As much as Nick Mallet said Poite did well (and what Mallet says, generally goes), I do think the way he judged the mauls gave Ireland an unfair advantage in stopping the rolling maul from the line out. Walsh’s judgement of the mauls against England the next week was also a bit contradicting at times. It has become a bone of contention amount the rugby public, with many calling for it to be removed from the game all together.
The fact of the matter is that very few teams get it right, and even fewer on a regular basis. England scored two tries through the mauls last week, and the springboks haven’t been able to capitalise recently like the packs of old.
I feel the rest of the world should focus on countering it rather than complaining about it. Each team normally has the same number of forwards, and if you can push your opponents maul to a standstill or backwards you will invariably win the ball.
I’m not saying you should be given leeway to do as you please from the line out, but the calls of “use it once” come inconstantly, and premature at times. Blowing up the mall while it is still moving forward, 2 meters from the try line after the opposition has disintegrated, is an unfair get out of jail free card for the defenders. We would all love to see a bit of consistency in the refereeing of this, especially as it will be used more and more in the wet conditions that are bringing experienced now as well as are expected for the World Cup next year.
The newest development in maul defence seems to be the non-contest, followed by a direct attack on the ball carrier at the back. There seems to be a bit of confusion regarding the rules in this regard. On the one hand, the general impression seems to be that if there is no contact at the front, there is no offside line, and the defenders are free to tackle anyone who has the ball. On the other hand, ex-world number one ref Jonothan Kaplan has said that this is wrong. His interpretation is that if this happens, either the attacking team must be penalised for obstruction, or truck and trailer as it is better known, or the defending team must be penalising for leaving the line out before it is complete. If the pros can’t come to a censuses about how it works, it is understandable that every supporter has their own opinion, and get upset with the ref week in and week out.
At the end of the day, a little clarity and interpretation guidelines need to come from somewhere, but who has the obligation to sort it out? It needs to be clarified soon, as it will filter down to grassroots level fast, causing mass confusion and frustration in all levels of the game.