Analysis: Ireland dominate scrum but are killed by Wayne Barnes' guesswork 6 years ago

Analysis: Ireland dominate scrum but are killed by Wayne Barnes' guesswork

To start with, let's make this clear: Wayne Barnes did not cost Ireland victory on Saturday, but rather he denied them an important chance to snatch a draw.

The defining moment in another performance of obliviousness, cluelessness and apathy from Barnes towards the scrum was capped off in style with the final play of the game, where he found it in himself to reward Wales with a penalty at the set-piece, when there were any number of reasons why the penalty, or at the very least a turnover, should have gone the other way.


First, we'll take a look at why the scrum should have been turned over in Ireland's favour, after a powerful wheel well past the required 90 degrees.

In the photo below, we can see how the sides are formed up as usual, and we'll use this as a guideline for how the scrum wheels. Note the line, dissecting the centre of the scrum.

11 - initialIn this instance, Marty Moore is the anchor, holding his position, while Cian Healy goes on the warpath, causing the scrum to wheel. As we can see the scrum has now arced forward on Healy's side by about 45 degrees, while Moore is standing his ground, allowing it to carve around him.

10 - wheelThe defending team (in this case Ireland) only have to move the scrum forward 90 degrees for it to be turned over by the referee, but as we can see in the photo below, Barnes completely ignores the wheel, even after it has gone well past the required distance, to the point where Ireland have wheeled the scrum in the region of around 120 degrees.

10 - full wheelNow watch it all back in the video below, and the key figure to keep an eye on here is Marty Moore. Just before the ball is fed, put your finger over Moore, and watch how he never moves from under it, as the scrum arcs around him (1:44:50 in the video).

However, not noticing the fantastic wheel really is the lesser of two brutal mistakes here. On several occasions in the final scrum Welsh players infringed, while the penalty Barnes awarded against Ireland remains a mystery.


The positioning and direction of the drive from Ireland was excellent. Marty Moore's body position was superb, straight back, and his usual 90 and 120 degree angles at the waist and the knees.

On the other hand, his opponent Rob Evans has far too much of a curve in his back, meaning he has considerably less power, and this is why Moore had such little difficulty anchoring the wheel.

11 - driveWhen Cian Healy destructs Aaron Jarvis and Ireland go forward, the Welsh panic and this is where Barnes should have spotted any one of several penalties.

As we can see below, the circled pair of Toby Faletau and Sam Warburton have completely left the scrum as it still goes on, instead standing on the goalline, and Barnes' failure to spot two players no longer actually being part of the setpiece really is unacceptable in Test rugby.

11 - collapseYou'll also see circled in that picture Aaron Jarvis, who has just collapsed the scrum, under pressure from Cian Healy. When Barnes awarded the penalty to Wales, he made the arm signal for hinging, raising and lowering his forearm, while saying: "Green, far side. Green, far side," which would imply he was penalising Cian Healy for hinging the scrum.


But the very act of hinging results in a player being driven to the ground head first, not backside first, which is how Jarvis collapsed. Unfortunately, we can't see enough to offer definitive proof on the decision, but there is certainly enough to cast doubt on the call Barnes made.

It was a bad end to a day that started reasonably well for Barnes at the scrum.

The first scrum collapsed as a result of Samson Lee's achilles giving way, so it probably would have been a bit harsh to penalise the man for collapsing in that situation.

After watching closely, we've found a shot that captures the moment the injury hit him. Keep a keen eye on the left side of the video below, and you will see how Lee's leg is extended and his foot planted, resulting in a horrific looking hyper-extension, which you'll see from around 19:12.


You can see just how acute an angle there was between his foot and leg...

1 - LeeOne quick in-in-and-out scrum followed, before the first scrum penalty of the day, which was superbly won by Jack McGrath.

In this instance, power reigned supreme, as both McGrath and Rob Evans lined up with near perfect body positions.


3 - initialHowever, McGrath's exceptional power was far too much for Evans, and Ireland advanced considerably forward on his side. In the end, Wales were infringing in several places, with Evans pulling his bind down onto the arm of McGrath, and Sam Warburton detaching from the scrum, before illegally driving in on McGrath.

3 - messJust like a stopped clock is right twice a day, Barnes got his second correct penalty decision in a row shortly after, but this one didn't got down well with Ireland.

He correctly penalised Jack McGrath for whip-wheeling the scrum, after McGrath took two big sideways steps before eventually driving forward.

Here's how they looked when they packed down.

4 - initialBut watch how McGrath takes a very pronounced step to the left once the ball is engaged, before eventually driving forward.4 - step left

4 - drive forwardBarnes spotted it instantly, and did explain his decision to McGrath, saying: "A step to the left and then the drive. I didn't see any go forward first of all."

After a couple of good decisions things went downhill for Barnes from there.

Wales were under a lot of pressure in the scrum, and they were very fortunate to win a freekick at the next set-down, as Barnes penalised Ireland for an early drive.

But what Barnes failed to spot was hooker Scott Baldwin's attempt to block the channel with his foot.

Rule 20, 2 (c)  states that "The hookers must have both feet on the ground, with their weight firmly on at least one foot", with rule 20. 8 (a) stating: "All front row players must place their feet to leave a clear tunnel. Until the ball has left the scrum half’s hands, they must not raise or advance a foot. They must not do anything to stop the ball being thrown in to the scrum correctly".

As we can see below, Baldwin had lifted up one of his feet into the tunnel, so that Rhys Webb has an easier job feeding the ball. By lifting the leg, it resulted in one less person's power stabilising the scrum, which meant that Ireland inevitably crept forward.

Despite this, and Conor Murray's screaming of "Leg up, leg is up", Barnes ignores the calls and pings Ireland for an early drive.

5 - foot upBaldwin's second half replacement, Richard Hibbard was equally guilty of lifting his foot into the tunnel, while he proved to be very weak up against the pair of Sean Cronin and Marty Moore.

As we can see in this scrum, again the Welsh hooker has lifted his leg into the channel, and again it's missed by Barnes.

8 - initialAfter Webb places the ball behind that foot, it's hooked back, but the Irish scrum gets a fantastic shove on, resulting in Hibbard deliberately standing up, and thus breaking the bind of the scrum, which should result in a penalty.

8 - pop upIt happens again shortly after. We can see how once again Hibbard has stood up after refusing to go backwards any further, while we can also see how Aaron Jarvis is boring in on Marty Moore.

9 - messAt international level, it's completely unacceptable to have a referee with such a lack of understanding as to how an important part of the game actually works. Barnes has continually resorted to guesswork when policing the scrum, and while his decision making is only costing teams a few points for now, his lack of control could result in a serious injury down the line.