Technology is the best and the worst thing for referees

Brett McKay Columnist

165 Have your say

    The thing about consistency, so the grand old saying goes, is that you have to do it all the time.

    And while the introduction of video technology into the various professional levels of the game has allowed referees, assistant referees, television match officials, and even judiciary officers a greater ability to make the game safer from foul play perspective, the use of video technology in such a focussed way has also allowed a whole new level of scrutiny on these same officials and their decisions.

    Someone watching the game at home now has access to replay technology down the frame, and all in high-definition. All conversations and decision processes between the on-field referees and his assistants are clearly audible, as are any ‘check-check’ interjections from the TMO.

    So while things are being picked up in games to a degree never previously used, that same technology allows the home viewer – equipped with their social media platform of choice and the Laws of the Game – a voice on how the game if being officiated to all new levels as well.

    Indeed, these very pages would enjoy far less traffic is said technology was not in place. Very few of us would study the Laws of the Game to the same extent we didn’t see specific incidents replayed.

    Back at the start of the season, I was somewhat shocked to the see overwhelming agreement to my suggestion that referees handing out cards don’t ruin games, players committing the infringements that earn said cards ruin games. Followed by coaches who issue the instructions, commentators who blow up about the cards, and then the fans who whinge about not getting value for their money.

    At the time, Queensland Reds captain Scott Higginbotham had accepted a three-week ban with an early plea for his crude shoulder charge into the head of Melbourne Rebels lock Matt Philip.

    And when viewed alongside the 2017 examples of Sonny Bill Williams and Sekope Kepu, Higginbotham’s suspension was on par by any measure you’d like to employ.

    I imagined it being a somewhat contentious column when writing it, but the universal response was clear: it was a red card, it didn’t ruin the game, and that same infringement must remain a red card going forward. If we’re going to be consistent about these things, then the cards have to keep coming out until players and coaches (and yes, commentators and fans too) get the message.

    How many times since then, however, have you heard or read or thought, “if Higginbotham got three weeks, why didn’t [insert infringing player here] get the same thing?”

    And this is really to the heart of the matter. It’s not red or yellow cards that ruin games and frustrate everyone, it’s when something was a red or yellow card at one point, but suddenly isn’t the next.

    Consistency of decision-makers will never ruin the game. But inconsistency might.

    On Friday night, I was astounded to see referee Paul Williams rule that Rebels’ winger Jack Maddocks clattering into, and then pulling Higginbotham down from the apex of his jump for the ball ‘was just an aerial contest’, despite Maddocks being well-beaten in the jump and the striking similarities with the Israel Folau charge and yellow card from the third Test against Ireland.

    Williams was on the sideline in Sydney when referee Pascal Gaüzère and TMO Ben Skeen conferred to hand Folau a yellow card just before halftime.

    From the image above, on the left is the contest with Ireland skipper Peter O’Mahony missed by the officials but Folau was later cited and suspended for; the middle image is the yellow card incident, and on the right is Maddocks’ challenge on Higginbotham.

    Given it was only a few weeks since Folau’s incidents, that kind of mid-air collision had to have been fresh in Williams’ mind. It’s just as hard to believe that he didn’t see the obvious similarities as it is that Maddocks wasn’t subsequently cited.

    He’s clearly made contact with Higginbotham in the air and brought him to ground heavily. It’s at least on par with Folau’s yellow card contest and collision.

    And though Williams received praise from commentators and fans at the time, the two Folau decisions and the Maddocks non-decision cannot all be correct.

    Later in the weekend, the headlines screamed ‘Brumbies Robbed’ when refereeing cult-hero Rasta Rasivhenge ruled a Brumbies knock-on from the last attacking play of the match, and not a deliberate knock-down from Chiefs lock Tyler Ardron. Despite the protestations of the Brumbies players, Rasivhenge didn’t refer the incident to TMO Shane McDermott.

    Going back to Angus Gardner’s mid-season explanation of the deliberate knock-down interpretations in play this year, Ardron certainly wasn’t in a position to regather the ball he touched. If the line-break opportunity was there in the eyes of the officials, then it should’ve been a yellow card; if not, then a Brumbies’ penalty at worst.

    The image above shows the similarity of intent to the Jacob Stockdale challenge on a Bernard Foley pass in that same Wallabies-Ireland Test in Sydney, in which referee Gaüzère called on TMO Skeen to check “potential foul play”, but who concluded that no clear and obvious knock-down was visible.

    But why was one referred and the other wasn’t, everyone wanted to know? On the Sky Sport coverage, Tony Johnson was even moved to observe, “Surely that’s a situation worth revisiting”.

    The problem here is that it’s not actually clear if Rasivhenge could have referred it even if he wanted to. The game’s Law book doesn’t exactly help, as Law 9 (Foul Play) doesn’t make mention of intentional knock-downs – which Gaüzère called upon Skeen – and Law 11 (Knock-on or Throw Forward) doesn’t mention use of TMO.

