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Law discussion: Similar but different, Part 2

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I was wrong when we discussed the similarities and differences in the treatment of a ball knocked overthrew in-goal boundaries.

By Paul Dobson, Moonsport

In the first instance, Sonny Bill Williams of New Zealand batted a high kick over the dead-ball line. He was penalised and yellow-carded, and France were the recipients of a penalty try.

In the second instance, Kurtley Beale of Australia batted a grubber kick from within the field of play over touch-in-goal. He was penalised and yellow-carded but a penalty try was awarded.

The argument for the penalty try - not a new argument - was that the infringer should be taken out of the equation. If it was then that an opponent would probably have scored a try, a penalty try is awarded.

Now, it seems, this is not the case. The infringer - Williams or Beale - is not to be taken out of the equation but is left in it with a theoretic chance of doing the right thing instead of the wrong action he took.

This surfaced from a discussion by Alain Rolland, World Rugby's referee manager, and some top referees.

On excellent authority, we have learnt that it emerged from the discussion of Willams's action and a subsequent penalty try that the penalty try should not have been awarded.

The reasoning for this was that you cannot remove the player committing the foul from the equation, but only the action of foul play.

Williams' action was regarded as clearly cynical, but he clearly beat the attacker to any probabilities of the try's being scored when the foul play was removed. Therefore only a yellow card should have been awarded.


1. in the 'act of scoring a try' but then an action of foul play prevents that probably try and/or
2. a clear try-scoring probability has been prevented by foul play action (last defender slapping ball down on its way to an unmarked defender wideout),

then a penalty try should be awarded.

It should NOT be awarded when the offender's position in all probability would have prevented the try anyway, as in Williams scenario.

This makes Pascal Gaüzère's decision understandable in the match between Australia and Scotland when he said: "It is clear that he knocked the ball outside the field. It's a PK [penalty kick] and a yellow card. I'm not sure if a try would have been scored because the ball-player [Beale] is the best player to ground it first."

While humble pie is wholesome fare, it does seem strange that laws can be made/interpreted and applied outside of the law-making body's normal way of making, clarifying and promulgating such decisions. And this was a most important decision.

The original discussion: Law discussion: Similar but different advert