Was that pass forward?

The Crusaders were controversially held to a 19-19 draw against the Stormers at Newlands after the TMO ruled that a forward pass had occurred in the build-up to a late try.

The incident reignited the debate about passes, the law book and what the word ‘forward’ actually means… Oom Rugby and Zelím Nel tackle the issue!

Oom saysNo, it’s about the ball release

It is simple guys. The player can not release the ball towards the opponent’s goal line. But at the same time of course the ball is moving “forward”. It is like when our wife throw our cell phone from the window while we driving. It go out straight, but it is moving forward!

Regarding that pass from Braydon Ennor at Newlands on Saturday, I do not think it was forward. Marginal for sure, but for me it was fine. Wrong call by ref.

Prof Ross Tucker – a man who does a lot of work with World Rugby around player safety – is in full agreement with Oom. Tucker (@Scienceofsport) Tweeted the following about the Ennor pass: “Simple laws of physics make it clear that the pass is NOT forward – the ball starts off with the same speed as the ball carrier. By the time it is caught by Reece, the former ball carrier is still ahead of the ball. Hence, it’s gone back relative to the ball carrier. It’s a poor call, actually, IMO”

Zels says Of course it was forward!

Braydon Ennor’s pass travelled three metres forward. Ennor’s pass did not break any rules.

Both of these statements are true today because rugby’s lawmakers have now legalised the forward pass by eliminating “forward means towards the goal-line” from the law book, thus giving the ref an excuse to turn a blind eye to try-scoring forward passes based on the direction of the passer’s hands in relation to his body.

Apologists for chopping out what was once a unique attribute of the game will cite the legitimate and indisputable impact of velocity and inertia on a long pass made at full tilt.

These factors were in existence at the inception of all sports. More than a century later, rugby alone can’t cope with them.

When a soccer player surges across the big box before attempting a perpendicular shot that (at the mercy of velocity and inertia) fades just wide of the goal post, his team is not awarded a goal. It’s terribly wrong. Football really needs to learn from rugby and award goals that would have been scored had the shooter not fallen victim to physics.

In reality, making a long, rugby pass backwards while running at full speed is actually very easy to do. What makes it impossible to achieve is when the moving receiver isn’t running from sufficient depth.

The solution lies in receivers adjusting their depth, not breaking arguably rugby’s most distinguishing law. But that’s only if you value the game’s unique attributes more than sales projections made by marketing nerds.

And that brings us to the question seldom asked by those who support the legalisation of the forward pass: why?

Why, after more than 100 years, was it necessary to break the law that cancels forward passes?

Well, that law had to go because the gems that run rugby have, over the past two decades, increasingly taken their cue from slideshow magicians who talk about “the rugby product” but have no cooking clue about the dynamics of the contest.

The game’s decision-makers have sold out in pursuit of tries which they were told would sell tickets. Except, tries don’t sell tickets.

Back in 2009, before forward passes were legalised, Super Rugby teams averaged 36 tries per season at 2.7 per match. The stadiums were full. Last year, those numbers were 59 tries at 3.7 per match. Teams now play in empty stadiums and interest in Super Rugby has never been lower.

Indeed, this drop in attendance and interest cannot be pinned on one law change, but there’s no doubt that rugby’s eagerness to morph into anything that meets the mythical desires of a new, bigger audience has steadily chased the existing audience away.

The brainboxes at Rugby HQ have once again created ambiguity where once there was clarity, their willingness to circumvent rugby’s most defining law a clear sign that everything about the game is on the table, for the right price.

We wouldn’t be in this predicament if rugby spent more time marketing what it is, rather than trying to change into something more marketable.

OK, you’ve read what they think, now let us know which way you’re leaning, or join the #BigDebate on Twitter!

- Big Debate

Let's chat

  • Barry

    Fundamentally both parties agree that the pass was “legal” but Zelim, suggests that the rules should revert to what they were!

    So for purposes of this scenario the question should be asked of Mr Jonker – what the heck?

    I do not particularly like the rules on forward passes, but for the moment, they are the rules and need to be observed by all – even partisan TMO’s!

  • boyo

    I am with Zelim on this one. We know the rule but can you imagine if the try was awarded. What does a crowd of 30k think when the ball is caught 3 meters ahead of the release? They see forward pass now the law makers want the crowd to do some quick maths and work out the momentum of the ball carrier less, the distance of the pass and then from that determine the release angle of the pass to make sure it was a legal pass.

    I am sure someone can actually work out the exact angle of Ennors hands but would make for some pretty lenghty stoppages.

