TM Oh dear Posted over 10 years ago

I would be very keen to know the opinions of our subscribers, but in my view the whole TMO process descended into farce at the weekend. It slowed the game down, it undermined referees and it didn’t even get the big decisions correct.

Let’s just focus on the matches in Paris and Cardiff, because they are good examples of the failure of this technology as currently applied. In Paris there was no review of the All Blacks’ crucial try scored by Charles Piutau, even though replays showed the winger was clearly in front of the kicker.

Later in the same game France were hammering away at the line in the 76th minute when the ref asked whether a try had been scored. Touch judge Nigel Owens was in a perfect position to make that ruling yet the officials still sought a third opinion. At the same time the TMO was asked to check for foul play.

The whole process took four minutes. Not only was that a crashing bore for spectators, more importantly it robbed France of momentum. The All Blacks got a breather – not that they necessarily needed it as a superbly fit side – and were able to hang on. France could make a very good case that the length of time needed for the ruling cost them a draw. We will never know.

In Cardiff Fourie du Preez scored a try that should also have been ruled out because Jaque Fourie was in front of the kicker. In rugby league checking for offside after a try is scored from a kick is an absolute fundamental. It is easy to do and has little impact on the game because a natural, and lengthy break in play has already occurred through the ‘try’. So what was going on, or rather not going on at the weekend?

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The second problem in Cardiff, again related to Paris, was a thrilling game being held up for a long search for possible foul play. The touch judge had already seen and referred the incident. But it took so long to locate that South Africa captain Jean de Villiers said, tongue in cheek to the ref, “It’s very tough to find it if there’s nothing.”

There was almost nothing. At a ruck Wales hooker Richard Hibbard was holding down Francois Louw, to stop him defending. Louw responded by twice jamming his forearm into Hibbard’s face – crime and not dangerous punishment. But the footage, shown on the big screen, provoked the Welsh crowd to turn into a baying mob. This in itself influenced the tenor of the match.

Louw was also yellow carded. Were the officials influenced by the angry reaction. Who knows, but it does happen. Martyn Williams observed of the yellow card “the game is going a bit soft” and it was hard to disagree. The whole review took three minutes and incidentally, the penalty was then taken from the wrong place.

It was hard not to think of the comment of Western Province coach Jacques Coetzee who said a couple of months ago, “You rub somebody in the head and they say you punched him.”

These delays are becoming both tedious and influential. Graham Mourie, the head of the Laws Representative Group, said a good while ago, “We have a clear way forward and it is now important that we educate our match officials to ensure excessive recourse to the TMO must be avoided for the sake of continuity.”

It’s not happening, Graham. We are getting players appealing to have other players sent off, as Ali Williams did earlier this season. Crowds are being incited. Refs are being undermined – Nigel Owens even had to borrow a mobile phone last year because the technology had broken down. Games are being slowed down and attacking teams denied momentum. All this, while the really big decisions are being missed or botched, x ref Bismarck du Plessis’s sending off earlier this season.
Rugby league has it about right. Let’s look for grounding and offside and leave it at that. The rest is up to the refs.

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Mark Reason has been a sports journalist for over 25 years. He currently works for Fairfax Media and will also be part of the Telegraph's World Cup team and a regular panellist on Radio New Zealand during the World Cup. He has covered every Rugby World Cup since 1991, the 2000 and 2008 Olympics, over 40 golf major championships, the FA Cup final, the Epsom Derby and a lot of other stuff he can't remember. Mark emigrated to New Zealand in 2010 having spent over 20 years covering sport for the Telegraph and Sunday Times in Britain.

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