    The January 2018 version of the TMO Global Trial Protocol does, however, make mention under Law 6.15.b.iv that the TMO can be called upon if officials believe “…an infringement may have occurred leading to a try or in preventing a try providing that the potential infringement has occurred no more than two phases (rucks or mauls) … before the ball has been grounded in in-goal.”

    Regardless, Rasivhenge only saw it as a Brumbies knock-on in this case, and therefore had no reason to bring TMO McDermott into the discussion.

    The question then becomes one of whether or not McDermott saw Ardron’s touch on the ball in the minute or so that followed before the scrum was packed, and whether he should have intervened as he is allowed to, under Law 6.15.c: “Any of the match officials, including the TMO, may recommend a review by the TMO…”

    And then it’s a question of when TMO intervention is acceptable and when is it intrusive, a point Geoff Parkes touched on so eloquently yesterday.

    My argument remains the same as was the case back in February. As long as it’s consistent, it doesn’t matter whether it’s acceptable or intrusive. Until players and coaches and commentators and fans know better and react accordingly, it’s all necessary.

    At the end of the day, we want to watch rugby played and officiated well and not a lottery. We should be able to watch a game with confidence that decisions made this week are in line with decisions made last week, last month, or last year.

    Blaming referees for results is always a lazy argument; that’s something I’ve always believed and long stood by. And these are hardly the only contentious decisions from the weekend.

    But the game can also certainly itself by addressing the chronic inconsistencies among its’ match officials, especially given it’s never been easier to spot them.

    Brett McKay
    Brett McKay

    Brett McKay is one of The Roar's good news stories and has been a rugby and cricket expert for the site since July 2009. Brett is an international and Super Rugby commentator for ABC Grandstand radio, has commentated on the Australian Under-20s Championships and National Rugby Championship live stream coverage, and has written for magazines and websites in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and the UK. He tweets from @BMcSport.

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    The Crowd Says (165)

    • Roar Guru

      July 10th 2018 @ 6:06am
      Ken Catchpole's Other Leg said | July 10th 2018 @ 6:06am | ! Report

      Yes McDermott needs to be questioned about his ability to see what all NZ commentators could see enough to comment on.
      Maybe that one view was deceiving and it was a Brumbies knock on. But there was an opportunity to investigate to clear it up. McDermott with a full minute to do his job, did not.

      In contrast in the OZ/Irish Test we have Ben Skeen’s ancient history lesson with Coleman as the villain to deny Izzy a try four phases later.
      Referees are easier to forgive. There is too much going on for one man to see (perhaps a woman would be better at it?)
      TMO’s hidden in their little video box deserve more scrutiny.

      • July 10th 2018 @ 8:04am
        riddler said | July 10th 2018 @ 8:04am | ! Report

        ken i don’t think your idea of more women refs is a bad idea at all.. i know when my boss says i have to do something, i do it..

      • July 10th 2018 @ 5:00pm
        DanFan said | July 10th 2018 @ 5:00pm | ! Report

        I’m not sure whether the TMO has the commentary on in his box. If he does not then he was probably not aware that there was anything amiss about this incident. I didn’t see this game but if the TMOs are only watching but not listening then they will possibly have a different perspective. After all, commentators can be just as wrong with their interpretations and I would hate for them to influence what situstiins TMO does or doesn’t intervene in.

        • Columnist

          July 10th 2018 @ 5:40pm
          Brett McKay said | July 10th 2018 @ 5:40pm | ! Report

          I’d be surprised if they did, Dan. I’d reckon they all just operate in communication links with the on-field team to avoid those very situations…

        • Roar Guru

          July 10th 2018 @ 6:11pm
          Ken Catchpole's Other Leg said | July 10th 2018 @ 6:11pm | ! Report

          You raise an interesting point DanFan. What is the TMO listening to?
          We already know that the whistler is listening to the roar of the home crowd, and all refs, no matter where their origin, are influenced, or distracted, by that noise.
          (And 0n top of that, we already know that almost every ref has a half back in their ear for 80 minutes😉).

          Does the TMO have the same stimuli?
          Well they certainly don’t have the halfback.
          I like the idea that the TMO does not have audio distractions at all, that they are looking purely at vision and listening to the 3 on-field referees.

    • Roar Guru

      July 10th 2018 @ 6:19am
      Harry Jones said | July 10th 2018 @ 6:19am | ! Report

      Thanks, Laidlaw.

      I thought Maddocks got it wrong, under the prevailing rules … Higgers beat him to the zone and the airspace; Maddocks never really a true chance and thus had to opt out …

      (I’m not a huge fan of this protocol, but I accept it because Geoff Parkes has beaten me to the zone, the airspace).

      On the card frequency issue:

      Was wondering about the rise of carding…

      Super Rugby (yellow cards):

      14-team era:

      2006: 36
      2007: 60
      2008: 75
      2009: 63
      2010: 53

      15-team era:

      2011: 64
      2012: 61
      2013: 67

      18-team era:

      2016: 94
      2017: 143

      This year so far:

      2018: 87 yellows

      The RED Card was also at apex in 2017. (14 of them!)

