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Explained: The rarely-seen law that disallowed a Hull KR try

Hull KR

Hull KR marched on to the Challenge Cup semi-finals yesterday with a 26-14 win over Leigh Leopards but it could have been more but for two disallowed tries, one for a rule that is incredibly rare in Super League.

Joe Burgess scored either side of half-time whilst Niall Evalds and Elliot Minchella also scored to than Hull KR the win that saw them finally get “revenge” on Leigh after last year’s Challenge Cup Final.

The Leopards had let at the break in what Adrian Lam has revealed was “the best rugby we’ve played all year” but the home side got their footing in the game in that second forty.

Hull KR could have led at the break but for two disallowed tries, one by Jai Whitbread and another for Dean Hadley with Elliot Minchella deemed as the offending player on both occasions.

Tom Grant deemed him to have committed a ball steal for Whitbread’s score whilst Chris Kendall ruled a forward pass for Hadley’s, however, it was the Robins’ second-half disallowed score that got fans talking.

Hull KR see third try ruled out in rare circumstances

Hull KR

Credit: SWpix

Tyrone May’s try to send Hull KR into a two-try lead was ruled out by Chris Kendall on account of Jez Litten being ‘down town’, a ruling that is very rarely called in Super League.

With the game broadcast on BBC Two and BBC iPlayer, you could clearly hear referee Kendall mic’d up explaining: “I’ve got no try. Jez Litten is downtown and I think he comes within ten metres of the player who is waiting for the ball.”

Of course, that triggered the need for the video referee at which point Tom Grant took over, stating: “Litten is in front of the play the ball at this point. The ball is played whilst he’s in a downtown position and he doesn’t get back past the play the ball and he remains in an offside position.

“He’s within ten metres at this point (when Tyrone May collects the ball).”

Legendary coach John Kear was on comms and sided with the decision of both men as he explained the huge impact it had on the game, with the Leopards scoring on the very next set.

Kear noted: “By the letter of the law, Jez Litten never gets onside. He is more in the Leigh line than his own.”

“It all came from that flip from the no try decision,” the ex-Wakefield Trinity boss reacted to Umyla Hanley’s score to make it 16-12, as opposed to 20-8 with a kick to come.

“It just shows how pivotal that decision was, and it was correct, but Hull KR could have been virtually out of sight. That penalty gave them the field position and now we’ve got a game on.”

What exactly is the ‘down town’ rule?

Chris Kendall

It’s a rule that isn’t called very often because of the rare circumstances that need to happen for it to be applicable.

It relates specifically to when an in-play kick occurs and required an attacking player to be beyond the play the ball and never then gets back behind their line before the kick is made.

In this instance, Litten was ahead of the play the ball on the fifth tackle and with Hull KR opting to pass rather than immediately kick it saw Litten then make an effort to re-join play as a support runner, instead of getting back onside.

As Tom Grant explained, the Hull KR hooker was then within ten metres of Tyrone May who ultimately collected Ryan Hall’s kick which then rendered him as an illegal ‘down town’ player.

The RFL’s own website defines “down town” as being a breach off the offside rule with the specific law quoted as: “Any player who is in front of the kicker in general play is not permitted to advance beyond the point of the previous play the-ball until the ball has gone past the off side players. This rule delays the movement of the off side players downfield in an attempt to encircle the ball receiver as they collect the ball.”

One fan on social media noted how rare it was too, explaining it was just the second time they had seen the ruling in England with that also coming in a game involving Hull KR.

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. John

    April 14, 2024 at 2:42 pm

    Litten was undoubtedly within ten metres of the player receiving the ball, but as that player was Tyrone May, who is on the same team as Litten, I fail to see how he could have been adversely influencing the catcher?
    If you watch the replay of the original tackle, Litten is making his way back to the ten metre line when he stops because he realises he will interfere with the Leigh play the ball. A bit unjust really.

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