There appeared to be quite a bit of confusion in the wake of Bulls’ Captain, Pierre Spies’ claim that the ref got it wrong by allowing the Lions to have a quick kick-off or restart after they had landed their go-ahead penalty. He then said that it wasn’t the refs fault at all and perhaps they should have dealt with it better either way. At best a mischievous way of apportioning blame.
I had numerous Bulls’ supporters looking to try and make sense of these comments and asking me what was best practice. In addition, it was pointed out that leading referee Nigel Owens had not allowed England an opportunity to take a restart after points in the recent England – All Blacks match played at Twickenham. Just because a leading referee didn’t allow it, doesn’t mean it is right.
I have cleared this with the powers that be and there is nothing in the law to prevent a team from taking a quick restart – provided it doesn’t give them an unfair advantage i.e. contrary to the spirit of the game. Where Spies may have erred is that the law does directly refer to the drop out, which is obviously different to the restart. In both games mentioned above, another ball was used but there is no issue there. Both receiving teams were in position and ready. We, as referees, should be encouraging quick play, not looking for an excuse to blow the whistle. Jaco van Heerden was perfectly correct in allowing the Lions to take a quick restart (Nigel was not).
Consider the following: We would allow a team to take a quick line out (i.e. two players from each team) with a new ball, so why not the same for kick-off? I’m sure this makes sense for any neutral rugby lover.