Gareth Ellis – Confusion over the obstruction rule must be cleared up once and for all

Hull FC's Carlos Tuimavave is tackled by Wigan Warriors' Dan Sarginson
Hull FC's Carlos Tuimavave is tackled by Wigan Warriors' Dan Sarginson
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OBSTRUCTION. It seems to be one of those rules that has caused problems and rumbled on for years.

But it’s not got any better.

What I will say in the referees’ favour is that they have been very consistent. Even though I disagree with some of the calls they have been consistent with decisions they have made.

Gareth Ellis

We have never quite nailed down an interpretation or agreed on something that we can all deal with and stick with which says ‘That is an obstruction.’

On the other side of it, neither has it been established where we can say ‘That’s just a wrong defensive read.’

There’s been a few incidents this year where it’s all sprung up again and it needs to be sorted. There was one in our game on Saturday where I think it was a clear try for Catalans yet it was chalked off.

It was a defensive mis-read from Carlos (Tuimavave) who came in on their lead runner (Greg Bird) and the ball instead went out the back to Matt Whitley who scored.

That, for me, is exactly what you want from your lead runner; as a back-row, I used to run my lines, first and foremost, hoping to get the ball and make a dent in the defensive line.

But, if I drew an outside defender into me, I also knew I’d done my job. That’s one-nil to me for running my line and making him come into me.

I think we now need to come up with an interpretation that makes that clear and educate the referees about it as well.

Often, the referees haven’t played the game before or certainly not been coached to the level we’re coached at.

We need it to be that they can reward good attacking play and good execution of the play itself. All the teams do the same plays, it’s just how you defend them.

What I will say in the referees’ favour is that they have been very consistent. Even though I disagree with some of the calls they have been consistent with decisions they have made.

Going back to Saturday, the on-field referee awarded a try before going upstairs but I’ve always had feeling about why does the referee on the field have to make a decision if he’s unsure?

You are almost asking him to guess. It’s saying ‘you guess, and if we can’t prove otherwise or we’re sure, we’ll go with you.’

I just think if you’re asking you are already not sure so why not let the guy with all the technology decide rather than being influenced?

They can’t see everything. What’s the point of making them guess when we have video evidence? From a playing point, there’s certainly been efforts that have gone up to the video referee and, if they’d have been given as try on the field – rather than not – they would have given it.

I reckon that would have happened with that Whitley try. So, that’s also where it’s wrong; let the video ref’ make a judgement on what they’ve seen rather than be influenced by what the on-field ref’ has not seen.

A little bit of common sense has to come into it. There needs to be some black and white with obstruction decisions but it will be hard to get that.

When a pass goes so far away from the incident – or the contact – you do start to think that defender would never have got there. Admittedly, deciding that is difficult in its own right as some players are quicker than others.

If it carries on like this, then I think coaches will need to adapt the way plays are run and how runners go out the back.

But the easiest way would be to start showing more common sense; people want to see attacking play and see attacking play rewarded.

If you clearly take someone out and someone runs into that hole created, then it’s obstruction, but that’s always been the case.

The ones we see at the moment, though, are where defenders are making mis-reads by coming in on good quality running lines – where the player is aiming to get that ball and go through or create space elsewhere – and it means we have gone too far the other way.

We’re siding on the defence too much and, certainly from the reaction I’ve seen on social media this weekend, people have had enough especially when we’ve done so much – shot clock, fewer interchanges – to introduce more fatigue and create more attack.