Rugby World Cup: Referee Joubert’s disappearing act adds to Scotland heartbreak

The outrage continues after referee Craig Joubert sprinted off the pitch following Scotland’s brutal last-minute defeat to Australia at Twickenham on Sunday.


Given the speed with which he exited the Twickenham pitch on Sunday, if referee Craig Joubert has managed to maintain that pace he should just about be on the outskirts of his home town Durban by now. If he keeps going until the furore surrounding his decision-making dies down, he may end up circumnavigating the globe a few times over.

Joubert certainly did not wait around to shake hands with members of either team at full-time on Sunday, after his decision moments earlier to award Australia a dubious penalty condemned Scotland to a 35-34 quarter-final defeat.

Ex-Scotland captain Gavin Hastings raged that the official should be “sent home” for what he described as a “despicable act” in the aftermath, while World Cup winner Matt Dawson seemingly recycled some of the constructive criticism he received for his Hackarena participation as he branded the South African “a disgrace”.

The controversy surrounded Joubert’s last-minute decision to award a penalty for deliberate offside; after adjudging that the ball had hit substitute Scottish forward Josh Strauss before Jon Welsh, standing in front of his teammate, caught it. Replays, however, suggested the ball may well have come off Australia’s Nick Phipps instead – which would mean Welsh was perfectly entitled to go for the ball.

To make matters worse a television replay was broadcast on the big screens around the stadium before Bernard Foley took the game’s defining kick – showing the 80,000 in attendance the dubious nature of the call. Joubert could be clearly seen studying the evidence for himself, although a few Scottish demands for him to refer the incident to the TMO were ignored.

It transpired that Joubert was not allowed to refer the decision upstairs, as per World Rugby regulations – although not to use technology in the most important moments will seem nonsensical to many. You wonder if what Joubert saw on the replay led him to believe he had made a mistake that had decided the game, leading to his hasty exit from the scene of the crime. “I asked him on several occasions [to refer to the TMO], but I don’t what the protocols are or not,” Scotland captain Greig Laidlaw said afterwards. “He was certainly taking his time, having a look on the big screen.

He made a sharp exit at the end of the game, that’s for sure.” Scotland will not look back with much fondness on Joubert’s decision to sin-bin Sean Maitland shortly after half-time either, although both flashpoints overlook the fact that Vern Cotter’s side would have surely won the game if they had simply been able to win their own lineout in the final moments.

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