Clip 4 - 13 April 2017 - Law 8
Before we go to the incident, let's look at the law.
Law 8 Advantage
The Law of advantage takes precedence over most other Laws and its purpose is to make play more continuous with fewer stoppages for infringements. Players are encouraged to play to the whistle despite infringements by their opponents. When the result of an infringement by one team is that their opposing team-may gain an advantage, the referee does not whistle immediately for the infringement.
Law 8.1 ADVANTAGE IN PRACTICE
(a) The referee is sole judge of whether or not a team has gained an advantage. The referee has wide discretion when making decisions.
(b) Advantage can be either territorial or tactical.
(c) Territorial advantage means a gain in ground.
(d) Tactical advantage means freedom for the non-offending team to play the ball as they wish.
The telling bit of law that we must bear in mind states that "the referee is sole judge of whether or not a team has gained an advantage. The referee has wide discretion when making decisions".
So in this we are not deciding right or wrong here. The referee's decision is right, but it is worth looking at what happened in terms of the rest of the law and good old commonsense.
In Melbourne, the Rebels pass to their right near the half-way line. The ball reaches wing Sefa Naivalu of the Rebels, who is tackled by Solomon Alaimalo of the Chiefs a metre or two beyond the Chiefs' 10-metre line. In tackling Naivalu, Alaimalo lifts Naivalu so that his legs are above the horizontal, his upper body below the horizontal. Naivalu's arm, shoulder and possibly head make first contact with the ground. The referee announces that he is playing advantage.
The Rebels go wide left, then back right, then left again till they are near the Chiefs 22 where the referee seems to say that advantage is over. The Rebels are going right again when their flyhalf Jackson Garden-Bachop is tackled about a metre short of the Chiefs 22, where prop Siegfried Fisi'ihoi of the Chiefs wins his side a turnover, and the referee lets play go on. The Chiefs pass to their left and Aaron Cruden is tackled by the Rebels No.8 Amanaki Mafi. Cruden loses the ball forward. Mafi, who has stayed on his feet, picks up the ball and charges forward a metre or two. He is tackled and from a tackle/ruck the Rebels get the ball back to Garden-Bachop who kicks a diagonal to his left. Damian McKenzie of the Chiefs catches the ball about six metres short of his goal-line.
The referee stops play to have a scrum where Cruden had knocked on.
His assistant appears to remind him of the dangerous tackle. With the TMO, they examine the tackle and the upshot is that the referee sends Alaimalo to the sin bin and then has the scrum where Cruden knocked on
Nothing that the referee did was wrong in deciding to play advantage at the dangerous tackle, deciding that advantage was over, playing advantage at the knock-on and in deciding that advantage did not happen and so awarding the scrum.
One can still debate the prudence of the procedure.
Let's ask some questions to get the minds debating?
i. Should one play advantage when there is dangerous foul play? Would it not be prudent to deal with it immediately?
That depends on how the referee sees things and what the temperature of the game is. In this match there appeared no inclination to fight. To have a rule of thumb that says stop early after foul play, would open the door to dishonest people to instigate foul play in order to prevent the opponents from scoring.
That would be horrible, though, in this case, starting to deal with foul play happens well over a minute after the foul play occurred. That could be considered to reduce the impact of the eventual decision.
ii. Was the advantage the Rebels gained worthwhile? In other words would the Rebels not have preferred the penalty?
It would seem that the only thing better than a penalty is a score, and the Rebels did not score.
Having the penalty means the freedom to play as one chooses. Did the Rebels have that freedom/
iii. Was the territory gained a real advantage? The incident happened about 12 metres inside the Chiefs' half. The referee seemed to end the advantage two metres from the Chiefs 22. That would mean a territorial gain of some 15 metres.
iv. Did the Rebels really have the opportunity to play as they wished? It seems that the defenders had them well in hand and kept pressure on them.
v. Should not advantage be at least as good as the sanction against the infringement? If the advantage is for a knock-on, should not the chance for the non-offending side be at least as good as having the scrum? If the sanction is a penalty, should not the advantage gained be at least as good as having the penalty?
If the answer to these two is Yes, then surely this was not advantage, as the Rebels would have been able to kick further than 15 metres and they would have been freer of pressure to choose how they wanted to play.
It's worth thinking about.
vi. Did the Rebels get better advantage from Cruden's knock-on than from Alaimalo's tackle? It could well be the case as they seemed to have greater freedom of choice even if Garden-Bachop's kick was a bad choice.
Many, many years ago an old referee said: "Try to put yourself in the place of the non-offending captain. Ask yourself if you were he, would you want to play on or would you rather have the penalty or the scrum?