“Scrum penalties are for the birds” says ex WP tighthead prop Tank Lanning, who pulls a few clips from the Bok vs France game to explain exactly why.
The scrums in Durban were a mess, with hardly a single completed scrum. Kiwi referee Ben O’Keeffe – as per instruction from World Rugby – was obviously not keen to see the game stagnate in a series of resets. As such, sadly the norm these days, he was quick to showcase that armpit of his, awarding scrum penalties like sweets at a six year old’s party.
And like most refs, he got a good few wrong. Check these out:
As per the clip and pic above, Frans Malherbe is quite clearly the man going in first, which forces loosehead Jefferson Poirot to follow him. Where he not to do that, he would probably be pinged for opting out. Not spotting the first movement from Malherbe, O’Keeffe penalises Poirot for scrumming in.
The next two take a gander at the other side of the scrum. In the first clip, Beast Mtawarira is penalised for collapsing:
And in this clip, French tighthead Rabah Slimani is pinged for not getting his bind:
Can you spot the difference? I certainly cannot. Beast is a massive man, with huge shoulders, wearing a very tight top. Slimani is a whole lot shorter, with much shorter arms. He actually cannot reach the spot on beast’s back that the ref is asking him to bind on. So we are not penalising guys for having short arms?
This not to point a finger at O’Keeffe, who I think is a fine referee with great game management skills, but to point a finger at the system. We are forcing referees to guess out there, and based on a guess, teams are either getting 3 points, or carving off 40m for the lineout drive. How can that possibly be helping the game move in the right direction?
As said plenty times before, scrums see two massive forces collide. Keeping that collision on the same plane is incredibly difficult, especially given the modern day jerseys and lack of binding space. The very basics of physics say that it is then going to go either up or down. Is it really fair to blame a poor baobab tree disguised as a prop for every single force of nature?
Has the time come for every scrum to be refereed by an expert in the TMO box?
To finish, one of the funniest things I have ever seen on a rugby field …
Against the Maori All Blacks, Lions tighthead Tadhg Furlong was pinged for hands in the ruck. Not only did he suffer the indignity of having the breakdown law explained to him by a back, but also felt the umbrage of fellow front rower, Mako Vunipola, who tried to prevent the indiscretion be giving the big Irishman a proper slap on the backside!
Fullback James Lowe explaining the intricacies of the breakdown to Furlong
A bit of slap and tickle between the Lions props: