08 Mar 2018
The mark, fair catch, free kick is one of the very oldest modes of play in the rugby game. It is included in the first written laws, back in 1845.
By Paul Dobson, Moonsport
It was a stable activity till the introduction of the free kick for certain lesser infringements at scrum and line-out, and since then the fair catch/mark has changed. But more about that later.
In the match in Christchurch between the Crusaders and the Stormers, Richie Mo'unga, the Crusaders' flyhalf, kicks a long diagonal down into the Stormers' 22.
Raymond Rhule of the Stormers and the racing Seta Tamanivalu have an interest in getting the ball which bounces towards Tamanivalu who fly-kicks the ball infield towards the goal-line where SP Marais, the Stormers fullback, reaches up, catches the ball and claims a mark.
Playing stops momentarily but when no whistle sounds play jerks back into urgent action. The Stormers weather the onslaught.
Law 17 Mark
A means of stopping play within a player’s own 22 by directly catching an opponent’s kick.
Law 17.1 CLAIMING A MARK
To claim a mark, a player must:
Have at least one foot on or behind their own 22-metre line when catching the ball or when landing having caught it in the air; and
Catch the ball directly from an opponent’s kick before it touches the ground or another player; and
Simultaneously call “mark”.
A player may claim a mark even if the ball hits a goal post or crossbar before being caught.
When a mark is called correctly, the referee immediately stops the game and awards a free-kick to the team in possession.
A mark may not be claimed from a kick-off or a restart kick after a score.
But did Tamanivalu kick the ball? Was it a kick that Marais caught?
Kick: An act made by intentionally hitting the ball with any part of the leg or foot, except the heel, from the toe to the knee but not including the knee. A kick must move the ball a visible distance out of the hand, or along the ground.
That definition tells you that what Tamanivalu did was kick the ball; what Marais caught was a ball that had been kicked.
If the ball went through the air from Tamanivalu's foot to Marais it was a kick that could be marked.
That Marais was moving and even jumping does not nullify the possibility of a mark. If Marais was in in-goal when he claimed the mark, it still stands.
Law 17. The free-kick is taken at the following locations:
Within the 22: At the place of the mark but at least five metres from the goal line, in line with the place of the mark.
Within the in-goal: On the five-metre line in line with the place of the mark.
A mark may be made in in-goal. It has been so since 1898!
The only way this could not be a mark was if the ball had touched the ground or Rhule before Marais caught it.
Directly caught: A ball caught without first touching anyone else or the ground.
The mark should have been allowed.