      • July 10th 2018 @ 7:11am
        Carlos the Argie said | July 10th 2018 @ 7:11am | ! Report

        “Don’t confuse me with data (facts)! I already made up my mind!”

        I wondered to myself, and maybe I lost the argument too, why Beale’s try didn’t get a review for forward pass. It clearly merited one.

        The second try against the Jaguares had a similar doubting situation…..

      • Columnist

        July 10th 2018 @ 8:20am
        Geoff Parkes said | July 10th 2018 @ 8:20am | ! Report

        Thanks Harry, nice to interject some facts into the ‘cards are ruining rugby’ argument.
        On these numbers, why is there such an uproar about it at the moment?
        It’s also worth noting that the NH season was largely free of angst – it seems to be a SH issue only.

        Thanks Brett, strong piece. As you’ve outlined, the Maddocks/Higginbotham clash was the most confusing one of the weekend and highlights the inconsistency in interpretation. Not helped, it must be said by Brad Thorn and Higginbotham running the ‘rugby is a tough man’s game’ line afterwards, that they were ok with it all.

        • Roar Guru

          July 10th 2018 @ 8:44pm
          Harry Jones said | July 10th 2018 @ 8:44pm | ! Report


          Yes, it would seem like 2017 was the year when the furore should’ve matched the rise in cards. But I’ve noticed that in many realms (including politics): we humans often have a time lag delay on complaints. 2018 has seen a bit of a decline in cards in SR. I might look at Top 14 and Aviva …

      • Columnist

        July 10th 2018 @ 9:14am
        Brett McKay said | July 10th 2018 @ 9:14am | ! Report

        Red cards have been a funny one this year Harry – all up, I think we’re up near 10 or 12 for the year now, but after Higginbotham’s in Round 2, there wasn’t another one for more than two months from memory. And I think it’s been 2-per-round/three-per-fortnight ever since…

        Also, on the spike in YCs last year, I’m sure that can be put down to the change in high tackle interpretations; I know it took a good while for the adjustments to be made after the initial flurry of cards..

        • Roar Rookie

          July 10th 2018 @ 9:39am
          Paulo said | July 10th 2018 @ 9:39am | ! Report

          Facts and figures eh? There will still be a lot of “nothing you can say will change my mind” people. Or people who don’t see the logical inconsistencies in they stand points.

          TJ got ripped to shreds on here weeks ago for talking with the ref and getting him to review a decision which was subsequently overturned. He was the captain and had every right to do this, people conplained about the enthusiasm in which he was asked. Then will criticise Hooper for not asking enough questions and being too meek. And then don’t say a word when in the Brumbies game, Pocock is in the Refs eat all game when CLL was captain. If you take exception to one thing, be consistent and take exception every time.

          Your points about being outraged only when it suits their personal prerogatives is sound and if we all took a step back in reflection we would see we all do it. Myself included, although being aware of it, I try to stay balanced and recognised my own Red and Black bias (Go the Crusaders).

          I like the total cards summary, what were the card rates, as obviously we have seen an increase in cards with Como expansions, but given more games would be played, how significant has the card per game rate changed? My thoughts are this is more perception than reality (all be it last year will be an outlier due to high tackle changes).

          • Roar Rookie

            July 10th 2018 @ 2:57pm
            Sage said | July 10th 2018 @ 2:57pm | ! Report

            As you say Paulo, “personal prerogatives”. From where I sat, TJ was rudely yelling at the ref which to many displays total disrespect. Way over the top, captain or not. If a player is respectfully speaking rather than yelling at the ref, that is different. If the player isn’t the captain but is a forward and the captain is out in the backline for instance, if that senior player respectfully speaks to the ref then no problem. And yes, if a captain has a poor relationship with the ref/s or is too meek then yes, criticism of that approach is warranted.
            It’s not the cards, it’s the random way in which decisions are being reached as Brett points out that is creating so much frustration. There is no doubt in my mind it is driving people away from the game. To go from a Folau penalty, then yellow then siting compared to what happened to Higgers just doesn’t make any sense.

          • Roar Pro

            July 11th 2018 @ 3:58pm
            Melburnian said | July 11th 2018 @ 3:58pm | ! Report

            Paulo, I don’t disagree with anything you’ve said here. I would make the point that there is, to my mind, too much familiarity between elite players and referees these days. Watching the NH comp’s where officials are on first name terms with players is just plain wrong. TJ is a brilliant halfback and as such a complete pest and that means he’s doing his job right. The issue as I see it is too much familiarity with a relatively inexperienced referee (and that’s the majority of SANZAAR officials at the present time) calls into question the integrity of the officials in the minds of some players and many supporters. Back in the day, if a halfback spoke to the referee in the manner TJ does he’d have been given his marching orders. The implications for community rugby are that up and coming officials will be given a right royal working over by more senior players because of what the latter see on TV.

