South African referee Craig Joubert was wrong to award Australia the match-deciding penalty during their 35-34 win over Scotland, Rugby World Cup organisers said Monday.
Joubert made the call to penalise Scotland’s Jon Welsh at a 78th-minute line-out for a deliberate offside, though replays of the incident appeared to show it was in fact Australia’s Nick Phipps who had touched the ball first, putting Welsh on-side.
The error gifted Australia a penalty, which flyhalf Bernard Foley kicked in the final moments of the game to knock out the last-remaining northern hemisphere team from the tournament and send his side through to a semifinal clash against Argentina.
“On review of all available angles, it is clear that after the knock-on, the ball was touched by Australia’s Nick Phipps and Law 11.3© states that a player can be put on-side by an opponent who intentionally plays the ball,” the governing body World Rugby said in a statement.
“In this case, Law 11.3© should have been applied, putting Welsh onside. The appropriate decision, therefore, should have been a scrum to Australia for the original knock-on.”
World Rugby added that Joubert “could not refer to the television match official (TMO) in this case and therefore had to rely on what he saw in real time.”
Match regulations state that the TMO can only be used to clarify the legitimacy of a try or an incident of foul play.
World Rugby failed to formally explain, however, why Joubert ran off the pitch without shaking hands with the players after the final whistle, though it is thought the official had wanted to avoid any confrontations with Scottish players on the field.
Joubert’s actions prompted a harsh reaction from players of all nationalities, with former Scotland captain Gavin Hastings describing the sharp exit as “the worst thing I have seen on a rugby field in a very long time,” while retired England scrum half Matt Dawson branded him “a disgrace.”
Media reports in Australia and New Zealand have also claimed a bottle was aimed at Joubert as he made his way to the dressing room.
Joubert, who officiated the 2011 World Cup final, has not been selected to referee either of the two upcoming semifinal matches.