It is a good thing that when we wuz robbed by the Telly Ref, it didn’t really matter and similarly that we got another fine try just a minute later through Trimble’s lovely blindside break. Perhaps it is even a good thing that this has happened now and the issue has been brought to light, despite it already making waves when Clancy and his Third Umpire cohort on the day Johann Meuwesen followed the spirit of the laws rather than their precise wording to deny Jimmy Cowan a try versus the Springboks in Port Elizabeth during the summer’s Tri-Nations.
In this case Meuwesen, perhaps his sense of fair play tingling, suggested to Clancy that there was extra information that the video replays made available and did he want that information. Clancy, being the inquisitive type suggested he dole out the goods.
Ref’s boss Paddy O’Brien was far from impressed, despite the fact that even Graham Henry felt that the call was fair. That said, it may be fair to say he felt so given the match was a run-out for his shadow side in preparation for the World Cup and would not look so kindly on it in New Zealand’s upcoming fixture(s). O’Brien’s argument is that the laws mean that if the referee misses an infringement in the build up to a scoring incident (or indeed, incorrectly calls an incident such as Sean O’Brien’s non-forward pass that Bowe juggled in the first half) then so be it, that’s the way the cookie crumbles.
The gist of the TMO is that he is asked to adjudicate on matters of scoring issues only and as such will only comment on events which occur in the dead ball area, hence his reply to Kaplan on Sunday that there was no foul play in the in-goal area – which of course there was, as Benvenuti’s tackle clearly continued to impede Tommy Bowe as he broke the plane of the try line. Either way, one senses that either Kaplan or his touch judges (Lawrence and Pollock) should have seen the infringement with their own eyes.
Here at Mole Towers we were disappointed with the call both by Kaplan and his touchies (for missing a fairly blatant offence live) and Veldsman (given that we consider there to have been foul play in the in-goal area as well as before it) but at the same time recognise the issues that introducing Telly Refs bring to what is essentially a human game. Kaplan clearly suspected that the Italian defender’s contact had been illegal, hence his question and surprised look when Veldsman responded in the negative. And perhaps Veldsman could feel Paddy O’Brien’s breath down his neck and fancied avoiding a slap on the wrists for a score that had no greater bearing on the World Cup other than Ireland’s points difference.
Cricket has repeatedly had to deal with the issues that technology exposes in its game to the extent that they eventually become tactical manoeuvres – in particular when to challenge the on-field umpire’s calls and refer to the video replays, Hawkeye projections, HotSpot thermal imaging and Snicko’s sound analysis. Football too endures an ongoing debate about the use (or to be precise, the non-use) of video or goal-line technology, with the powers that be reckoning that it would change the game irrevocably and that they value the human nature of the game (though the administrators of football are not exactly the believable types.) The World Cup final in 2006 had a similar controversy when referee Horacio Elizonda sent off Zinedine Zidane for his headbutt to Marco Materazzi, with the suggestion being that he had the information whispered in his ear by someone upstairs rather than seeing it with his own eyes. The fact that the correct decision was reached though seems to last longer in the memory than how the decision was reached.
Rugby, to be fair, has dealt well with the introduction of technology, be it in the citing or the generally prudent use of try and drop goal decisions, but we feel on Sunday that Tommy Bowe was cruelly and incorrectly denied.