        • Roar Guru

          July 10th 2018 @ 11:00am
          Machooka said | July 10th 2018 @ 11:00am | ! Report

          Brett… your last para is on da money.

        • Roar Guru

          July 10th 2018 @ 8:45pm
          Harry Jones said | July 10th 2018 @ 8:45pm | ! Report


          I’m sure that’s right (2017 causation), but also the “intentional knock-on” was more harshly pinged.

      • Roar Guru

        July 10th 2018 @ 2:23am
        PeterK said | July 10th 2018 @ 2:23am | ! Report

        lets look at the rates of yellow cards per game then

        2012 – 125 games , 61 yc’s, 1 yc per 2.05 games.
        2013 – 125 games , 67 yc’s. 1 yc per 1.87 games

        2016 – 142 games , 94 yc’s. 1 yc per 1.51 games.
        2017 – 142 games , 143 yc’s. 1 yc per 0.99 games.

        2018 – 113 games 87 yc’s. 1 yc per 1.3 games.

        So per game there have been more yc’s except for 2017.

        • July 10th 2018 @ 1:08pm
          mick said | July 10th 2018 @ 1:08pm | ! Report

          Yea, I’m not sure how any of the above folk read those figures as being anything other than a gradual increase in the number of cards.

        • Roar Guru

          July 10th 2018 @ 8:47pm
          Harry Jones said | July 10th 2018 @ 8:47pm | ! Report

          Thanks PeterK.

          It’ll be interesting to see if 2019 has a continued slow decline in YC. Coaches have time to teach …

          • July 10th 2018 @ 9:22pm
            aussikiwi said | July 10th 2018 @ 9:22pm | ! Report

            Its not really a slow decline at all Harry. Its a steady increase with 2017 being an anomolously high year within that trend.

            • Roar Guru

              July 10th 2018 @ 11:10pm
              Harry Jones said | July 10th 2018 @ 11:10pm | ! Report

              Yes, over a decade, it’s a steep RISE in YC in SR.

              I was only pointing out that we will know after the 2019 season whether 2017 was the high point, and whether the slow decline of 2018 continues or if that is the “new normal.”

      • Roar Guru

        July 11th 2018 @ 8:17am
        Harry Jones said | July 11th 2018 @ 8:17am | ! Report

    • July 10th 2018 @ 7:45am
      Onside said | July 10th 2018 @ 7:45am | ! Report

      Technology in professional sport is essential because there are millions of dollars ,
      especially gambling dollars, riding on a decision.

      It wasn’t so long ago that Olympic swimming and track sprint races were decided
      by eight people holding eight individual stop watches .

      There are instances of Gold medal winners who should of been awarded Silver.

      These days medals are decided by times like 2 /100th of a second, a time that no
      human being can measure.

      How many 100ths of a second does it take to press the button on a stopwatch ?

      The time will come when referees of professional sport are replaced by robots.

      • Roar Guru

        July 11th 2018 @ 3:14am
        taylorman said | July 11th 2018 @ 3:14am | ! Report

        Robots still have to be programmed by humans so surely there can be no possible chance of error or bias there. And if you believe that then the next leg of pork flies out at 6pm.😁

      • Roar Pro

        July 11th 2018 @ 4:00pm
        Melburnian said | July 11th 2018 @ 4:00pm | ! Report

        Onside – you could equally argue that players in professional sport could be replaced by robots. It’s human endeavour but its not life and death. If all the decisions were right there’d be nothing to debate and what would we talk about down the pub?

    • Roar Guru

      July 10th 2018 @ 7:53am
      Machooka said | July 10th 2018 @ 7:53am | ! Report

      Good read Brett… and I could feel the angst in your writing.

      In all seriousness there will never be a solution to this issue… as there’s too many humans involved to make opinion on the spot. It’s just the way it is.

      And it’s further magnified these days due to improved technology… let alone social bloody media, where everyone has a voice ’cause I’ve got rights!

      The positive is… it makes great ‘pub talk’ 😉

      • Roar Rookie

        July 10th 2018 @ 8:38am
        Paul D said | July 10th 2018 @ 8:38am | ! Report

        “The positive is… it makes great ‘pub talk’ “

        It’s funny how despite the change in scrutiny at the sideline, the level of scrutiny in the pub remains the same, albeit perhaps more informed.

        No matter the degree of technological evidence, both sides will continue to see things differently.

        • Roar Guru

          July 10th 2018 @ 10:53am
          Machooka said | July 10th 2018 @ 10:53am | ! Report

          ‘No matter the degree of technological evidence, both sides will continue to see things differently.’

          This is key Paul D… as perspective is very much in the eye of the beholder. And it takes a very neutral stance to see things without any bias, or passion to otherwise cloud this perspective. Our game is a game where bias and passion go hand in hand, where the difference of opinion will always come to the fore.

          My only butch is these situations usually only occur in games of significance… but I maybe wrong. 🙂

          Regardless, I’m somewhat of a traditionalist, and even though I’ve previously written about this topic suggesting change, I’d prefer that things stay (with the odd positive tweak) the way there’ve been for many years.

