Should Bernard Foley’s try for Australia against Ireland have been allowed?

REALISTICALLY, IT DIDN’T have an effect on the final outcome of the game, but the try awarded to Bernard Foley during Ireland’s win over Australia yesterday evening caused a degree of consternation both in the stadium and for those watching on television.

Was it not clearly a forward pass from scrum-half Nick Phipps to Foley? That certainly appeared to be the case to the vast majority, although television match official Eric Guazins disagreed.

Referee Glen Jackson stops play to review the incident above, walking towards assistant referee Mike Frazer and saying, “I’ll just ask the second question there,” presumably meaning he will ask Guazins to check the grounding of the ball from Foley.

Frazer suggests that Jackson “just have a quick look in the lead-up to it,” clearly referring to a potential forward pass from Phipps to Foley.

Next, Ireland flanker Peter O’Mahony approaches Jackson and says, “You’re checking it’s forward, yeah?” Jackson replies “No, I’m happy with that, so…” as he begins his hand signals calling for the TMO.

“Are you there, Eric? … ok, any reason I can’t award a try here please? … Thank you.”

Unfortunately, under a current World Rugby [formerly known as IRB] trial, we are unable to hear what Guazins is saying to Jackson as he goes about reviewing the incident.

As the pass is replayed over the big screen in the stadium, we can hear Jackson saying “I’m happy… with that pass.” The incident is replayed again and Rob Kearney says to Jackson, ” That’s about two yards forward, that is. I think so, yeah.”

“You think so,” laughs Jackson in reply, before stating, “No, I’m very happy with that” as an image of Foley grounding the ball flashes up.

Jackson’s next words are “What have you got there, Eric? … Ok, I’m happy, don’t worry about the grounding.”

Jackson then appears to lose communication with Guazins briefly, turning to Frazer and asking, “What’s he saying? Try? Are you saying try?”

Paul O’Connell strides over to let Jackson know “it’s the pass we think is forward, not the…” but the Kiwi referee is already set to award the score: “No, try.” His hand goes straight up and Ireland have conceded five points.

Having initially landed short, it does appear that Foley gets the tip of the ball down on the tryline.

Without knowing exactly how Guazins reasoned the situation, due to that IRB trial whereby the TMO is not heard over the referee link, it’s impossible to argue for or against his case.

We can hypothesise, however.

The main issues here for Guazin in addressing the pass is the fact that Phipps is shunted backwards as he clears the ball away. Simon Zebo’s counter-rucking on Tevita Kuridrani ensures as much.

So in the split second after the ball leaves Phipps’ hands, the Australia scrum-half is sent backwards up the pitch away from Ireland’s tryline, landing at least a metre away from where he initiates his pass.

Perhaps Guazins’ thinking is that Phipps getting knocked backwards in that moment after he releases the pass lends itself to the perception that the ball moves forward through the air. Going on the angles above, it’s a truly difficult call to make.

Our impression at the time and after a number of viewings was that the ball did move forward through the air ever so slightly, but the angle above certainly brings that judgement into question.

Perhaps of more concern is the fact that no one can hear what the TMO is saying to the referee at the moment, even if there is some sense in the pressure being eased somewhat by that measure.

Looking to rugby league, the television match officials actually talk their way through the entire video review as it happens. A fabricated example here might be “Ok, the ball is leaving Phipps’ hands, he’s released the ball flat as he’s tackled… I’m going to take another look at the angle…” and so on.

That system does put pressure on the official, but there is transparency around every decision being made and clear reasoning behind each call. Is it time for union to learn something new from the 13-man code?

What did you think of the awarding of Foley’s try? Should it have been ruled as a forward pass? Were you happy with the grounding? Let us know what you thought and why in the comments section.

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