10 Apr

Let's Play Catch the Penalty and Hide-the-Ball
by Paul Waite
10 Apr 2001

There are two things which have been eating me during this Super 12, though one of them started a while before.

When John Eales first jumped up and palmed the ball to prevent a penalty from scoring, he started a trend. Presumably it isn’t against the Laws, since nobody has done anything about it, but is it within the Spirit of the Game?

I think not.

Consider it. A team has fouled and been penalised. The referee has awarded a penalty kick, which is a chance to score from a place-kick in recompense for their opponents’ foul. Players from the team which has committed the said foul are constrained by the rules from moving for the duration of the kick (although this point mustn’t be spelled out in the Lawbook in black and white terms).

The whole idea, it seems to me, is that the team which has been fouled against is being given the chance to score three points, limited ONLY by whether the kicker can kick the goal. It’s up to the offenders to watch it, and take the consequences of their actions.

The very idea that the offending team can actively impede the course of rugby justice in this way is an afront to the intent of the Laws in my view, and the act of smacking a penalty kick away like that is nothing less than blatant cheating.

I mean what next? Maybe we’ll see the team shaking the posts so they bend inside the path of the ball. Or how about lobbing a handy bottle at it in mid-flight to knock it off track? I know! Get the lads to form a human pyramid, then the top man jumps at it as it goes past.

Bloody ridiculous, cheating gits.

Has anyone else noticed the trend for tackled players to pop the ball back under their bodies and between their legs to recycle it more securely this season?

It used to happen every so often, more by happenstance than anything else, but it’s become such a common sight that it has to be a deliberate coaching ploy.

Good idea, but it’s also cheating, and referees ought to wake up to the fact.

Imagine I had the ball and got tackled. I go to ground on my side, and hands reach in from the opposing side to snaffle it. Being anxious to protect posession I shove both hands out and hold them over the ball and block the would-be snafflers. This is blatant obstruction, and such cheating would be quickly rewarded with a penalty against me.

This inelegant business that we see right now of players going down and deliberately lying all over the ball, then shoving it eventually back through their legs is exactly the same trick, using the torso as the obstruction.

Wakey wakey referees; easy possession kills the game in the long run.

Paul Waite

Paul Waite

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