Law Question: Fending to the face

Posted by SCRRS Website Committee on May 21st, 2012

7 A ball carrier may hand off an opponent. Can 10.4 (e) apply?

Question:

The attacking ball carrier is allowed to fend with an open hand to the chest or face. Is it possible to give a guideline to when a fend becomes dangerous and how a referee can identify and judge that action? We’ve had several teams coached to fend to the face and the concern is the fends are becoming dangerous, bordering on punching to the face. We are so careful with any physical contact above the neck, and yet it seems a hand to the defending face is ok? There are many areas cautioning defending players not to go near the neck or head, but nothing directed at the attacking ball carrier. 2011 Law Book page 55. http://www.scrrs.net/irb-rulings/irb-ruling-the-hand-off-or-fending/

Response:

The law is very clear on this:

Law 7

A ball carrier may hand-off an opponent.

and is clearly defined:

Hand-off: An action taken by a ball carrier to fend off an opponent by using the palm of the hand.

Referees that penalize hand-offs to the head are making law up as they go along and should stop doing so. You are illegally removing a key skill from the game.

There is a very clear and easy distinction:

The hand that goes to the face and holds the opponent at arms length or pushes them away is NOT illegal.

Perfect example:

YouTube Preview Image

Please Note *****

When delivered with deliberate impact (especially with the butt of hand), striking the face is illegal.

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