The Runner Sports

Romain Poite And The Call That May Have Ruined The Lions Series

The British and Irish Lions were looking to win a New Zealand test series for the first time since 1971. The All Blacks are arguably the strongest they have ever been. Although there was a great deal of concern for the Lions entering the test series, the Lions managed to force a third match decider in Eden Park.

The match was a hotly contested one that found both teams even with only four minutes to go. On the restart from the penalty kick that would draw the Lions even, Ken Owens would make contact with the ball from an offsides position. Referee Romain Poite would consult the TMO and although it appeared he would award an offsides penalty to the All Blacks, he did not. Poite decided to award an accidental offsides and scrum to the All Blacks.

The Law

Many people believe that the accidental offsides did not apply in this situation. The issue is whether Liam Williams knocked the ball on or not. Ken Owens did not intend to play the ball from an offsides position. He threw his hands up and dropped the ball as soon as he realized it.

World Rugby Laws 11.6(b): When a player hands the ball to a team-mate in front of the first player, the receiver is offside. Unless the receiver is considered to be intentionally offside (in which case a penalty kick is awarded), the receiver is accidentally offside and a scrum is formed with the opposing team throwing in the ball.

Many people believe that Liam Williams knocked the ball on in the restart invoking 11.7:

When a player knocks-on and a offside team-mate next plays the ball, the offside player is liable to sanction if playing the ball prevented an opponent from gaining an advantage.

The sanction for the second is a penalty kick. The call from Romain Poite was that a knock on did not take place and therefore the off-sides was unintentional.

The aftermath of the call

In the aftermath of the match, All Blacks fans took to social media to lament the call by Poite.

This call defined the third match of the series. The outrage against the call has ruined the series for many fans. The call was controversial, but justifiable. If Poite believed that the knock on did not occur, then he was fully justified in making the call that he did. People will disagree with a narrow call any day of the week. All Blacks fans have been soured to the series because of what they believe should have been a very kickable penalty.

The greatest moment for rugby in 2017

The final test match could not have been more perfect. The match came right down to the wire and proved that these teams are the best in the world. While the call may not have been perfect it should not define the match, much less the series. The Lions have played the greatest team in the history of sports and matched them toe-to-toe. The match was great and should be marked for the competition, not the officiating. Only time will tell the long-term opinion of the final test match, hopefully, it will all wash out as a positive.

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David Bradham

Active duty Navy, have a true passion for Rugby.
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