Tommy Bowe was denied what seemed an inevitable try by some stout defending by Scotland’s Graeme Morrison from a crossfield kick by Jonny Sexton which almost caught the Scottish defence napping. As he took the ball, it look as it if was harder to score than not to and eventually he did wrestle the ball into contact with the ground. In the now time honoured fashion the Telly Ref was summoned. There can not have been a tournament with more references to the third umpire than this Championship.
The replay showed Bowe, over the whitewash but with his arms wrapped up around his shoulders. By the time he extricated himself from Morrison’s bearhug embrace to ground the ball, it did seem somewhat silly and that a try shouldn’t be given seemed a fair call. It denied Bowe a record 6th try in 4 Championship games.
The Mad Old Laws
Then Scotland were awarded a relieving penalty for the always controversial “double movement.” Rugby is one of the those games where honour and cheating very much go hand in hand and sometimes its one of those games where logic and nonsense work together too.
At the breakdown, the laws, as applied by the referee have a certain rhythm to them – you know if a players gets isolated from his supporters, the opposition have a certain amount of time to get a legitimate steal or force a penalty. You know the tackler is duty bound to release the player and the then tackled player is then duty bound to release the ball and he has a similar amount of leeway in how long he holds onto the ball to present it for his own teammates. The laws work themselves out de facto, whereas de jure, there is an infringement of some kind nearly every time.
Who asked you to make a bad decision?
Bowe was tackled over the line and never released to play the ball by the tackler. But of course, once in the in goal area and off the field of play, the tackler has no duty to let the oppositon place the ball – i.e. score. So Bowe was held up, over the line and unable to ground the ball. And yet the Telly Ref finds that it is his duty to tell the pernickity Chris Pollock that it should be a Scotland penalty. Tommy Bowe was held up over the line – so clearly it’s a five yard attacking scrum.
There’s a lot wrong with that. Ireland have lost their last two Championship matches to Wales on the basis of poor calls. The Ferris one is completely forgiveable because as big a gobshite as Barnes seems whenever he opens his mouth, he is human and gets to see the incident once in realtime and thats it. The more obvious technical infringement in Cardiff last year sticks in the craw a bit more. The Tommy Bowe incident will be consigned to the dustbin of history (bar this rant!) in the course of a comfortable four try win over Scotland. But it doesn’t change what happened.
The Mole went on record before the World Cup of praising ref George Clancy for accepting the advice of his TMO who asked if he’d like some “more information” about a massive forward pass in the build up to a Kiwi try in the TriNations. On the other hand, Saturday’s Telly Ref told Chris Pollock, “so it should be a penalty Scotland” for a “double movement”. Pollock, acted on the advice of a guy with a TV screen giving him every angle available on an event that took everyone by surprise and happened on the opposite side of the screen to him.
It’s not the TMO’s job to adjudicate on the match, only to answer the questions put to him by the ref. Unfortunately Pollock seemed to slip out of radio contact in the 2nd half so it’s unclear exactly what he asked, but ultimately, Telly Ref might as well get those questions right if he’s going to voice his opinion not just on what happened but what the call is. Imagine if that had happened after 65 minutes in Paris last week? Or after 65 minutes in a super-tense game next week? Incorrect split-second calls by refs will always be a part of the game, but if you’re going to sit there with a load of cameras, slowing up the game to make sure you “get the big decisions right”, you really should get them right.