Thursday, 25 September 2008

Some Clarity

In Tuesday's post I talked about the confusion with when a maul ends 'Al Italia' i.e. the oppo disengage and run away.
Its seem there now some direction from the IRB, the RFU (god bless 'em) asked this question..

The RFU has requested a ruling relating to Law 17
A maul is formed with Team A pushing their opponents (Team B) back towards their own goal line with the ball being clearly visible at the rear of the maul, all the defending side (Team B) bound to the maul voluntarily exit the maul, has the maul successfully concluded or is the maul still active?

And the answer from the IRB is

The maul has not successfully concluded and it is not still active.
As the players of the team not in possession have all left the maul the maul ceases to exist and has not ended successfully or unsuccessfully as determined by the definition of a maul. The maul has ceased to exist and the ball is now in open play and the relevant Laws apply.

So do I penalise, obstruction, do I let the oppo pop around the back? This Saturday, I'll shout and tell the ball carriers to use it and hope they take the hint.

South Africa take stand over laws

South Africa take stand over laws

Hopefully this is the beginning of the end for the Sanction ELVs. Having campaigned against ELVs I have found those applied in the Northern Hemisphere to be broadly positive as they have made the game easier to ref (caveat - no to pulling down mauls). The whole free-kick for penalty/scrum variation are a fundamental change in the game and must be resisted. The only remaining champion for the cause is Australia's John O'Neil.

Don't you just love it when the Aussies are on the losing side!

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Monday's a training day..

After the slick central training night last week the cosy confines of the regional meeting. Three major topics, the maul, sealing off and foul play at the tackle/ruck engagement.

The new laws and directives have caused confusion as to when the maul ends. The Italian tactic of running away (6N 2-3 years ago), where by they disengage and run around the back to target the ball has been deemed bad form. If the oppo disengage, the maul is deemed to continue, but how do you defend this or referee it. What if the oppo re-engage?- If the ball is at the back, then it is obstruction, if the oppo target the ball, it is offside. If the ball is at the front, then no offside and maul reforms. It is probably best to pull it straight down.
But what if only one or two men are pulled down and the ball carrier remains upright and bound to a team mate and continues without the oppo engaged? Then again, the maul continues until there is a material disadvantage?? It looks like best practice from the ref is to judge the maul over and encourage the team in possession to use it or call a penalty for obstruction if the oppo re-engage. It was much easier if we just penalised the pull down.
There are two big initiatives from the IRB, one is sealing off at the tackle and the other is foul play whilst engaging at rucks.
The first has always been an offence but has been over looked. Players have always arrived at the tackle and bridged the tackled player; wide stance, head and arms on the tackled player or driven over the player and crashed down on the oppo side. This unfairly prevents the oppo having a crack at rucking the ball and must be punished. At lot of players are actively coached to do this and may find this enforcement a surprise, but the key justifications are
i) stay on your feet at the tackle, no matter which side and
ii) enter the ruck/tackle with your shoulders above your waist. Looking like George Michael in a Hampstead toilet is no-longer acceptable.
Ben Kay is clearly over the top here, but Bakkies Botha's intervention as 'enforcer' is foul play and is to be discouraged.

Bakkies Botha seems to provide plenty of material to illustrate the next directive

The days of launching into a ruck, tackle or maul without attempting to bind and with the soul intention of 'being physical' are to be stamped out. Its foul play, plain and simple. Youtube Bakkies Botha for plenty of examples.
To cap it all some nice new kit; track suits to keep us warm this winter, lush!

Monday, 22 September 2008

Sunny, South West London

The rugby season is now in full swing so, what feels like the sunniest Saturday of the year bakes the turf of Motspur Park. This was another Level 11 game and one that amounts to local derby. The referee training from Thursday night was fresh in my mind so focus on the front rows and closing off at the tackle were to be my points of focus in improving my game.
As it turned out the scrums were generally well behaved and proceeded well compared to last week. The home side lacked the of bulk of the visitors but as with the rest of there game, were better organised. They typically managed to step over the ball as it was put in, though it did catch them for a crooked feed once. Two scrumage incidents stood out; KCS had an attaching scrum on the 5m line, there was a tremendous shove as the ball went in and the defending tight –head stood up, the shove looked straight so I awarded the penalty to KCS which they took quickly and scored under the post. Wimbledon protested they had called a man down; nobody looked hurt as the scrum broke up so I was happy not to stop KCS using the advantage. It turns out it wasn’t a front-row and was merely a knock on the leg. It hardly warranted a stoppage so it was a good call; Wimbledon needed to react to the whistle better.
ELVs came into play in the second incident, a strike against the head saw the KCS back line needing to rearrange defensively, they rushed up and took a stand on the old, back-foot line and it was obvious to spot. Strangely, ten minutes later, the strike went the other way and Wimbledon conceeded the same penalty. ELVs played a part in the second try as KCS scored in the corner, the corner flag was clearly taken out as the ball was grounded, and against short lived protests, the try was good.
The tackle area was particularly scrappy, with KCS frequently handling and Wimbledon going off their feet. One incident saw the visitors turned over in the tackle, Wimbledon had no players in the game at the ruck to complete when KCS stepped over and picked up the ball. There was no penalty as there was no contest, KCS had won the ruck and by picking up they were being positive in getting the ball going forward. In making any discussion, referees should always look to reward positive play. I am not convinced Wimbledon saw it that way.
Sadly, there was no de-briefing with the visitors, post match, so I will have to wait for the card to come back. The home side gave me some good comments but at 34-0, they were bound to be pleased. From my own point of view, I was happy with my response to the high level of chat which diminished with action and I felt more confident that I was dealing with the scrum decisively. However, it was a bad afternoon for positioning, with three scrums as the ball carrier ran into me or being on the receiving end of a clearance kick – ouch!

