The World Cup appears to have clean forgotten a law relating to the penalty goal, an oversight that keeps pushing Ireland deeper down the cul-de-sac of the quarter-final nobody wants.
Whatever the reason for their collective amnesia, referees have consistently failed to enforce the one-minute deadline for a shot at the posts.
As a result, Yu Tamura has been allowed to take all the time he needed in kicking Japan to the top of their pool and Ireland towards the harshest penalty of all: a quarter-final against the All Blacks.
The penalty goal states: “The kick must be taken within 60 seconds from the time the team indicate their intention to do so, even if the ball rolls over and has to be placed again.’’
Kick is disallowed and a scrum is awarded.
Tamura attempted six penalties against Ireland, none of which, according to my watch, were airborne within the minute. With three times at 75, 76 and 86 seconds, they averaged out at 70 per penalty.
Had the law been enforced, all four shots would have been disallowed. Neither the referee, nor any other match official, appeared to have a word in Tamura’s ear and so, naturally enough, in Toyota, on Saturday, he started against Samoa where he had left off against the Irish.
Japan’s fly-half took longer still over the three early penalties, each taking more preparation time than the one before, starting with 70 seconds for the first.
The second, again from the referee’s signal to Tamura launching the ball, took 90 seconds, the third 98.
Tamura, of course, is far from alone. Johnny Sexton, whose habitual tardiness off the tee twice led to his being ‘timed out’ with Racing, in the Top 14, has not been in action at this tournament long enough to take a penalty, hence Conor Murray’s long shot against Scotland, which accounted for 76 seconds.
Two of Owen Farrell’s goals for England against Tonga were overtime, if only by a few seconds. Others have been well inside the limit, most notably the Welsh duo of Dan Biggar and Rhys Patchell, Matt Toomua, of Australia, and the Springbok Handre Pollard.
Referees and the rugby planet having been sucked into the vortex over the high tackle, the random breaking of the penalty clock has passed unnoticed.
How much longer before someone does something about it?
The Scotland management, eager to seize any crumb of comfort in readiness for their winner-take-all decider against Japan, in Yokohama next Sunday, will surely remind the officials that Tamura needs to be given the hurry-up.
“What’s the point of having a law,” they will be entitled to ask, “if referees don’t enforce it?”
Too true, but then the same question has been asked, by countless thousands the world over, in respect of Law 19, requiring the ball to be fed into the scrum on a straight line between the front rows, not straight into the second row. It’s still in the book, but nobody pays a blind bit of notice.
High-flying Perenara defies the laws of gravity
TJ Perenara brings a bit more to the All Blacks than sticking his tongue out at the opposition as orchestrator of The Haka.
As from the crack of dawn Irish time yesterday, he has cornered the market in how to defy the law of gravity.
New Zealand’s reserve scrum-half took acrobatics to a new height, with a try against Namibia that looks more impossible with every viewing.
Isaac Newton would have loved the double demonstration of his 17th century law of universal gravitation.
Perenara’s pass, as he fell over, was something to behold in itself, except that what followed almost beggared belief.
The sorcerer found a useful apprentice in Brad Weber, whose passing wizardry behind-the-back sent the main man hurtling for the corner, inches from touch.
Despite that and two opponents, Perenara somehow stayed infield and, in diving for the one-handed touchdown, he managed the miraculous, keeping his feet suspended in mid-air.
That would have been tricky enough even without two opponents hell-bent on hurling him towards the front row of the stand.
Even heavenly assistance can’t help Italian cause
Space, as they always said in Star Trek, is the final frontier.
Finding enough of it on Earth has proved such a recurring problem for the Azzurri that it seemed eminently sensible that their inestimable leader should seek some extra-terrestrial advice.
Sergio Parisse, who is to Italian rugby what Captain Kirk was to the Starship Enterprise, spoke to the Italian astronaut Luca Parmitano, who is the commander of the International Space Station.
An avid rugby fan, the spaceman assured Parisse that he would be looking down on Italy’s critical match against the Springboks from a considerable height.
At the end of another hard day’s night manning the barricades, Parisse must have been sorely tempted to borrow Captain Kirk’s favourite line to his chief engineer, Montgomery Scott: ‘Beam me up, Scotty.’
The match, the first to be screened off-planet, followed an all-too-familiar path, with Italy barely able to find much more than a few miserable atoms of space at any given time.
From Parmitano’s vantage point, some 250 miles above Earth’s quarter-final line-up, he could look out on millions of miles of the stuff and appreciate the irony of his location.
My team of the week
15 Elliot Daly (England).
14 Cheslin Kolbe (South Africa).
13 Timothy Lafaele (Japan).
12 Anton Lienert-Brown (New Zealand).
11 Kotaro Matsushima (Japan).
10 Yu Tamura (Japan).
9 TJ Perenara (New Zealand).
1 Tendai Mtawarira (South Africa).
2 Torsten van Jaarsveld (Namibia).
3 Kyle Sinckler (England).
4 Maro Itoje (England).
5 Loot de Lager (South Africa).
6 Michael Leitch (Japan).
7 Jamie Ritchie (Scotland).
8 Duane Vermeulen (South Africa).