‘Penalty wasn’t clear and obvious’

Former Test referee Jonathan Kaplan has sympathised with Craig Joubert, who he says had a difficult decision to make in real time during Sunday’s quarter-final.

Joubert has faced a widespread backlash after awarding a last-minute penalty to the Wallabies, which was duly converted by flyhalf Bernard Foley to clinch a one-point win over Scotland. 

Kaplan said the decision to award the penalty would remain a point of debate depending on how one viewed the incident in question, but did question why Joubert opted to award a penalty if it wasn’t ‘clear and obvious’.

‘Joubert blew for Scottish prop Jon Welsh being offside ahead of the last “Scotsman” to play the ball, Josh Strauss. What happened between these two acts is what seems to have incensed a large portion of the Scottish rugby public and perhaps the neutrals looking for the upset,’ he wrote on RatetheRef.co.za.

‘If the ball touches a player [Nick Phipps] and he doesn’t play it, it is not enough for the sanction of a penalty to change. And so, this whole review revolves around whether you think Phipps intentionally played/touched the ball, when trying to catch it, or whether it merely bounced off him.

'This is the crux of the matter. Did Phipps get a hand to the ball, or did he get a finger on it? There are people on both sides of the fence, and those still sitting on that fence. This is not a luxury that Joubert had at his disposal. He had to make a decision in real time. It is not an easy decision, even in slomo.’

However, Kaplan suggested Joubert should have erred on the side of caution if he was in doubt.

‘The only thing I will say is that generally referees are told to only blow for the clear and obvious and in this particular case I would hazard a guess that there could have been doubt.’

Kaplan refused to speculate on why Joubert hurried from the field at the final whistle, but did admit that the decision to yellow-card wing Sean Maitland early in the second half for a deliberate knock-on was ‘harsh’.

Kaplan concluded by reiterating his concern that the laws of the game were too complex, while advocating the introduction of a ‘captain’s challenge’ system.

Kaplan’s full column

World Rugby: Joubert decison 'incorrect'

Photo: Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

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Craig Lewis