About Refs, Writers, Supporters and TMOs
September 3, 2013 in Rugby Laws
With the new IRB TMO protocols on trial this year one would have hoped that the decisions at try time would be more clear cut and less controversial but that hasn’t been the case as with virtually every match we see TMO decisions that are questioned by coaches, commentators, rugby scribes and rugby supporters alike.
I don’t think there has been a single game in this year’s Currie Cup (and many in Super Rugby) where the losing supporters, and even their coaches, haven’t blamed the ref/TMO for contributing to their loss and this can, in part at least, be attributed to the information conveyed by professional rugby commentators and writers.
This can only mean one of two things, either the TMOs are working to their own rules or the rugby viewing public lack the knowledge of the laws of rugby to appreciate the decisions.
The latest TMO decision to attract a flood of criticism is the decision by Willie Roos that WP’s Damian de Allende illegally prevented a probable try, which resulted in Jaco Peyper awarding a penalty try to the Golden Lions. I discussed the decision in another post, The Lions escaped, and while one can argue whether a “probable try” was prevented, in terms of the laws of rugby there is no doubt that de Allende infringed by coming in from the side and not staying on his feet.
What is disturbing about the flood of comments on web sites and the articles by professional rugby writers is the total lack of knowledge displayed regarding the tackle laws. Gavin Rich of Supersport called it “a marginal call by the TMO, who ruled that Damian de Allende had dived on Lions fullback Marnitz Boshoff” and Simon Borchardt of SA Rugby magazine saying “Roos then told Peyper that De Allende had ‘come in from the side’ and that a penalty try should therefore be awarded. This despite the fact that no ruck had been formed and that De Allende had dived for the ball, not on the player”, both displaying a serious lack of knowledge of Law 15, the law that covers the tackle. Even WP coach Allister Coetzee chirps: “He [de Allende] didn’t do anything wrong”.
We all remember the “forward by a metre” comment by Bobby Skinstadt, ex-professional rugby player turned professional commentator, after Stokkies Hanekom’s try against the Kings (debunked here) and his call for a TMO decision near the Kings tryline even though the IRB protocols don’t allow for it.
The problem with the whole issue is that commentators make statements during a match, which are picked up by rugby writers who should know better and this leads to widespread unhappiness amongst the largely uninformed rugby supporters of the team that’s been “done in” by the referee or TMO.
I can still understand that commentators at a game say things on the spur of the moment where they don’t have time to check the laws but I would expect professional rugby writers to at least check up on the laws before they write articles that erroneously question referee and TMO decisions as all this does is to make the general rugby viewing public even more distrustful of the referees and TMOs.
FFS, there’s a web site called Google that makes it quite easy to find information and, if the printed word is too difficult, there’s a web site called Youtube with easy-to-understand videos on the rugby laws so there is really no excuse for not at least getting the legality of the decisions right even if one then disagrees with specific interpretations.
It is made worse when coaches, who should know the laws better than most, have joined the fray this year and ref bashing by coaches has become the new post match interview tactic. It is disturbing that even now, after the recent TMO decision has been confirmed as correct by two respected and experienced refs, that a coach with the experience of Allister Coetzee would come out and say “And then Damian [de Allende] gets yellow-carded when it wasn’t foul play. He didn’t do anything wrong” and “we should guard against decisions becoming too technical” or Pote Human who says he doesn’t believe Australian lock Rory Arnold is guilty of biting Cheetahs hooker Ethienne Reynecke despite the clear bite mark on Reyneke’s arm after the incident.
Where a ref may let a minor transgression slide when it has no material effect on the run of play and one accept that a ref cannot possibly see every little infringement during a match, the same cannot be said of the TMO.
In fact if a ref has to blow every transgression most games will come to a virtual standstill and will consist of teams trading penalty kicks. However, by the nature of the TMO’s job and the fact that he has slow motion replays available, a TMO must be technical in his decisions and cannot let things slide. Unfortunately these decisions are often way over the heads of the average rugby writer, supporter or even the coaches it seems.
The all round lack of knowledge and resultant ref bashing is spoiling the game and the pleasure of supporters whose team had won. The winning team’s supporters spend their time defending the win, often without enough knowledge to back them up apart from “look at the scoreboard” while the losing team’s supporters question every minute detail of virtually every decision that went against their team during the match.
I’ve decided to do decision reviews on one or two specific decisions each week on my blog and no, it will not be only decisions that affected the Lions. I am not a ref nor a qualified fundi on rugby laws but hopefully one can get some informed discussions going.