ANOTHER change coming? Referee left ‘fuming’ after ‘terrible law’ controversially denies English hooker a try

Luke Cowan-Dickie’s controversial non-try on Saturday has opened a new debate over the rules of the game.

The England hooker played for Sale Sharks in their crucial Premiership match against Saracens at the StoneX Stadium.

Sale led 7-3 when they pulled the hosts back, forcing their opponents to throw in at a lineout five yards from their own line.

Under pressure, Sarries was fouled on the set-piece when Jamie George failed to hit his target. The ball ended up in Cowan-Dickie’s arms and the front rower ran towards the whitewash.

Lost control

He was tackled in front of the line, but reached out and managed to put the ball down.

Replays showed the 30-year-old briefly lost control and there was separation before he got his hand back on, appearing to extend his side’s lead.

But that wasn’t legal as the ball was thought to have slipped completely from Cowan-Dickie’s grasp and because it hit the deck it was technically a domino game.

It was therefore ruled out and prevented the Sharks from being 12-3 up, but it didn’t matter for the final result as the visitors walked away with a 20-10 Premiership win.

Most agreed that officials got the decision correct to the letter of the law, but it sparked debate.

In comment on TNT Sportsex-England back Austin Healey argued Cowan-Dickie’s case by saying: “He collects the ball before it hits the ground”, but fellow co-commentator Ben Kay replied: “I don’t think it matters because that is considered losing control.”

Kay added: “That’s how the referees have been told to referee it because a clear separation means (a domino game).”

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Explanation from the referee

Sale wasn’t happy about it and fly-half George Ford spoke to the referee about it. Luke Pearce had sympathy for the Sharks but stated: “Obviously the ball comes out of the hand and then back again… he has no control, it’s a knock on the ball. It’s tough, it’s hard, but that’s how it is.”

Kay insisted that no one – except Sarries, of course – was happy with the situation and revealed that he has already questioned why the law is being implemented in this way.

“I remember when we were told about this, I thought, ‘Why is that the law?’ “I don’t really understand it because if a player drops it but catches it before it hits the ground, that’s fine,” the former England lock said.

“He’s clearly pushed the ball towards the line, but Luke Pearce is absolutely right. The Sale fans will be furious, he (Sharks boss Alex Sanderson) will be furious, Luke Pearce will be furious – he’s just said he doesn’t like it.

Social media response

RugbyInsideLine was unimpressed with the decision to exclude it and felt it should have been awarded.

“WHAT?! That is a bizarre call,” they wrote on X, formerly Twitter.

“The ball leaves Cowan-Dickie’s hands but he doesn’t drop it and then comes back while in the air to score.

“It’s a terrible law. There is no way… The effort must hold.”

However, as others noted, Pearce had no choice but to rule it out.

“I don’t understand this post. It’s a terrible law (agreed), so why is a bizarre call. It’s clearly a non-try. Easiest phone call in the world,” one person replied.

“Amazing how many referee critics do not know the laws and/or how they are interpreted.”

Another added: “Agreed, it’s a bad law, but it’s the law as it stands so no effort is the right thing to do.”

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