Lachie Turner of Australia scores a try against the Barbarians at Twickenham and James O'Connor prepares to take the conversion. He does his ritualistic things and suddenly Peter Stringer arrives and makes off with the ball. The referee gives his stamp of approval and blows the whistle for half-time.
The commentator also gives his stamp of approval announcing that O'Connor had taken too long and that Stringer "knew the law".
***(See the video clip of the incident, below!)***
Did he? Did the commentator? Did the referee?
Let's start at the law because 'Stringer knew the law'.
It's all in Law 9 Method of Scoring.
Law 9.B CONVERSION KICK
Law 9.B.3 THE OPPOSING TEAM
(a) All players of the opposing team must retire to their goal-line and must not overstep that line until the kicker begins the approach to kick or starts to kick. When the kicker does this, they may charge or jump to prevent a goal but must not be physically supported by other players in these actions.
Sanction: (a)-(c) If the opposing team infringes but the kick is successful, the goal stands. If the kick is unsuccessful, the kicker may take another kick and the opposing team is not allowed to charge.
'until the kicker begins to approach to kick or starts to kick'
A kick is done with the foot, not the hand, arm, head or mouth - with the foot. The approaching is about getting his foot moving to kick the ball. It's not about moving his head or wiping off sweat or bringing his hands into a prayerful position or putting out a hand to assure direction. It's not about placing and settling his feet. It's about moving his feet for the purpose of kicking, which means that even a step backwards can be a part of an approach - a movement to kick the ball.
If a player places the ball and stands next to the ball and then swings a foot back to start to kick the team is allowed to charge. He has started to kick.
What O'Connor did was not an approach to kick.
Stringer was wrong, the commentator was wrong and the referee was wrong.
Stringer should have been sent back to his goal-line, the Barbarians' right to charge should have been cancelled and O'Connor should have been allowed to kick.
The business of taking too long did not give Stringer the right to charge. The length of time taken for a kick at goal is the referee's affair.
This happened at the Rugby World Cup when Jean de Villiers charged early. Unlike Stringer, De Villiers left the ball and went embarrassed away. But then, too, there should have been a rekick.
See the clip here:
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