          Hence, cards will be dealt, and as a consequence, you sometimes get a bad hand! 😉

      • July 10th 2018 @ 10:45am
        Muzzo said | July 10th 2018 @ 10:45am | ! Report

        Pub talk Chook??? Mate you drink SFA if you yap to much, whilst in the pub Bro!! Lol.

        • Roar Guru

          July 10th 2018 @ 10:57am
          Machooka said | July 10th 2018 @ 10:57am | ! Report

          No Muzzo… from experience it’s you that yaps the yap while I just sit there driven to drink! 🙂

          • July 10th 2018 @ 11:00am
            Muzzo said | July 10th 2018 @ 11:00am | ! Report

            Lol, Chook, I do on occasions, like to pump the ale down the gullet, especially during good drinking weather. Cheers.

    • July 10th 2018 @ 8:14am
      Aussikiwi said | July 10th 2018 @ 8:14am | ! Report

      “I imagined it being a somewhat contentious column when writing it, but the universal response was clear: it was a red card, it didn’t ruin the game, and that same infringement must remain a red card going forward.”

      Disagree with this premise. There have been numerous articles and comments seeking modification of the current system, this season and even last season, because of the effect of red cards on the game. Hansen and Gibson amongst others have suggested we should look for better processes I believe.

      Because of technology and stricter application of the laws, there are more cards than ever before. We can all be pure and say it is the player’s fault, but often red cards arise from split second misjudgements.

      The game is about a contest, and the red card (usually) deprives fans of that. If the card occurs in the first two minutes of the game, in most cases its game over. If the same (or worse) infringement occurs in the last two minutes, the offending team receives virtually no penalty. How is that fair?

      • Columnist

        July 10th 2018 @ 8:26am
        Geoff Parkes said | July 10th 2018 @ 8:26am | ! Report

        “The game is about a contest, and the red card (usually) deprives fans of that”

        Yes ak, the game is about a contest, but more than that, it is about a contest within the rules/laws of that contest. With appropriate sanctions for not playing within those rules/laws.

        Check Harry’s post above. There are not more cards than ever before. This whole ‘cards are ruining rugby’ argument is based on a false premise.

        • July 10th 2018 @ 8:40am
          ForwardsWinMatches said | July 10th 2018 @ 8:40am | ! Report

          AK, I agree with a lot of what you say but your last sentence I take issue with because I don’t think fairness comes into it. It’s not the referees fault as to when an infringement occurs. Up until that last few minutes, in your scenario, it was 15 on 15 – that’s fair.

          Geoff, the stats may be misleading. I can’t recall as many cards being issued for the so-called “intentional” knock on and otherwise for some soft penalties. In Rebels v Tahs, Rangi slipped into Foley’s legs and the game stopped for about 3 minutes to check for a dangerous tackle – this is the mindset. A penalty was awarded – for what???The game is turning into a stop-a-thon like gridiron. We could probably argue all day long on the knock down rule but my basic premise is that if you can’t draw and pass then you don’t get rewarded simply because the defender didn’t complete the grab. The defender has actually made a good play by stopping the attack which is, after all, his job! Yet, we are seeing yellow cards and, on occasion, penalty tries. To me, that’s ridiculous.

          • July 10th 2018 @ 9:49am
            Aussikiwi said | July 10th 2018 @ 9:49am | ! Report

            Definitely its not the fault of the referees, FWM. I am just saying that the effect of the red card varies hugely depending on a random factor, being the time at which the infringement occurs.

            There is always going to be some variability/randomness in these things, but a more flexible system of punishments would even it out somewhat.

            • Roar Rookie

              July 10th 2018 @ 2:18am
              Kirky said | July 10th 2018 @ 2:18am | ! Report

              AussiKiwi! ~ Whatever way you look at the Red card issue, ~ If the said card is issued early in the game it’s an unfair contest so that’s ruining the game, and regardless of how many Red cards have been given out in since their inception, the situation hasn’t and won’t be altered, ~ they spoil the game for 14 other players and the Spectators who in most cases have paid enormous prices for a seat at any game!

              Imagine such a scenario at the ”Big One”, the World Cup, after the qualifying and up right to the Final! ~ Doesn’t bear thinking about!

              Liked the quote on Stuff’ NZ website which said that the Red card issued to the Sunwolves player last weekend was ridiculously harsh and when the Australian Commentators agree and opine that at the worst it was only a Yellow ~ coming from Aussie’ Commentators it just doesn’t seem right considering that it’s a departure from the norm for them!

              They also considered that the possibility of Waratah players screaming at the Referee to ”Give him a Red Ref, give him a Red” was a genuine possibility!

          • Columnist

            July 10th 2018 @ 10:12am
            Geoff Parkes said | July 10th 2018 @ 10:12am | ! Report

            Hi FWM, yes I agree on the Rangi/Foley one and covered this off in my column last Monday. A prime example of why fans get annoyed with TMO’s, because this was a clear case of incidental/accidental contact, and it didn’t require any intervention at all.

