View Full Version : Pulling down the ball-carrier

21-05-05, 23:05
Oh what a wonderful season this is starting to be...

Refereed a 1st XV Women's sides today- 2 very good teams with a handful of current and former Canada International players who were eager to go head-2-head with each other.

Before the match, Blue coach wants to talk to me about their line-out tactics. He starts off first about how a ball carrier AND another player from each team doesn't constitute a maul. "I've read the lawbook and it says you need 2 players from each team" *SIGH* this was going to be a long, long day. After a 5 minute discussion about that we're back to his original point: Once the opposing jumper in the line-out comes down from the air, can a player bring them down to stop a maul from occuring?

My response was "If the defending player BINDS ON and brings the player to ground while another opposite number has bound on (thus forming a Maul), then the defending player has collapsed a maul."

Coach wasn't happy- says "They do it all the time on TV, I've seen it and spoken to people about it and it's fine". *SIGH* "Sir, we're not playing TV rugby here, and as far as I'm concerned once the bind has occured a maul has formed and pulling the player down constitutes collapsing a maul."

We go our merry way and the match begins, with black dominating the set-pieces and winning every lineout and scrum with ease, setting up a great platform from which to attack blue, who managed to stay onside but were helpless in defending against the rolling maul. Black wins 25-5.

BACK IN THE BAR: I have a good word with blue coach and we discuss the maul laws again (I whip out the lawbook and note the salient points to what defines a maul). We then talk again about his original point in the line-out. Turns out he meant "Pulling" a jumper down once they're on their feet. I acknowledge that "Pulling" down does not constitute binding, and therefore once the attacking player is on their feet from the air they are fair game. Blue coach and I acknowledge it was lost in translation and he makes a point to note that it would not have made much difference anyways. YAY for coaches with humility and compassion towards referees!

Now, I know exactly what he means by "I've seen it on TV and they do it all the time in Super 12." I know teams defend against a maul developing at the line-out by bringing down the jumper once they're on their feet.

Controlling this as a referee would seem difficult as you've got to make sure that a bind does not occur. I don't get the chance to watch S12 over here in the Great White North, but I was looking for advice from referees about how to police this? If pulling the jumper down is now a common occurrence, what about pulling their legs out from under them? Is that collapsing?

This seems like a "new" tactic (within the last couple of years), and I was wondering what you as referees would do to make sure it's occuring within the law, and what to watch for in case of law infringements???

Thanks for your help. I'm off to Boston until Tuesday so I'll reply then.

Mat 04
22-05-05, 00:05
Hmmmmm. Im not quite sure what you mean. So I'll just tell you what I know that might have anything ot do with this.

Firstly, you cant touch a player who is jumping, OR his supports. Its a penalty, and in my opinion a yellow card.

As for collapsing a maul, that in my opinion is when a defender takes someones legs or actually reaches over, grabs a player and you can see he is physically trying hard to pull the maul down. It's hard to rule here I think becasue sometimes its hard to tell wether they go down because they cant keep it up or becasue they plain old dont want to.

Hmmm, but what if, the players just decide to stop, and let themselves fall backwards?? Guys??

22-05-05, 08:05

I have seen this happen on one of the traning videos we did for the RFU development course. I think the game was Morley v Doncaster (level 3).

Basically what happens is Morley the defending team, all the players step away from the line of touch basically stepping backwards about 3 or 4 m. Doncaster win the ball, then one morley player tackles the ball carrier (who thinks they have formed a maul but they haven't!). When the ball carrier and tackler go to ground Doncaster (I think) now think they have a ruck again they don't it is a tackle and proceed to use the feet on the Morley player. All hell breaks loose etc.. etc.. etc..

We all said we would penalise the big guy stamping on the ball (in slow mo) you could clearly see this, (RFU ref and two RFU TJ at the match didn't see him stamping on the ball either!)

The aim of the exercise was to see who we would penalise. (If we had spotted the Doncaster player stamping on the ball!) We had some of out future panel refs on the course and we all go it wrong. Some said Morley for collapsing the maul trainer said what maul!. Others said Morley for unsportsman like conduct, trainer said what is wrong with a tackle. Some said Doncaster for (off side trainer thought this was a cop out!).

