Former Test referee Jonathan Kaplan says TMO Marius Jonker should have allowed England’s potentially match-winning try against the All Blacks to stand.
In a tight encounter at Twickenham, the All Blacks were leading 16-15 when, in the 76th minute, scrumhalf TJ Perenara’s box kick was charged down by England lock Courtney Lawes. Flank Sam Underhill gathered the ball and sprinted clear to score.
However, Jonker advised referee Jérôme Garcès to rule out the try due to Lawes being offside at the ruck.
In a column for the Telegraph, Kaplan wrote that he felt the try should have stood.
‘I was surprised TMO Marius Jonker penalised Courtney Lawes for offside ahead of his charge-down, and although I concede it is a close call I do not agree with his decision.
‘When looking at the incident we first need to work out whether there was an offside line. In previous years, as no English player was bound, there wouldn’t have been. But that law was changed in the wake of England’s “no ruck” game with Italy, and law 14.10 states that any player over the ball constitutes an offside line.
‘What that means is that Lawes had to get onside and then be behind the hindmost body part of the tackle as there is no ruck.
‘Lawes clearly retires behind and in line with the rest of his teammates before he strays marginally in front of them.
‘However, the crux of the matter is whether the ball is out or not. If you watch the footage again you will see scrumhalf TJ Perenara had his hands on the ball for some time before lifting it. That is crucial. To my mind, if the ball is no longer in the ruck and is not covered at all by other players – something I assessed by asking myself whether a bird could s**t on it from above – then it is out and available for all to play.
‘Further illustrating the point, by touching it Perenara ensured it was fair game for anyone else to make a move, not least Lawes. The offside line is not relevant now, which to my mind makes this a fair try.’