends with Aus­tralia’s Is­rael Fo­lau and Ireland’s Peter O’Ma­hony in a sim­i­larly leg­less state after fall­ing from a sim­i­lar height. This time the full-back, ev­ery bit as baf­fled as his French op­po­site num­ber, es­capes with noth­ing worse than a yel­low.

Sim­i­lar of­fences, com­mit­ted on op­po­site sides of the Tas­man on suc­ces­sive Satur­days, pro­duce dif­fer­ent out­comes but that is barely the half of the story. It gets worse, a whole lot worse.

Far from en­dors­ing the ac­tion of ref­eree An­gus Gard­ner, an in­de­pen­dent dis­ci­plinary panel rules that the Aus­tralian of­fi­cial made a mis­take. Fall should not have been sent off be­cause Fall had done noth­ing wrong, a point he clearly tried to make at the time.

The send­ing-off was quashed, the red card re­scinded. The ver­dict would have in­ten­si­fied French griev­ance, amount­ing to con­fir­ma­tion that an in­ter­est­ing Test match had been thrown hope­lessly off-bal­ance for no jus­ti­fi­able rea­son.

How then could the ref­eree, the two as­sis­tant ref­er­ees and the TMO have got it so badly wrong. The New Zealand pun­dits, in­clud­ing the ad­mirably ob­jec­tive Justin Mar­shall, agreed that Gard­ner had been left no op­tion and from a dis­tance of 12,000 miles it looked an open-and-shut case.

The pub­lic furore prompted World Rugby into is­su­ing a state­ment de­signed to cut through the fog of con­fu­sion. It turned out to be less an ex­plana­tory note, more a case of the gov­ern­ing body dig­ging them­selves into a deeper hole.

In de­cid­ing to send Fall off, Gard­ner

“The dis­missal of Fo­lau’s ap­peal has done noth­ing to ease the sense that the law is an ass”

and the of­fi­cials had ‘fol­lowed the guide­lines cor­rectly and made a de­ci­sion based on the avail­able cam­era an­gles’.

It was ‘only dur­ing the sub­se­quent review by an in­de­pen­dent ju­di­cial panel, when ad­di­tional cam­era an­gles were made avail­able, was it de­ter­mined that Ben­jamin Fall was knocked off bal­ance im­me­di­ately prior to the chal­lenge and there­fore the red card was dis­missed’.

The an­gles showed how Fall’s chal­lenge had been in­ter­fered with by the block­ing of All Black cen­tre Ryan Crotty. Why were they not avail­able to the TMO (ex-Aus­tralian ref­eree Ge­orge Ay­oub) at the time?

At best it sounded un­sat­is­fac­tory, at worst am­a­teur­ish. After all, what is the point of the process un­less all an­gles are avail­able, es­pe­cially one which would have put Fall’s in­no­cence be­yond doubt and spared both he, and his team, a gross in­jus­tice?

That, though, is only the half of it. One week a ref­eree is deemed to have been wrong to show a red card for an aerial chal­lenge. Seven days later, a dif­fer­ent ref­eree is deemed to have been wrong to use a yel­low card for a vir­tu­ally iden­ti­cal of­fence.

Pas­cal Gauzere of France al­lowed Fo­lau to re­in­force the Wal­laby ranks against Ireland after he had spent ten min­utes in the bin. An­other dis­ci­plinary panel then swung into ac­tion once the cit­ing com­mis­sioner had de­cided that Fo­lau had a red-card case to an­swer.

In­deed he had and a one-match ban fol­lowed. It caused pre­dictable out­rage, pro­vok­ing three for­mer Wal­la­bies – Ge­orge Gre­gan, Bren­dan Can­non, Drew Mitchell – to voice fears for the sport. Mitchell claimed that ‘the level of frus­tra­tion is turn­ing peo­ple away from our great game’.

World Rugby have found it nec­es­sary to re­state the guide­lines for aerial com­bat which have been opera- tional for two years: “’If a player is not in a re­al­is­tic po­si­tion to gather the ball, there is con­tact and the other op­po­nent lands on their (sic) back or side – yel­low card.

“If a player is not in a re­al­is­tic po­si­tion to gather the ball, there is reck­less or de­lib­er­ate foul play and the player lands in a dan­ger­ous po­si­tion – red card.

“A player hav­ing eyes on the ball is not, in it­self, a mit­i­gat­ing fac­tor when the match of­fi­cials are de­ter­min­ing whether po­ten­tial foul play has been com­mit­ted. The pri­mary con­sid­er­a­tion is whether both play­ers were in a re­al­is­tic po­si­tion to gather the ball.’’

The dis­missal of Fo­lau’s ap­peal has done noth­ing to ease the sense that the law, in this par­tic­u­lar, is an ass. The Wal­laby full-back’s wife, Maria, would cer­tainly ap­pear to be of that opin­ion.

She tweeted a video of hubby tak­ing a high ball be­fore tum­bling to the ground after col­lid­ing with a player in green dur­ing the three­match se­ries against Ireland. It could have been from the open­ing sec­onds of the de­ci­sive third Test last Satur­day.

Fo­lau leaps to take Johnny Sex­ton’s kick off. His chal­lenger, Rob Kear­ney, is in any­thing but ‘a re­al­is­tic po­si­tion’ to com­pete for the ball yet nei­ther the ref­eree nor the TMO con­sid­ers it worth a sec­ond look.

PIC­TURE: Getty Images

Baf­fled: Is­rael Fo­lau gets his yel­low card, later changed to red

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.