            On the other hand, nothing I believe worthy of extrapolating into a crisis – more perhaps a TMO slightly unsure (like everyone) of where the line sits as per involvement/non-involvement, and making a judgement call to intervene, and getting this one wrong.

            Re the intentional slap downs, Nick Bishop explained this nicely a couple of weeks ago. This law was brought in to provide ‘cleaner’ ball movement and I agree with him that it helps provide a better spectacle. In the last couple of weeks we’ve seen a number of intercepts made, so the law doesn’t prevent players going for intercepts at all. It also doesn’t penalise players who are genuinely attempting a tackle and who interfere with a pass in doing so.

            Usually these situations arise not because the defender has done a good job to stop the attack, but because he or the defensive line find themselves out of position, and make a desperate or reflex action. Michael Cheika acknowledged exactly this when asked about the penalty against Bernard Foley in the 2nd Test against Ireland.

            • July 10th 2018 @ 1:58pm
              ForwardsWinMatches said | July 10th 2018 @ 1:58pm | ! Report

              Hi Geoff, I read Nick’s article but I disagree with the theory re more ball movement. I want ball movement by players more skilled. From an early age we all learnt how to draw a player and pass – the Tahs were poor at this against the Wolves, but I digress. If you’re an on-side defender facing a 2 on 1 situation, you’ve done your job by preventing the pass from reaching the other attacker. That is a great, try-saving, play by a defender and should not be penalised (penalty try) or carded.

              There seems to be some obsession that scoring more tries makes a better game – if we want to dumb it down, then yes. However some of the most absorbing contests aren’t necessarily try fests.

              • July 11th 2018 @ 9:16am
                Uncle Eric said | July 11th 2018 @ 9:16am | ! Report

                Agreed FWM. A lot of teams (particularly the Aussies) live on the margins with their passing. Beale is a particular case in point and I thought that at least one of the Waratahs tries against the Sunwolves came from a forward pass. Ergo my view is if you throw a pass within reach of a defender, so be it, intercept or no intercept. This wouldn’t phase most other sides overly much as the attacking players seem to get the ball a little behind the game line.

        • July 10th 2018 @ 9:16am
          Daveski said | July 10th 2018 @ 9:16am | ! Report

          I’m inclined to disagree Geoff. In 2017 there were clearly “more cards than ever before”. This has fired up people’s sensitivity towards them. This year there’s been more cards than every other year except 2017 ( though per game / per team not that much more than say the 2011-13 period).

          But I think the cumulative effects of last two years have caused the angst. Plus we didn’t have TMO incursions in 2011-13 though admittedly we did have eager touch judges like Stu Dickinson and James Leckie.

          Also is it me or does the red card more often seem to go against the underdog team? France. Sunwolves. Maybe I am just thinking recent examples. I know SBW is the counter argument to this.

        • July 10th 2018 @ 10:54am
          Muzzo said | July 10th 2018 @ 10:54am | ! Report

          Hi Geoff, but really mate, it does take away the fair contest issue, this card system. As I said, IMO, I do think that replacing the offending player, & let the judiciary sort out his punishment, would be far better. Like, it does take away from the game as being a good competitive contest, with one side, a man or possibly two down, as what happened the other night. Cheers.

          • Columnist

            July 10th 2018 @ 1:26pm
            Geoff Parkes said | July 10th 2018 @ 1:26pm | ! Report

            Hi Muzzo

            I don’t get why the emphasis is on trying to achieve a ‘fair contest’ when the circumstances have only arisen because one of the players has acted unfairly.

            • July 10th 2018 @ 1:46pm
              jameswm said | July 10th 2018 @ 1:46pm | ! Report

              It’s not the red card that spoils the viewing, it’s the illegal act requiring the red card.

            • July 10th 2018 @ 2:00pm
              Fionn said | July 10th 2018 @ 2:00pm | ! Report

              Not always. Lots of cards are given because players have made a mistake, or maybe they’ve done something legitimate (like gone in for a fair tackle) and then the ball-carrier has slipped over or ducked, and thus what would have been a legitimate tackle ends up being high.

              • Columnist

                July 10th 2018 @ 3:19pm
                Geoff Parkes said | July 10th 2018 @ 3:19pm | ! Report

                Is it really “lots” though Fionn?

                How many cards this year have been for the circumstances you describe – an accidental high contact because a player has slipped?

                I’d suggest very few.

              • July 10th 2018 @ 3:52pm
                Fionn said | July 10th 2018 @ 3:52pm | ! Report

                Acting ‘unfairly’ indicates intent, Geoff. I’d suggest in very few circumstances would you be able to prove definitively that a played intended to act unfairly. Indeed, I think you’d struggle to even prove it is likely in a lot of circumstances.

                Most high tackles are caused by players getting technique wrong – very few appear intentional.

                A lot of yellow cards from contests in the air is due more to stupidity than acting unfairly. Often, there are massive discussions about whether the decision was correct.

