Maul to ruck and end of maul question

Jonathan355


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I’m sorry to ask a question that has probably been asked many times but I need advice. Sorry for the long explanation. There is much debate about whether a maul can turn into a ruck. Mine is a variation of it: The ball carrier in a maul takes the ball to ground. The rest of the maul collapses in front of him (no intent). He ends up at the back with his own players in front of him, some on the floor and some on their feet. The ball is on the ground and he could make it available. Presumably the maul is over at that point. The ball carrier hangs onto the ball. One of the team not in possession reaches over the fallen players and tries to take the ball from the player on the ground. So, is it open play at that point and the player on the ground has to release the ball or give away PK or is the maul not complete and is the player trying to get hold of it offside because his only option is to join the maul?
 
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Sounds like the standard of play where people don't really know what they are doing and whether it is legal or not. If you were unable to manage the situation, then possibly the most equitable action would have been to judge that the ball was not made immediately available and therefore scrum turnover. But really hard to describe and visualize exactly as it may have happened.

didds

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If the ball carrier is still "within/attached" to the mass of bodies, then 5 seconds to use it or scrum turnover
...

Do others agree? Am I essentially saying the same as others before me?
I disagree. The laws say the ball in this scenario should be played "immediately".

Five seconds is not "immediately".
 

Stu10

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I disagree. The laws say the ball in this scenario should be played "immediately".

Five seconds is not "immediately".
Law 16 says the ball must be immediately available (and I agree the ball carrier should not be allowed 5 seconds to wriggle the ball out the back of the maul and make it available), but it does not say it must subsequently be played immediately... the only part of law 16 that mentions how quickly the ball must be played is section 16.17.e, which is why I quoted that earlier, and this (use it - 5 seconds) makes perfect sense to me (as a player and referee) in terms of reasonable game management.

Often the terms used in the laws are not defined and reasonable game management should be applied, IMHO. For example, (12.13.b) a drop out "must be taken without delay"... is this the same as immediately? Is the kicker permitted a number of seconds to scan the field and wait for teammates to be ready for the kick, or must he kick it within 1-2 seconds after he picks up the ball, or within 2 seconds after the ball was grounded (OK, getting stupid now :) )? If the ball comes out the back of the maul and is immediately available, as per this topic, is the scrum-half allowed reasonable time (5 seconds?) to scan the field and check where his runners are before he picks the ball up? (I only referee age grade at present, so I am going to be more lenient than 'immediate' because the scrum-half is less likely to have assessed his options in advance, hence 5 seconds to use it, but safety comes first and I will blow immediately if the maul is about to collapse and put someone at risk).

16.17e is a different 'availability' to 16.17d, when the ball has to be 'immediately available' when the BC goes to ground and thus the maul is over. 16.17e is for when 16.15 is in force (the referee instructs the team in possession in a maul to use the ball).

Is there any guidance that clearly states 16.17.e only applies to 16.15 and cannot be applied the the current situation presented by the OP. Getting into the wording of Law 16 more, is the maul over when the ball carrier goes to ground? Law 16.16 says the maul is over when the ball is on the ground, but does not say the maul is over when the ball carrier goes to ground... what if he goes to ground and still has a hand under the ball? Is he obliged to release the ball onto the ground (then the maul is over per 16.16.b, but I would argue some game management on how play continues is required at this point) - this is not stated anywhere I can see, and, for example, a tackled player on the ground that is not held is not obliged to release the ball onto the ground.

IMHO, common sense says if the ball is presented at the foot of the maul by the ball carrier who has gone to ground, it seems appropriate to apply 16.17.e and tell the scrum-half to use it and give the standard 5 seconds associated with that instruction. The other options are to blow the whistle if the scrum-half does not pick-up the ball within 1-2 seconds ("immediately"... at my age I'm not sure I can even bend down that fast ;) ) which seems harsh, especially at age grade; or declare maul over -->open play and allow players to stream around and engulf the tangled mess of players that were in the maul, which does not strike me as good game management.

Apologies if I'm coming over as argumentative, I genuinely want to examine, discuss and learn.
 

Phil E


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It has to be "immediately" available to be played.

It does not have to be played "immediately".

But I think that's what everyone meant, even if it isn't what everyone said ;)
 

Balones

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I’d expect the ref to say ‘ball available’. There is nothing in law about time so it is entirely a management situation.
If the S/H doesn’t use it then it would be a turnover ball. Assuming that the side carrying the ball into the maul retains possession.
 

Stu10

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It has to be "immediately" available to be played.

It does not have to be played "immediately".

But I think that's what everyone meant, even if it isn't what everyone said ;)
This is what I have been saying, but several people clearly said the ball needs to by played immediately and I am wrong for allowing the scrum half 5 seconds.

I’d expect the ref to say ‘ball available’. There is nothing in law about time so it is entirely a management situation.
If the S/H doesn’t use it then it would be a turnover ball. Assuming that the side carrying the ball into the maul retains possession.
So am I wrong to say "use it" and allow 5 seconds to clear the ball after it is made available? If I am wrong, is the issue my game management or just my choice of words, or both?
 
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Balones

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Entirely down to management. Time in this situation has nothing to do with It. In practice I don’t believe that once you have announced the ball is available, any player in the S/H position is going to hang about and the ball is going to be moved away. If you want to say ‘use it’ as well then that is up to you. It may be part of you management strategy. I would not expect a referee to say anything after ‘ball available’. The S/H may need a bit of time to dig the ball out slightly but that’s all. I’d expect and prefer that the referee in such circumstances is paying attention to the offside line rather than counting to five. Why would the S/H not move the ball?

I could see a circumstance where after a collapsed maul the S/H might want to box kick and perhaps a team would try to start a caterpillar but usually after a collapsed maul all the forwards tend to end up on the floor. If they delay enough to start forming a caterpillar I’d support any referee who deemed it unsuccessful and awarded a turn over. The intention of the laws is to get continuity of play.
 

didds

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. Why would the S/H not move the ball?

running the clock down
waiting to get a forward into position to take a pass for a catch and flop when they are all on the floor in front of him in the collapsed maul
ditto a fly half / kicker

I appreciate these are pretty esoteric scenarios!
 

Balones

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running the clock down
waiting to get a forward into position to take a pass for a catch and flop when they are all on the floor in front of him in the collapsed maul
ditto a fly half / kicker

I appreciate these are pretty esoteric scenarios!
Fair points. And again these are management issues not really covered by law. I suppose you could say that the latter two scenarios are at least something active and possibly positive actions while the ’run down’ by itself is negative and should be dealt with in the same way as any other similar ‘run down’ scenario. (That will obviously depend on context.)
 
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