In the end he told us the two offences that we should have got where Doncater not releasing the ball at the tackle or Doncaster obstructing Morley after the tackle so they could not get the ball.

Anyway I didn't see it in any of my games level 9+ but I bet something like this creeps in soon. This will be a nightmare to referee at the lower levels, L4 and above teams will be coached in this and referees are aware of it so should be ok. Just when you do OLD BOYS II v HASBEENS II who are coached by Wlive Coodwood how you going to deal with it, I can't wait for it to happen to me!


22-05-05, 15:05
I think it would be easier to break down the action of the jumper into 3 stages. The jumper is in the process of being lifted in the air and being lowered again by his teammates (Stage 1), his feet return to the ground (Stage 2) and possibly after that one player from each team binds onto him meaning a maul has been formed (Stage 3).

When he is in the process of being LIFTED and LOWERED by his teammates (Stage 1), interfering with him in any way, including tackling him, is illegal.

After his feet have touched the ground again and BEFORE a maul has formed (ie one player from each team has bound onto him) [Stage 2], he can be tackled like any other player on the field.

After the maul has formed [Stage 3], he cannot be tackled as this is collapsing a maul which is foul play.

In theory this is a very straight forward concept. In only becomes a bit complicated when it all happens at once, or very quickly.

Mat 04
22-05-05, 15:05
If you see that coach again, tell him to read his lawbook better LOL you only need 3 for a maul.

22-05-05, 17:05
This has been spelt out very clearly at meetings and elsewhere. The official line (in the UK at least) is that ONE player who binds on and at the same time takes down the ball-carrier/jumper after he has landed is just a tackler. If TWO or more players do it, they are collapsing a maul.

That is why Morley's players stepped back - to make it clear to the ref that only one player was making the tackle.

If asked, tell the captain that you will only allow it if it is clear that only one player was involved.

23-05-05, 06:05
The official line (in the UK at least) is that ONE player who binds on and at the same time takes down the ball-carrier/jumper after he has landed is just a tackler. If TWO or more players do it, they are collapsing a maul.


In a tackle situation, there can be any number of tacklers. If one player tackles an opposition player and goes to ground then he is the tackler. But if 3 players tackle an opposition player, all three of them are tacklers.

Clearly in the situation that you are referring to above, there is no maul becuase 'the ball-carrier/jumper has just landed.' For there to be a maul, one player from each team must bind onto the ball-carrier/jumper. But in the situation you describe above, NO teammate of the ball-carrier/jumper has bound onto him; only an opponent has (whilst at the same time tackling him). Hence we do not have the required players to constitute a maul, so we have no maul. So how can you say that if ONE player tackles the ball-carrier/jumper it is legal but if TWO players tackle him is it illegal? It does not matter how many opposition players tackle him; because he is not involved in a maul he is allowed to be tackled like any other player on the park with the ball.

23-05-05, 09:05
The IRBs Laws Committee clarified this a year or two ago. The process is known as 'sacking', and it occurs when the player who wins the lineout ball is brought immediately to ground after he lands (obviously tackling in the air is PK offence for dangerous play).

The key is it has to happen immediately. You may find reference on the IRB site somewhere. I know it's mentioned in the ARU Game Management Guidelines (a good pregame reference I find)


Simon Griffiths
23-05-05, 09:05
The important thing to remember is that:

a) He can't be tackled in the air - we all agree on that!

b) When he first lands, the lifters are only in contact with him (i.e. hands on shorts) - this does NOT constitute binding. This is where the confusion often comes from. A tackle at this point is perfectly legal.

c) If one or two of the lifters (or any number of team-mates for that matter, be they the former lifters or not) proceed to bind on (i.e. with an arm and shoulder) then it becomes a problem.

d) If a 'normal' tackle takes place after the binding (i.e. shoulder and arm wrap in the mid-riff), then we will have collapsing a maul, because the tackler creates a maul by binding in the form of attempting a tackle.

e) If the 'pulling' style of tackle Bryan mentions happens, then there is no problem because he does not bind, and therefore the requirements for a maul are not met.

SO, essentially be very careful whether the lifted player is back on the ground, and then watch whether the necessary people bind on. It is worth noting however, that certainly in England we are constantly told to 'protect' the player who did the 'sacking' - because whether legal or not, there will be the most part of a pack ready to give him a shoeing.

