There was an incident at a quick throw-in in the match in Melbourne between the Rebels and the Reds that caused eyebrows to shoot up. It is not often at this level of rugby that law is so clearly and obviously violated with impunity.
From inside his 22 Quade Cooper of the Reds kicks the ball towards the touchline on his right. Waiting for the ball, in touch, with bot feet in touch, is Angus Roberts, the Rebels' fullback. He waits in touch and catches the ball, thus making it in touch.
Law `19 Touch and line-out
The ball is in touch when it is not being carried by a player and it touches the touchline or anything or anyone on or beyond the touchline.
The ball is in touch if a player catches the ball and that player has a foot on the touchline or the ground beyond the touchline. If a player has one foot in the field of play and one foot in touch and holds the ball, the ball is in touch.
The ball is clearly and obviously in touch.
It is a long kick and Roberts decides to have a quick throw-in. He runs some three metres into the field and throws the ball to James O'Connor.
According to the commentators the referee and his assistant discuss the matter and the referee calls for play to go on.
At any level of rugby this was a poor decision. At this level of rugby with trained assistants and as in the open as it was, it is a bizarre decision.
Law 19.2 (e) At a quick throw-in, if the player throws the ball in the direction of the opposition’s goal line or if the ball does not travel at least 5 metres to the 5-metre line along or behind the line of touch before it touches the ground or a player, or if the player steps into the field of play when the ball is thrown, then the quick throw-in is disallowed. The opposing team chooses to throw in at either a line-out where the quick throw-in was attempted, or a scrum on the 15-metre line at that place.
It is hard to imagine that the assistant referee died not have a clear view of this as he was running down an uncluttered touchline towards a player who was isolated. The assistant was only 10 metres or so down the touchline. That Roberts ran infield before throwing the ball to O'Connor must have been clear and obvious to the assistant referee.
Law 6 deals with the way match officials are expected to act. It says, for example, what the assistant must do when the ball goes into touch, which it did here.
Law 6.B.5 (c) Signalling touch. When the ball or the ball-carrier has gone into touch, the touch judge or assistant referee must hold up the flag. The touch judge or assistant referee must stand at the place of the throw-in and point to the team entitled to throw in. The touch judge or assistant referee must also signal when the ball or the ball-carrier has gone into touch-in-goal.
The assistant must raise his flag. The law goes on to say when the assistant must lower his flag.
Law 6.B.5 TOUCH JUDGE OR ASSISTANT REFEREE SIGNALS
(d) When to lower the flag.
When the ball is thrown in, the touch judge or assistant referee must lower the flag, with the following exceptions:
Exception 1: When the player throwing in puts any part of either foot in the field of play, the touch judge or assistant referee keeps the flag up.
By that exception the assistant should have kept his flag up when Roberts went into the field of play before taking the quick throw-in. Roberts put both feet well into the field of play.
To act within law, the assistant should have kept his flag up, the referee should have blown his whistle to stop play and the referee should have given the Reds the option of a line-out or a scrum.
You will go a long way to find clearer or more obvious foot fault than this one!