A boule thrown out of turn

Conside the following situation.

Team A has the point. Team B throws boule B1. B1 gains the point but the players don’t realize that. Mistakenly believing that team A still has the point, team B throws boule B2.

The players then walk to the head and measure all of the boules. They discover that B1 had actually gained the point. That means that after B1 was thrown, team A, not team B, should have thrown the next boule. Boule B2 was “thrown out of turn”. What should be done?


OPINION #1: B2 was thrown contrary to the rules

Article 15 says that “it is the team that does not hold the point that plays.” So it seems obvious that a boule played out-of-turn should be considered a boule thrown contrary to the rules and the provisions of Article 24 should be applied. Nothing was marked, so everything is left in place and the offended team (team A) has the choice of whether or not to leave the offending boule (B2) on the terrain.

OPINION #2: B2 was NOT thrown contrary to the rules

In 2008, the national umpires for Petanque New Zealand (PNZ) issued a set of rules interpretations that held that a boule thrown out of turn is NOT a “boule thrown contrary to the rules”.

Even if the boule was not holding, by agreeing that it was, the opponents in effect declared it to be valid under Rule 24. At the end of the mène, the boules can be measured, but not to determine whether the team had played out of turn, only to determine the current holding positions for points purposes.

Following this lead, in 2012 John Degueldre, Director of Umpiring for Petanque New Zealand, issued the following ruling.

Boules played out of turn are not considered as an infringement to the rules [i.e. as "boules thrown contrary to the rules"] but indeed as a mistake. Players making such a mistake penalise themselves by reducing or losing the ‘boule advantage’. In conclusion, players do not incur any penalty, and boule(s) are valid and stay in place. But it is still the player or team not holding the point that must play the next boule.

The practical effect of this interpretation is that, after a boule is thrown out-of-turn, everything is left where it is, and the game just carries on.

OPINION #3: It depends on the circumstances

Consider these two cases.

  1. Situation A — The two teams walk to the head and inspect the situation. Team B says, “Looks to me like you’ve got the point.” Team A says, “Yeah, I think so too.” They don’t measure. Team B throws the next boule. (PNZ calls such situations lazy petanque.)
  2. Situation B — After throwing boule B1, the player in the circle makes a snap judgment that he has failed to gain the point. Without measuring or asking team A for their opinion, he throws boule B2.

A player should not throw a boule without reaching an agreement with the other team that it is his team’s turn to throw. In the first case team B got team A’s agreement that team B should throw— both teams made an honest mistake and the game should just carry on. In the second case team B failed to get team A’s agreement on the point (i.e. failed to perform due diligence) and for that reason really did throw B2 contrary to rules.

What an umpire will decide

If either Situation A or Situation B occurs in an umpired tournament, the umpire would probably apply Article 24 and rule that B2 was thrown contrary to the rules.

For friendly games, the PNZ guidelines seem very sensible— just leave everything where it is and carry on with the game. In my own petanque group, we play by the rules of Petanque Libre, which say that if an illegal action can be undone, it should be undone. If the out-of-turn boule didn’t move anything else on the ground, we return the boule to its owner and carry on as if it had never been thrown.

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