Finn Russell’s yellow card at the 68-minute mark during the Wales v Scotland Six Nations clash cost his side dearly. With the match still very much in the balance at 17-17, the yellow card tipped the momentum in favour of Wales. Wales were the eventual winners 20-17.
The law which authorised referee Nic Berry to send Russell to the sin bin is law 11.4. This law states, “It is not an intentional knock-on if, in the act of trying to catch the ball, the player knocks on provided that there was a reasonable expectation that the player could gain possession.”
Basically this law says, it rests on the subjective interpretation of the referee to decide whether a player has a ‘reasonable expectation’ of catching the ball. What is reasonable to one referee may not be to another. This is where some of Rugby’s struggle for consistency lies.
In the match on the weekend, Finn Russell did not seem in a great position to catch the ball, but the ball he tipped upwards was catchable. Additionally, with how flat Wales were playing to the advantage line the chances of trying to pick up an intercept would naturally increase. Finn Russell hit the ball upward. Which indicates a somewhat reasonable expectation of attempting a genuine intercept, that has not come to fruition. He then has to brace when attempting the intercept, for the impact of an oncoming prop.
When deciding on the outcome of the incident, Nic Berry addressed the TMO during play stoppage and said he only had the play at a knock on. This was Nic Berry’s instinctual call after watching the play in real time. The TMO then advises Berry to take the play back for a penalty. Based on this advice, Berry then assesses the play and Yellow cards Russell.
Whether the yellow was justified I believe is more debatable than pundits are giving credit. But one thing is for sure, the yellow card greatly affected the outcome of the match. One would think, players will want to be very cautious when trying for an intercept based on current referee interpretations.