When rugby officials get it wrong

March 14, 2011

By James Illingworth

RUGBY-NATIONS/WALES-IRELAND“Unforgivable”, “embarrassing” and “indefensible” are just some of the descriptions of Jonathan Kaplan’s decision to allow Mike Phillips’ try for Wales in their Six Nations defeat of Ireland on Saturday.

But while the South African referee bears the brunt of the media glare in the aftermath of the match at the Millennium Stadium, assistant Peter Allan of Scotland must also take some responsibility.

Could the result have been altered if the pair had referred the decision to the Television Match Official as Ireland captain Brian O’Driscoll suggested? We will never know.

One thing we can be sure of though is that referees can occasionally mess up those big calls, even with the help of the TMO. Here’s a selection:

1. Mike Phillips (Wales) v Ireland – 2011 Six Nations

Irish replacement flyhalf Jonathan Sexton slices a clearance kick into the crowd and his teammates take their time to reorganise for the resulting lineout. In the meantime, Welsh hooker Matthew Rees is passed a new ball and throws a ‘quick’ lineout to Phillips who races into the corner to score.

With a quick lineout only allowed to be taken with the same ball that went into touch, Kaplan asks Allan: “Was the correct ball used?” The answer: “Yes.” Wales win 19-13.

2. Abdel Benazzi (France) v South Africa – 1995 World Cup

South Africa’s World Cup dream should have been washed away in the rain-soaked semi-final in Durban as French number-eight Benazzi slid over after a forward drive. Welsh referee Derek Bevan refused to award a try however and South Africa clung on to claim a 19-15 victory and set up a final against New Zealand. The rest is history.

3. Tim Stimpson (England) v South Africa – 2000 Test series

England were denied a first series win in South Africa after losing this controversial encounter. With the score 15-10 to the Springboks, Stimpson looked certain to claim Mike Catt’s crossfield kick before home captain Andre Vos clattered into the England wing before he could ground the ball. TMO Mark Lawrence awards a knock-on, South Africa won 18-13.

4. Mark Cueto (England) v South Africa – 2007 World Cup final

The ultimate, ‘was it, wasn’t it?’ decision. 9-3 down at the start of the second-half, England wing Cueto dives over in the corner. TMO Stuart Dickinson, after a breakdown in communication with French TV producers, takes an age but eventually disallows the try as Cueto’s foot was in touch. Dickinson claims to be 100% happy with the decision, Cueto remains 100% convinced he scored. South Africa won 15-6.

5. Damien Traille/Frederic Michalak (France) v New Zealand – 2007 World Cup quarter-final

France’s second half comeback against a much fancied All Blacks side has gone down as one of the finest in World Cup history. But it all could have been different had referee Wayne Barnes noticed a blatant forward pass in the build-up to the winning try.

Fullback Traille bursts through the New Zealand midfield and offloads to an on-rushing Michalak. Yannick Jauzion scores but replays show Traille’s offload to have gone forward. France won 20-18.

6. Pierre Lacans/Pierre Berbizier (France) v England – 1981 Five Nations

And finally, proof that sporting history often repeats itself. England clear the ball into the Twickenham crowd while France scrumhalf Berbizier retrieves a different ball from a ball-boy. The quick lineout catches the England defence unawares and flanker Lacans dives over for a try. Sound familiar? France won 16-12 to complete a Grand Slam.

Picture: Wales’ Mike Phillips scores a try against Ireland during their Six Nations rugby union match at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, March 12, 2011. REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth

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