Technology is taking over for common sense.
Understandably there's been hue and cry over Craig Joubert's offsides penalty in the dying moments of the Australia-Scotland quarterfinal. The split-second determination enabled the Wallabies to kick the winning goal.
World Rugby's considered decision to disavow the South African referee is another landmark. It's now clear test refs are working under double jeopardy.
One can be immediately reversed by the television match official (TMO), in front of stadium crowds and international audiences. Later, censure may come from officials who might not even be qualified refs.
At the 2015 World Cup, no less than 17 citations have handed down after the end of match play. As the Guardian's Paul Rees observed: 'Each one has effectively said that a referee made an error in not sending off a player because the test for a citing is that it is for an offence that merited a red card.'
Has the tournament really been so malicious? Rees adds: 'The Harlequins director of rugby, Conor O’Shea, made a valid point this week that by publicly undermining Joubert, World Rugby have made it difficult for governing bodies to take action against coaches in future who make critical comments about officials.'
The source of this morass is TV technology that's unmoored from how the game is meant to be played. No longer is the man in the middle the 'sole judge of law and fact'. There are strictures but no animating spirit as to when -- measured in time as well as circumstances -- a decision is fair and final.
A few years ago, Gainline.us learned of an American ref who made a 50/50 call that effectively settled a league match. The losing captain would not drop the matter ... until our quick-witted man in the middle signaled for the TMO. All dissolved in laughter, and it was off to the postmatch.
American rugby should relish such amateur moments.
Related: In praise of American referees