Kelvin Deaker: World Cup minnows get no favours from refs

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England scores against Georgia. Photo / Getty Images
England scores against Georgia. Photo / Getty Images

After an engrossing weekend of action, two things stood out for me: I've never seen so many maul turnovers in test matches, and it's true, the smaller teams don't get the rub of the green when it comes to referees.

It was fascinating to see Ireland's tactics at the breakdown against Australia. Their two experienced locks, Paul O'Connell and Donncha O'Callaghan, were very adept at getting a hand or leg over the ball and slowing it up just long enough for their defence to realign, and getting out quick enough so they didn't get penalised.

It was Ireland's ability, though, to turn the tackle into a maul, that was a standout. To a lesser extent England did it against Georgia, but it was the men in green who mastered the art of keeping the ball carrier high in the tackle and not letting them get to ground. That turned the tackle area into a maul and referee Bryce Lawrence was quick to blow it up and award the scrum to the defending team when the maul finally went to ground.

The laws do state if the maul has gone to ground and the ball is not available the ref has to immediately blow it up. However, I still think the official has a duty of care to find the ball or to know where it is before he blows it up.

A couple of times in the England-Georgia game, controlled by Jonathan Kaplan, the maul went to ground, Georgia had taken it in and England were given a scrum despite the fact the ball had been presented immediately by a Georgian player. Kaplan was on the other side of the maul and blew it up as unplayable, when clearly the ball was there to be played.

The risk the referee has is that when the maul goes to ground, a player will dive in or recklessly use his feet and there is a clear mandate to avoid situations where foul play could develop.

The Georgia game in many ways confirmed for me the suspicion that the the minnows just don't get a fair shake. At one stage there was an 8-1 penalty count against England and still it took to the stroke of halftime before Dylan Hartley was sent to the bin. If it had been the other way around, I suspect a couple of Georgians would have been cooling their heels.

There was also the non-try decision against Maurie Fa'asavalu in Samoa's match against Wales. In my opinion, he was perfectly entitled to place that ball wherever he wanted (as long as he does not promote himself forward). That he did so over the tryline was irrelevant. If he'd done exactly the same movement and placed the ball behind him for his halfback, Alain Rolland would never have blown it up.

- NZ Herald

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