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'Both players going a million miles an hour': Why Rieko Ioane's no try was an 'utter farce' of a decision

By Sam Smith

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Fans have taken to Twitter to take aim at what has been described as an “utter farce” of a decision to not award Blues centre Rieko Ioane a try due to a dubious forward pass call made by his brother Akira during their side’s win over the Highlanders on Sunday.

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The movement started from a turnover near their own goal line, where the Blues decided to counter-attack from in front of their goal posts. Second-five Harry Plummer found Akira on the edge and the older brother put the foot down.

Jostling with Highlanders’ first-five Josh Ioane, Akira broke through the high tackle to burst away down the sideline. Around the halfway mark, with Highlanders defenders surrounding him on all sides, the No 6 fired a wild long pass in field where Rieko was there to haul it in.

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Richie McCaw continues to push the limits
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Richie McCaw continues to push the limits

In open field, the midfielder veered left and used his speed to burn away from the cover tackle of wing Ngane Punivai to ignite the Eden Park crowd.

The try was a breathtaking play that would have put the Blues up 22-7 after having already scored two well-worked tries, of which Rieko had set up.

A deflating TMO decision to disallow the try left many pundits unhappy, though, as it was ruled that Akira’s pass at the halfway mark had travelled forward.

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The ball had been released from Akira’s grasp at the halfway line and looked to go backwards out of his hands, but Rieko ended up catching the ball at the Highlanders’ 10 metre mark.

Many were aggrieved by the decision, including Irish journalist Andy McGeady, who highlighted that the momentum of players moving can take a pass forward even if the ball has been released backwards out of the hands.

In instances like Ioane’s, he believed the try should have stood and the decision to disallow it was “depressing” for the game.

New Zealand journalist Liam Napier also doubted the merits of the not try decision, highlighting that the same TMO Paul Williams made the error in awarding Leicester Fainga’anuku’s try the night before in Christchurch despite a foot that grazed the grass outside the field of play.

World Rugby’s Laws have a simplistic outlook on what determines a forward pass, as Law 11.6 states: “A throw forward may occur anywhere in the playing area”.

Law 11.7, the only other law regarding forward passes, states: “A player must not intentionally throw or pass the ball forward.”

A lack of definitive clarification on what determines a forward pass could be attributed to why Ioane’s forward pass was called and why many onlookers disagree with Williams’ call.

While there is no law that suggests that the ball being released backwards from the hands should override a forward pass call, World Rugby – formerly the IRB – themselves debunked the debate in 2011 in a video posted to their YouTube channel.

The video shows how passes that would normally look fine to the naked eye technically travel forward in relation to the ground, but shouldn’t be called a forward pass as the the ball forward because of the momentum of an attacking player.

In the video, the narrator outlines that “the referee must judge a forward pass purely on the passing action of the passer and not be influenced by the movement of the ball relative to the ground.”

Many have argued that reasoning should have been applied to Akira’s pass. Although the decision to rule out the try didn’t cost the Blues in the end, who ran away 39-17 winners, it did rob fans and spectators of the moment for Rieko.

However, the slew of questionable TMO calls over the weekend suggest fans could lose confidence in the standard of refereeing as the competition enters a round of pivotal match-ups which could be close games.

The Hurricanes host the Chiefs in a battle of the winless teams while the Blues host the Crusaders in a blockbuster at Eden Park.

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'Both players going a million miles an hour': Why Rieko Ioane's no try was an 'utter farce' of a decision

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