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Monday Nov 8, 2021

Bizarre on field debates highlight TMO intervention problems

France overcame a stubborn Argentina in Paris last weekend to secure their first win of the Autumn Nations series, registering a 29-20 victory courtesy of tries from Thibaud Flament and Peato Mauvaka.

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Each side scored twice, with the boot of Matthieu Jalibert ultimately proving the difference between the two teams late in the game. It was an entertaining encounter but one which might be better remembered for the bizarre decision-making between referee Ben O’Keefe, his assistants and the Television Match Official.

With the TMO referred to more often than not in the event of scoring a try (or not!) the time taken to verify whether a try should be awarded has certainly proven unpopular among fans and teams alike.

The rationale is understandable: no referee wants to award a try which should not be awarded, given the impact it could have on the outcome of the match.

But it appears that the interpretation of the laws around the game, and the interventions and influence of the TMO, are making decisions on-field not only take far longer than they should do, but also making them less consistent.

Two examples of such inconsistencies arose during France’s victory over Argentina, both with different outcomes. France were denied a superb try for captain Antoine Dupont, after it was deemed that full back Melvyn Jaminet had knocked on following the gather of an up-and-under.

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The knock-on was incredibly marginal, with the ball essentially dropping vertically than forward. But this was enough for O’Keefe to reverse his decision to award the try, based on his on-field suspicion that the ball was indeed knocked on, confirmed by the TMO.

However, assistant referee Luke Pearce tried to counter the decision by saying that he did not feel the ball was knocked on. The try was chalked off with Argentina getting the scrum on the French 10m line.

The second example was the other way around, with Argentina being awarded their second try as a result of an apparent knock-on from Emeliano Boffelli – ironically the ball coming off Jaminet’s head in the up-and-under contest. Replays suggested that Boffelli had tapped the ball into Jaminet’s head, therefore constituting a knock-on, but O’Keefe insisted that the ball had been knocked off Jaminet’s head and flicked backwards by Boffelli for winger Santiago Carreras.

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Interestingly, there was a lengthy debate between O’Keefe and his assistants as to whether the ball had been knocked on or backwards by Boffelli.

TMO Brendon Pickering claimed that there was no “clear knock-on”, leaving O’Keefe to maintain his on-field decision of a try, despite both Pearce and fellow assistant referee Christophe Ridley not appearing to share the same opinion.

These two instances were similar in nature, with one decision going one way and the other the opposite. What is clear is that the consistency in deciphering whether the ball has clearly been knocked on or not remains a bone of contention.

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