Match Reaction #2: Tommy Nooooooooooooooo!

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.

8 thoughts on “Match Reaction #2: Tommy Nooooooooooooooo!

  1. I personally don’t thnk that ‘Fancy Clancy’ is a great ref. I also think the fact they let Rolland ref French games is ridiculous ( I know he can speak french) but his Dad is French, he obviously would support them.
    Also I think refs are allowed too much interpretation. the rules should be a bit more objective and I think maybe there should be an extra official who can intercede when there is a big call, or maybe just give the linesman a bit more power when it comes to scoring tries. Surely the linesman got there to see Bowe’s wrestling macth he should have had the power to intercede and say that he was held up rather than get pinged for holding on.

  2. I don’t see much, if any evidence that Rolland gives an uneven approach to refereeing the French due to his paternal lineage, nor indeed any validity to the claim that he supports them. The most noteworthy incident of course is the Warburton Tip Tackle of course, but even just because that was out of the blue (er… wrong choice of words maybe) didn’t make it an unjustified decision.

    He’s amongst the best referees in the world and I don’t think that doubling the amount of international teams that he cannot referee is a good idea.

  3. I don’t think the length of time the player takes to touch the ball down can have any bearing on the decision. We’ve often seen players cross the line, turn around to face the oncoming defense and wait for them to arrive before cheekily dotting down. Add a defender with his arms wrapped around him and you’ve much the same thing. Bowe didn’t move to cross the line, so there’s no change in field position to get the try and in any case is off the field of play so the tackle rules which clearly didn’t apply to Morrison shouldn’t apply to Bowe either. Perfectly valid try for me and certainly not a penalty for Scotland.

  4. I think the Rolland point is a bit facetious – where do we stop with a referee’s lineage? Lets say Wayne Barnes has a Welsh parent, should he not be allowed to referee Wales (leaving aside the obvious observation that he should not be allowed to referee anyone).

    On a slightly related note. Steve Walsh is an ARU referee now after his penance – can he referee New Zealand? Technically, I suppose he can, but common sense likely prevails…

    • It looks like at worst, it’s on the line. That may have been the interpretation, but it’s by no means clear cut. In any of the other so called double movement decisions I’ve seen, the ball has been grounded twice; before and over/on the line.

    • I watched it a couple more times today. The ball is, to my eyes, very definitely over the plane of the line (i.e. held up over the line) for a sizeable amount of time. It’s only just before Bowe touches it down that it comes back out (if indeed fully at all).

      Without the referee’s side of the conversation, it does obscure what exactly happened, but I hold firmly in my belief that it is the wrong call. If the ball is not over the line, Morrison is obliged to release the tackled player, not pin him to the ground. If the ball is over the line, it’s held up, right?. It’s not a relieving penalty to the opposition either way.

      The Telly Ref seemed to skip the stage where he analysed what actually happened (despite his camera artillery) and focus on the fact that Bowe took a strange amount of time to ground the ball.

  5. “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”

    A classic phrase!!

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