                In regards to yellow cards generated by intentional knock ons that is a whole other kettle of fish in terms of subjective opinion. Just look at some of the ones that aren’t even considered penalties (e.g. in the Brumbies vs Chiefs).

                As for yellow cards from scrum infringements I don’t even think they should be yellow cards.

        • July 10th 2018 @ 1:57am
          Fionn said | July 10th 2018 @ 1:57am | ! Report

          ‘Check Harry’s post above. There are not more cards than ever before. This whole ‘cards are ruining rugby’ argument is based on a false premise.’

          Not sure that Harry’s data backs up what you’re saying, Geoff. If you want to take a very (very) narrow view of history and look precisely at this year then there are not more cards than ever before. If you want to compare the period post the 2015 WC with the period beforehand then, yes, there are a lot more cards.

          • Roar Guru

            July 10th 2018 @ 12:24pm
            PeterK said | July 10th 2018 @ 12:24pm | ! Report

            on a per game basis there are more yc’s now than any other year except for 2017.

          • July 10th 2018 @ 1:10pm
            mick said | July 10th 2018 @ 1:10pm | ! Report

            Yep. Also aside from rue interpretation changes has SR changed the way that referees are selected?

          • Columnist

            July 10th 2018 @ 1:23pm
            Geoff Parkes said | July 10th 2018 @ 1:23pm | ! Report

            Yes I am talking about this year Fionn. The bleating about it is happening now, because of cards that are being issued now, yet there are fewer than last year and not significantly more than the year before.

            Is the reason for angst a cumulative effect as Daveski suggests? Perhaps. But again, I’d suggest that all of this is nothing that isn’t part and parcel of any sport evolving and making adjustments as cause and effect comes into play, as opposed to claiming that there’s a crisis.

            I’ve got no doubt that WR will catch up with whatever the issue is (there are a few being bundled together here), clarifications will be made with respect to TMO protocols and players will adjust and we’ll all be ok until the next issue presents itself.

            BTW Daveski is also right that the bleating was just as loud every time Stu Dickinson wandered onto the pitch with his flag outstretched. Thankfully the game survived the Dickinson crisis too 🙂

            • July 10th 2018 @ 2:57pm
              Aussikiwi said | July 10th 2018 @ 2:57pm | ! Report

              Given that everyone seems to agree last year was a statistical anomaly, there is a steady upward trend in average cards per match. It’s not a crisis but a lot of very well informed observers (eg Hansen and Gibson) think it is a problem.

              Interesting flashback article here, though dealing with international teams. The number of cards per game was very much lower in these statistics.


            • July 10th 2018 @ 3:57pm
              Fionn said | July 10th 2018 @ 3:57pm | ! Report

              The complaining has been pretty consistent in the last few years, Geoff, it isn’t just this year. But the irritation about it by the fans have been building, ditto with irritation about the TMO. They’ve put up with both for a long time, but the extent to which both have the capacity to slow the game down and ruin the spectacle really is an issue that the sport needs to look at.

              I don’t like the implicit criticism in your comment. The sport clearly has a problem with both cards and technology. The cards were a system created before professionalism and the TMO and were not designed to be given out with anywhere near the frequency that they currently are, and rugby has not got a handle on how best to use the TMO. It is surely by far the worst of all major football codes in terms of utilising the technology available.

            • July 10th 2018 @ 9:24pm
              aussikiwi said | July 10th 2018 @ 9:24pm | ! Report

              Hanson, Gibson and other coaches are “bleaters”?

      • Roar Pro

        July 11th 2018 @ 4:10pm
        Melburnian said | July 11th 2018 @ 4:10pm | ! Report

        Technically, its not stricter application of the laws but of the game management guidelines. Law 9.17 and 9.18, that refer to tackling a player in the air and tip tackles, are only sanctioned by a PK. Its WR’s guidelines that mandate a logic flow around points of contact with the ground and leads to a YC or RC. If WR change these, and there is no reason why they can’t be different at community level to professional level other than consistency, then the whole tip tackle or contact in the air / RC issue goes away … until someone get’s their neck broken of course.

