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Ref Watch: Faf's yellow, De Allende's blocking and why no penalty try came

By Paul Smith
Faf de Klerk /Getty

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Warren Gatland’s post-match comments were delivered in a typically understated manner, but nonetheless no-one was left in any doubt about his views on the yellow-carding of Faf De Klerk.


The Lions boss – who it should be pointed out was responding to a direct question rather than initiating the comment – stated that the Sale scrum half made head contact on Wyn Jones when charging into a defensive maul.

Following a TMO review, referee Jaco Peyper had reached a different conclusion before showing De Klerk a yellow card for the less dangerous offence of failing to make any attempt to bind to the maul.

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With South Africa’s key play-maker about to play a pivotal part in the test series, Gatland’s comments will doubtless at least in part have aimed to put pressure on De Klerk, the home camp and also the match officials who will take charge of the series.

De Klerk Yellow Card – But did Peyper make the correct call?
What we must remember is that the head contact protocol requires the officials to consider whether there was contact with the head, how much force was present and whether any mitigating factors exist. A full range of sanctions is then available – from play on to a red card and penalty (or penalty try).

Taking these one at a time…
Having viewed several replays I concur with Gatland’s view that De Klerk made some contact with Jones’ head. However, it was not direct – it seems to me his initial point of contact was around the upper chest level.


As a result, the level of force involved was reduced.

Further mitigation existed since the maul moved and Jones’s head shifted slightly in the split second before De Klerk entered.

I would therefore agree with Peyper and TMO Marius Jonker’s decision to award a yellow card – albeit for different reasons.

Penalty Try?
Several Lions fans have questioned why a penalty try was not awarded during this phase of play.


As the table below shows, South Africa A conceded eight penalties in the second quarter including five in eight minutes while under pressure in their 22 immediately prior to half-time.

Quarter 1Quarter 2Quarter 3Quarter 4
Pens against SA A3831
Pens against BIL4125


De Klerk’s foul play penalty was the fourth of these, and when flanker Marco van Staden was then pinged for a ruck offence he followed his scrum half to the sin bin.

In times past, the referee had an option to award a penalty try when a team in deep defence conceded multiple penalties.

However as yellow cards became established – it seems amazing now to think the sinbin only arrived in European rugby from the Southern Hemisphere in the late 90’s – the law-makers tidied up the confusion that existed.

Repeat offenders, especially in their own defensive ‘red zone’ are therefore shown a yellow card with penalty try awards being reserved for occasions when an offence has prevented a ‘probable’ try.

A transgressor may also get a yellow for foul play (as de Klerk did) or for a one-off offence which prevents a ‘possible’ rather than ‘probable’ try-scoring opportunity. An example of this would be a deliberate knock-on which occurs close to the line where other defenders are deemed to have been in a position to make try-saving tackles.

It is also worth pointing out that De Klerk’s yellow card for foul play would not usually be counted in the totting-up process going on in the ref’s head, since it was a one-off incident rather than part of a string of repeat infringements aimed at illegally slowing the attacking side’s momentum.

Nkosi Try
During the Sky commentary, Nigel Owens was asked to clarify the law regarding Damian De Allende’s involvement in South Africa A’s opening try.

He duly explained that a defender is only allowed to take a line which blocks a defender if he does so behind the ball carrier and without changing his angle of running.

The former World Cup final ref went on to suggest Owen Farrell – who was shepherded away from Sbu Nkosi by De Allende – could have made more of the episode.

I was amazed that no-one on the field suggested the officials look at this.

After passing the ball to his winger, De Allende ran fully 50 metres without ever being behind the ball carrier. Throughout this he prevented Farrell getting across to make the tackle that would have redeemed his kick being charged down to initiate the move.

De Allende never altered his running line, but was also in effect in an offside position and interfering with play throughout. Penalty to the Lions and no try for me.

Rees-Zammit No Try
The award of a penalty against the Gloucester winger for not releasing was a pivotal moment late in the second half of a match which was eventually determined by one score.

Having been initially held short of the try line, the Lions winger is required in law to pass, release or place the ball and must do so immediately.

This looked really odd because LRZ had already made an attempt to place the ball during the initial contact, so was therefore placing it for a second time (but a first post-tackle) when the TMO adjudged no concrete evidence existed to prove the ball touched the whitewash.

This was all therefore legal until the Lions winger tried to retain possession by moving the ball for a third time and was correctly penalised.

Last Scrum
Nigel Owens provided a really good insight to how top officials think when he said it would be very difficult for the Lions to get a penalty in the dying seconds.

This statement was based on the logic that the officials would rather that the players determine the outcome of the game than the award of a marginal penalty.

However, surely clear infringements have to be blown – and when Peyper looks again at the match’s final scrum I wonder if he will see this as such a case?

De Klerk quick lineout
The quick-thinking South African No.9 sprinted up the touchline on the half-hour mark before hurling a quick throw-in directly at Kyle Sinckler, who was stood inside the five-metre area, and looking questioningly at Peyper.

Clearly De Klerk was seeking to ‘buy’ a penalty and possibly even eke out a yellow card for the Lions prop.

However, his hopes were foiled because a lineout (which in law requires only two players from each side to be present at the line of touch) had already formed which immediately removes the option of a quickly taken throw-in away from the mark.


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