A last-minute penalty kick by flyhalf Bernard Foley clinched a 35-34 victory for Australia against Scotland in their World Cup quarterfinal on Sunday. But should it have been given?
An errant lineout from Scotland saw a host of players scrambling for the ball, and when Scotland replacement prop Jon Welsh finally gathered, referee Craig Joubert deemed he was deliberately offside and awarded the kick at goal.
Scotland captain Greig Laidlaw saw it differently, as did a host of pundits and the thousands of Scotland fans and neutral rugby supporters that crammed into Twickenham.
Replays indicated that Australia’s replacement scrumhalf Nick Phipps got the final touch on the ball before Welsh instinctively grabbed it. That should have been an accidental offside and a scrum-down Australia.
“I asked him (Joubert) on several occasions to (go to the television match official), I don’t know what the protocols were…He was certainly looking at the big screen,” a visibly shaken Laidlaw told reporters after the match.
“I thought there was an Aussie arm. We are not the type of people to blame little things and if we’d tightened up in other areas we might not have been in that position.”
Whether Joubert was right or wrong with the initial decision it seems he was right not to refer it.
Referees were criticised early in the tournament for wasting time with unnecessary video reviews but quickly found a way to speed up the process, often discussing replays with the TMO while play continued
Fans chanted their disapproval at Joubert’s decision not to have a second look at the incident, but a World Rugby spokesman said the South African had been right and that such an incident did not fall under the protocols for involving the TMO.
Nevertheless, instead of waiting for his touch judges and then shaking hands with the players at fulltime as is the norm, Joubert ran from the pitch immediately after the final whistle. A fan lobbed a water bottle that narrowly missed him.
“If I see referee Craig Joubert again, I am going to tell him how disgusted I am. It was disgraceful that he ran straight off the pitch at the end like that,” said former Scotland captain Gavin Hastings.
“The referee is not expected to make the right decision all the time. That’s what the TMO system is in place for. This is the quarterfinal of a Rugby World Cup. This is the highest end of our sport and they have to get these decisions right.”
Scotland coach Vern Cotter took a more pragmatic view.
“We will take the emotion away from it. We are going to sit back and take a look at the game again and we will be reviewing it,” he said.
Australia are unlikely to bother.