    • Roar Guru

      July 10th 2018 @ 8:31am
      rebel said | July 10th 2018 @ 8:31am | ! Report

      The thing with consistancy is it isn’t consistant.
      Players and coaches aren’t consistant week to week and neither are fans opinions. For example, I was happy with the Higgers-Maddocks chalenge, but many aren’t. I don’t believe he made a second play at the man like the Folau instances. A very minor tweak to Folaus technique eliminates this.
      Second example is Reads challenge in the Lions series, some wanted him penalised for charging the lifted Lions player in the last test. A lot of those same people wanted lifting banned when Issy was carded.
      Third example was in the third Irish-Wallabies test, our impartial commentator Phil Kearns wanted a penalty for the Irish winger tackling Beale off the ball which was “exactly” like the Coleman tackle in the first match. Although there could be claims for a penalty, the two instances were clearly different in both intent and execution. Coleman followed through with the tackle whereas the Irish winger, known he was beaten by the decoy, turned to follow the ball but was too late and checked Beale.
      We often see one set of fans defend something one week, then condemn it the next when it goes against their team, or even a team they don’t follow but want to lose. This is pretty much universal across every team in every country in every code.
      Rugby, like most sports, has always been an inconsistant game, swings and round abouts creating water cooler talk. I for one would like to see the TMO involvement reduced to dangerous foul play and 2 captains challenges per team per match. I can live with a decision made live that would have taken a slow motion replay to overturn, such as the Ardron touch. Thing is many others can’t and thats part of where there is no consistancy.
      Yes we need the officials to strive for more consistancy, but we have to understand this is near on impossible due to the shear nature of different opinions.

      • Roar Rookie

        July 10th 2018 @ 9:43am
        Boomeranga said | July 10th 2018 @ 9:43am | ! Report

        I agree with what you say but would add:

        1. Your second example could be just as accurately written as ‘some wanted Read’s collision to be ignored while simultaneously wanting Folau’s contest to be a red card and a ban.”

        2. We all, me included, rage at the inconsistency of other posters not recognizing or remembering when they got the benefit of the swing or roundabout when we could be less inflammatory if we used or remembered our own teams let off or sneaky cheaty move instead. We flame the fire against each other.

        3. I’m not changing until everyone else does first 🙂

        • Roar Guru

          July 10th 2018 @ 1:41am
          rebel said | July 10th 2018 @ 1:41am | ! Report

          1. Agree, but I see Reads more in line with the Maddocks attempt. I also don’t have an issue with most of Issy’s, he is a weapon.
          2. I know my teams benefit from bad calls and also bear the brunt of them. Hense why I try to debate the decisions in isolation. I don’t like to focus on the origins of the players, coaches or officials. I also understand that I, like everyone, am subject to subconcious bias.
          3. I don’t need to change, everyone else does.

          • Roar Guru

            July 10th 2018 @ 12:26pm
            PeterK said | July 10th 2018 @ 12:26pm | ! Report

            the issue is when a so called contest for the ball happens but it is not a genuine contest alah both Reads and Maddocks attempts.

            They both deserved a penalty.

            • Roar Guru

              July 10th 2018 @ 12:43pm
              rebel said | July 10th 2018 @ 12:43pm | ! Report

              I disagree as I believe they were both genuine contests, if they deliberately played the man then I agree. Penalties shouldn’t be given because someone did it better.
              However I do know where you are coming from as I have seen players flood the space without there being a geuine attempt, despite trying to make it appear as if there was. I just don’t think that was the case in these two instances.
              This just shows that people have different opinions and decisions are open to interpretation. One persons consistency isanother persons inconsistency.

              • Roar Guru

                July 10th 2018 @ 12:47pm
                PeterK said | July 10th 2018 @ 12:47pm | ! Report

                not a genuine attempt when the hand makes no contact with the ball (not even close).

                Too often a player is beaten by the jumper in the air and they then jump up to smash the player with their body to make them knock on knowing they can’t catch the ball. That is not the spirit of the contest in the air IMO.

              • Roar Guru

                July 10th 2018 @ 1:02pm
                rebel said | July 10th 2018 @ 1:02pm | ! Report

                Again, disagree, you are judging on one player doing something better than the other. Maddocks was out jumped. He didn’t realise until he was already in the air and beaten to the ball, he didn’t then jump again to smash Higgers. However if he dropped his hands and shouldered Higgers then fair enough, penalty every time. To me it is a secondary action that I have an issue with, playing the man deliberately.

              • Columnist

                July 10th 2018 @ 5:27pm
                Brett McKay said | July 10th 2018 @ 5:27pm | ! Report

                It’s interesting Rebel, because I agree they were all genuine contests, and neither do I believe that either Folau and Maddocks played the man in the air with any intent to harm.

                But they both did play the man in the air, and in Maddocks’ case, should have been penalised accordingly…

            • July 10th 2018 @ 12:46pm
              Jerry said | July 10th 2018 @ 12:46pm | ! Report

              How was Read’s not a genuine contest?

              • Roar Guru

                July 10th 2018 @ 12:49pm
                PeterK said | July 10th 2018 @ 12:49pm | ! Report

                I may be remembering the wrong one.

                The one I am thinking about is when he jumps in the catcher already in the air, no chance of touching the ball with the main intent to try and cause a knock on.

                If there is no chance of catching the ball it is not a genuine contest.

                Happy to accept I have the wrong one since it was a long while ago.

              • July 10th 2018 @ 12:56pm
                Jerry said | July 10th 2018 @ 12:56pm | ! Report

                Yeah, I think you might be. He only missed tapping the ball back by about 5cm on the one in the 3rd test which lead to the Poite change of mind incident.

              • Roar Guru

                July 10th 2018 @ 2:00pm
                John R said | July 10th 2018 @ 2:00pm | ! Report

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