    The rule is a joke ball goes forward should equals forward pass

    • Frans

      Totally agree even with science. I mean look at the white line as marker. That is what we see as humans and for sure that is what Marius Jonker saw. Why did SANZAR not ask him for the reason for his decision? Say no more.
      By the way its the first time that I can remember SANZAR gets involved and penalises a TMO for making ONE bad call, just ONE. Amazing. How many bad calls have we witnessed in the past from TMO’s? Plenty. Seems to me that the Pacific stil has a certain level of “dislike” towards SA Rugby for some unknown reason. Any way we will carefuly watch and see what they do in futre form now on. I do agree that when a ref f…..p he should be penalised but for ONE bad call man that is a bit over the top. Here is my view. I know that in general any ref will make an average of 6 bad calls in a game .

  • Chris Mouton

    I fully agree with Oom. It’s quite simple, really. If the player passing the ball is running forward but passes backwards the ball will still move forward from a statical offside line due to the momentum of the player passing the ball. It’s pure physics. However, one shouldn’t look at the statical offside line, but the dynamic offside line. This dynamic offside line moves with the passer. If the player receiving the ball is in front of this dynamic offside line it is a forward pass, because the players passing the ball passes it to someone in front of him relative to his position. Referees should know this and stop listening to the crowd.

  • Nick

    Jeeez. Can’t believe it. I’m agreeing with Zelim here.

    • Johan

      It is getting ridiculous, I’ve agreed with Zelim 3 times in a row now.

      Something is very wrong.

      Ah, wait, I don’t agree that this rule is keeping people out of stadiums.
      Our poor results, poor refereeing, loss of “great” players and general bad economy is doing that…

      • Zelim Nel Zelim Nel

        I’m losing my edge, fellas! :)

  • John Comyn

    Any other side and we would have moved on by now. But no it’s the CRUSADERS we are talking about! I could just as well have argued that the 1st try they scored should have been referred. From where I was sitting and having watched highlights 2 passes in the build-up looked forward. I don’t give a rats ass for the Crusaders. They play on the edge of the law all the time and have got away with it for years. They come here and act like a bunch of animals, spitting on people passing homophobic remarks and generally acting like they are Gods. BTW I agree with Zelim. The law as it stands is ridiculous!

    • Jack

      Well fckn said! All their (Crusaders) games are questionable! Watch the sharks game! They break all the rules including not behind last feet….

    • boyo

      Their behavior is terrible and is indicative of the entitlement that comes from a few years of domination. We saw it with the ozzie cricket teams as well. The whining when teams started to target their scrum said it all.

  • Nick

    Watching on TV it looked to me like the bunch of weirdo’s who support them at Newlands has shrunk in size? I can get why they used to do it, but in this day and age their approach makes absolutely no sense.

  • Max

    Braydon Ennor’s try came from a forward pass and funny enough nothing is said about that. so the score is a true reflection of the game .The lack of BMT is big problem among our current Springboks. Willemse should have score but his lack of BMT cause him to knock the ball.

  • Harry Charuond

    Wouldn’t mind seeing the same analysis on previous week lions final try vs Waratahs. Same TMO.

  • JP

    I can’t believe what I’m reading/seeing/hearing about forward passes. In every Super game each side gets away with 3 or 4 forward passes (it’s worse in the NRL but then they are Australian and cheating is in their DNA).

    1. If the ball is caught in a position ahead of where it was passed from by definition its a forward pass. If by some bizarro combination of the rules of rugby and questionable physics one convinces oneself that forward pass has not occurred then surely at least a knock-on has occurred, the ball has traveled out of the hands of an attacking player towards the opposition goal-line and landed in the hands of a team-mate?

    2. But what really pisses me is that Braydon Ennor (like so many other current players) intentionally threw that pass forward. Look at your still with the red line through Ennor, it’s his left hand that is providing the direction of said pass, look at where the fingers (granted they are blurry) on his left hand are pointing…..the general area where the ball was caught. To further disguise his deliberate forward pass he keeps running towards the Stormers goal-line so that he remains ahead of the ball which creates the illusion that it has been passed back towards his own goal-line.

    I’ve got a fair amount of sympathy for the ref’s who are copping it at the moment, there is just too much happening too quickly for any normal person to be completely on top of at all times. The rules need to be simplified somehow if nothing else to reduce the amount of stoppages and keep the game moving, but, for me forward passes are not negotiable!

    Ahhhhhhh…..I feel so much better now……

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