Access exclusive podcasts, interviews and analysis with a monthly or annual membership

Become A Member
Dublin: 2°C Sunday 27 September 2020

Use it or lose it! Edinburgh cough up turnover for failing to play the ball

Referee Ben Blain gave Richard Cockerill’s side more than enough leeway.

IT IS A truly rare sight in rugby – a turnover when a team fails to play the ball away from a ruck after the referee has warned them to use it.

Well, during Edinburgh’s 15-3 defeat to Glasgow in the Guinness Pro14 last night, we saw Richard Cockerill’s side concede such a turnover.


[Click here if you cannot view the clip above]

At the very start of the clip above, referee Ben Blain shouts, “Use it!” to Edinburgh to signal that they need to play the ball.

11 seconds later, Blain blows his whistle and awards a scrum to Glasgow. The law here would have actually allowed Blain to award Glasgow a scrum after only five seconds.

Law 15.17: “When the ball has been clearly won by a team at the ruck, and is available to be played, the referee calls “use it”, after which the ball must be played away from the ruck within five seconds. Sanction: Scrum.”

Blain’s decision was popular with the vast majority of supporters who saw it, most of them sick of watching teams now regularly taking so long to set up ‘caterpillar’ rucks to box kick from.

Edinburgh, unsurprisingly, aren’t pleased with Blain’s decision and they appeal here as Glasgow celebrate.

“Sir, the ball wasn’t even there,” says Edinburgh scrum-half Charlie Shiel.

“We discussed this before half-time,” responds Blain. “Let’s just use it quicker on the ‘Use it’ calls.”

Edinburgh’s Stuart McInally then says, “Can I ask you a question, please?”

But Blain responds, “Not now.”

Do Edinburgh have any case here?

Just after calling “Use it,” Blain warns Zander Fagerson, “Three white, let him go” as the Glasgow tighthead looks to cause havoc on the ground.

Fagerson then gets up to his feet to counter-ruck and make more hassle as Shiel begins rolling the ball back through the elongated ruck with his foot, positioning it for a box kick. 

But Blain has seen enough and signals a Glasgow scrum. Shiel’s appeal is that the ball “wasn’t there” but there’s little doubt he could have reached down with his hands here and scooped it away. Blain gave them more than enough leeway to use the ball and Edinburgh failed to do so.

It was interesting to hear the referee mentioning a discussion before half-time, when there was a similar incident that left Glasgow frustrated.

Again, Blain calls “Use it” right at the start of the clip below.


[Click here if you cannot view the clip above]

Nine seconds after Blain’s warning, Shield kicks the ball. 

According to the letter of the law, this should have been a scrum to Glasgow and they’re not too happy. 

Second row Rob Harley actually does a countdown for the referee while Shield readies himself to kick, roaring, “Three, two, one, zero, minus one, minus two!” as one of his team-mates then shouts “How long?” just before Shiel finally kicks and play continues.


There’s a knock-on from Glasgow 30 seconds later and Blain calls Harley and his captain, Fraser Brown, over for a word.

“We agreed pre-game that players weren’t going to appeal for decisions, I’ll determine if it’s five seconds or not,” says the referee. “Not you.”

Brown turns away but then comes back to Blain and asks, “What was he [Harley] doing?”

Blain: “He’s shouting at me, giving me a countdown – five, four, three, two, one, zero, minus one…”

Brown: “Is that cos he [Shiel] was taking 10 seconds? There was one last weekend that was 29 seconds.”

Blain: “I don’t think it was quite that long but we had a deal inside, so you deal with it and I can manage the situation on the pitch for you.”

Edinburgh captain Chris Dean comes over at this stage and adds, “Sir, we got explicitly told no whinging and they’re whinging” but Blain doesn’t respond.

However, just as the scrum is setting up, the referee turns to Edinburgh scrum-half Shiel and says, “Quicker, quicker.”

The warning wasn’t heeded, however, and Edinburgh coughed up possession as a result early in the second half.

- This article was updated at 5.18pm to correct ‘Blair’ to ‘Blain’ in the sub-heading.

About the author:

Murray Kinsella

Read next:


This is YOUR comments community. Stay civil, stay constructive, stay on topic. Please familiarise yourself with our comments policy here before taking part.
write a comment

    Leave a commentcancel