23-05-05, 13:05
Thanks Simon that makes alot more sense now. I was just confused about the fact that someone was collapsing a maul without there even being a maul formed!

But I see that you could interpret the fact that if there are already two opposition players from the same team standing there bound and you come in and tackle the ball carrier by wrapping your arms around him then yes you as a player have created the maul on point of contact with the ball carrier and hence you are guilty of collapsing it.

Thanks again. ;)

Robert Burns
23-05-05, 15:05
Normally you can ask the forwards at the briefing what they are going to try and do most, they will be happy to tell you and if they say sacking (which is the immediete tackle) then you can tell them you want everyone else to step back till the tackle has happened.

23-05-05, 18:05
because any hald decent side will have had somebody on the ball (still held by the jumper) before the jumper lands... now its a moot pint that a player typically driving on the ball is actually "bound" (ie full length of one arm etc) but often the jumper will have the full length of one arm (or pretty dashed close!) bound on the driver/ripper!!


24-05-05, 06:05
Another interesting tactic being used is the defenders not contesting the linout, and then trying to stop a maul forming byt driving between the opposition jumper and his support men

Robert Burns
24-05-05, 12:05
Isn't that coming through? Offside Penalty?

24-05-05, 19:05
pace robertii and Noddy, what I said was "it is the official line (in the UK at least) "

We can argue all we want about the details, but the lineout is a messy place and the split second decisions needed to decide exactly what happened and in what order need simplification to be both understood and put into practice. For that reason, it is my understanding, the ruling I quoted was brought in. It clarifies the situation and enables the players to understand what the referee is likely to give. The strict legalistic interpretation (if indeed we have got all the details right) is impractical.

In Ruling 3 of 2003 (http://www.irb.com/Laws/LawRulings/Ruling+2003.htm) the IRB seemed to say that you could not tackle a player who had team-mates bound on to him because that would consitute collapsing a maul, However further clarification in Ruling 8 gives more or less what Noddy said - but then ends "Note: If at a line-out, the catcher of the ball comes to ground (hereafter called the ball-carrier), and then an opposition player immediately brings the ball-carrier to ground, he is not liable to penalty."

I maintain that what was said at our meeting (and in answer to various questions I have asked) was the simplification I have outlined.

At least if you stick to it (and for once they certainly will not be challenging your view of the law), players will have a chance of understanding. They won't otherwise!

25-05-05, 05:05

After reading the relevant IRB Law Rulings 2003, and reading what Simon (or Noddy if you really want to call him that dreadful name! ;) ) summarised, they do not contradict in any way, both are an acceptable summary of when you are collapsing a maul and when it is just a tackle.

However referring to what you said earlier......

ONE player who binds on and at the same time takes down the ball-carrier/jumper after he has landed is just a tackler. If TWO or more players do it, they are collapsing a maul.

I presume you are talking about one or two DEFENDING players?
I am still confused as to, if the lineout jumper/ball carrier has just landed and is standing by himself (i.e. not bound to any teammates), and ONE opposition player trys to tackle him why that is different from TWO opposition players tackling him?

As far as the IRB Rulings and Simon have said, what matters about whether a maul has been collapsed or not is whether or not there was a teammate of the lineout jumper/ball carrier bound to him when the opposition tackled him; not how many opposition players tackle him.

Robert Burns
25-05-05, 07:05

There is no difference, however because of the close proximity of the defending players you can gurentee that as soon as he's grabbed the ball carriers players will be then bound, so we officially have a maul, but if one of the non ball carrying team immedietly bring the player to ground, with no other binding from his own team, that is acceptable as a tackle and play continues. what is immediete, as always is defined by you.

25-05-05, 11:05
robertti - I was making the assumption that we were talking about the situation where the jumper already had a teammate bound on to him. It seemed to be the context, and it is of course essential to the argument, as you point out.

The problem arises if a would-be tackler grasps the ball carrier in such a way as to be regarded as binding on to him. The IRB ruling say that he has then formed a maul rather than started a tackle.

Technically also, if two tacklers both go low, then they cannot be said to be binding, just tackling.

Given the very close margins, the generally messy situation, and the difficulty of seeing through large bodies, I think the simplification I gave makes sense. However it is a rule of thumb rather than a rule of law.