The last two minutes of the Waratahs vs Sharks match have generated more than their share of controversy. First of all, in the 78th minute, faced with a two on one overlap, Kurtley Beale either failed in an intercept, or cynically knocked the ball on (depending on your point of view). You can see it in the video below.
The argument from Sharks supporters and Tah detractors is that this was a professional foul that stopped a probable try, and as Paul “Skid” Marks acknowledged it as such with a penalty and yellow card, the Sharks were robbed of victory via a penalty try.
First of all, I don’t even believe it was a penalty, much less a yellow card. The letter of the law states:
Rule 12.1 (e) Intentional knock or throw forward. A player must not intentionally knock the ball forward with hand or arm, nor throw forward. Sanction: Penalty kick. A penalty try must be awarded if the offence prevents a try that would probably otherwise have been scored.
The key word here is intention to knock on. What is quite clear is that Beale intended to attempt an intercept – as the last man in the line and a 2 on 1, why wouldn’t he? I say it’s clear because in the slow motion replay you can see him watch the ball out of Terblanche’s hands, hit it in an upwards motion, and then follow it and flail at it in an unsuccessful attempt to regather.
In the classic knock down attempt, the perpetrator simply wraps his body around the passing side of the all carrier and hits downwards (we’ve all done it in touch rugby). If you want an example, see the “hand of Campo” incident in the 1991 RWC final, or indeed Will Chambers against the Chiefs on the weekend (that went unpenalised).
So it wasn’t a deliberate knock on. But even if it had been, I still don’t believe this was a cut and dried penalty try. Penalty tries are by convention awarded from 5m out or less, because it is only from this range that you can be certain of what would most likely have happened. Terblanche threw his pass while at top speed on the 30m line. I can’t remember the last time I saw a penalty try given from that range out in a Super 14 or International match. On top of this, watch his intended receiver Kankowski, who I believe has overrun Stefan’s pass. Who is to say he would have caught the ball at all
The second howl of disgust came when, in the 80th minute, the Sharks had an attacking line-out on the Tahs 5m line penalised for obstruction. What you will notice in the slow motion replay that we have created for you above, is that the Sharks number 3, Jannie Du Plessis, after lifting the number 2 jumper, immediately moves in front of that jumper as the maul forms.
The only way to legally stop a rolling maul is to tackle the ball carrier just after they have returned to ground, technically before the maul as formed. Du Plessis knew that by obstructing anyone from tackling the jumper, an unstoppable rolling maul could be formed. Not only was this therefore a correct (and ballsy) decision by Marks, it was also a part of the game that South African refereeing supremo Andre Watson had highlighted for more attention just last week in this article.
a. Is well refereed in general play but
b. Needs attention at kick off and
c. At the formation of mauls at line out.
Skiddo has copped some flak on his referreeing of this match, but with the above in mind, I believe he actually had a pretty good game (minus his penalty on KB). For sure, it wasn’t he who lost this game for the Sharks.