Saturday, 20 September 2008

Help for Heroes

Fantastic day and a great game. The team I reffed, doubled by fee when I said was donating it to H4H. One question, will the Revenue be collecting the VAT the charity was obliged to charge on the ticket sales??
How could Des (part-time) Browne show his face? He has less respect in the forces than 'Buff" Hoon!

Donate Here

Friday, 19 September 2008

Thursday's a Training Day...

One of the great benefits of the London Society of Referees is that it is able to attract great speakers to training nights. Wayne Barnes, a graduate of the society is a regular at meetings and last night one of the newest premiership referees PJ Doyle was giving the benefit of his wisdom. The main event was Neil Hatley, the Guinness premierships, most experienced prop and academy coach at London Irish.
Neil gave a fantastic talk on scrumaging, what players and coaches want from referees and how to achieve a fair contest. The England scrum coach Phil Keith-Roach gave an excellent talk some time ago, but Neil added a practical and well illustrated angle.
Key recommendation were to get front rows square and stationary before calling the engagement and what was extremely useful was to show front row misdeeds. Its all well and good talking about what should happen and what to look out for, but having it played to you in slow motion with an expert pointing it out was marvellous. The fact that many of these infractions were un-penalised by international referees provided much debate. It made me realise how much I had been missing or at least allowed to go, not realising the disadvantage I had perpetuated. Clearly a new vigour will apply at Saturday’s game.
ELV and IRB directives also came under discussion, as you might expect this included the 5m scrum offside enforcement, or lack there of. There is so much to watch at scrums, primarily because of safety, the distant drift of defenders to the ‘old’ offside will rarely be caught, particularly without touch judges. Out of the corner of the eye, 3m looks much the same as 5m. Unless the scrum is going well, not even the premiership referees appear to have penalised this yet.
Finally, we are under strict instruction from the IRB to enforce players onto their feet at rucks. We are all conscious of defending players diving off their feet to ‘win’ (read kill) the ball. Less emphasis has been placed on attacking players driving over the ball and going to ground or bridging the tackle. This prevents and obstructs the opposition trying to ruck the ball fairly, and needs to be punished. You have been warned, plenty to take into tomorrow’s game.

Thursday, 18 September 2008


From this morning's Daily Telegraph

I can't begin to express how angry this photograph made me. Has no one explained to the man in the middle that this match is necessary because of the shamefully inadequate funding of the rehabilitation of British servicemen by his government. All he sees is cheesy photo op- a good shoeing is too good for the one-eye snot-gobbler.

Please make sure you donate some money this weekend.
help for heroes-donations

and show your support for the last pillar of British public service that has integrity and can still stand up as the world's best.

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Cheese, Eating Surrender Monkeys Strike Again!

Just when we thought the combined Allied forces had repelled the Anzac forces at the gate;

ELVs set for expanded France trial

The French roll over and take it again!

Monday, 15 September 2008

Chobham vs Camberley

A bright sunny day at the home club with three home sides in contention, including the top fixture against some familiar faces from London Welsh.
This was my first level 11, merit league game so I wanted to focus on the pointers from last week, particularly positioning. The first difference I have noticed from higher graded matches is that both teams are out warming up well before kick-off, no stranglers still on the way! The home side were adamant that only the permitted 5 subs are to be used which is reasonable considering the effect seen in my last match.
Thankful the notoriously boggy Chobham pitch was dry with lines on this visit and the home side chose to play uphill. The visitors started well and enjoyed clear dominance of territory and possession yet some how managed to end the half two tries down thanks to tenacious defence from the home side. Indeed, after some ruck handling and going off feet, Chobham were facing a yellow card and penalty try, the next phase they managed to clear the ball legally.
The visitor's best chance came as a cross field kick was caught in-goal by the oppo, but I pondered as the cross-kick had sailed between the posts; drop goal or not? Since it wasn't attempted as a drop goal it wasn't drop-kicked and it was penalty advantage anyway. Unfortunately, the visitors failed to capitalised on the pivot move they tried and the tide turned against them in the second half.
Running down the hill with decent, quick ball, the Chobham centres cut loose, clearly playing below their potential they rarely failed to make good ground and the home side ran in five unanswered tries in the second half.
Comedy moment of the match came as the home winger, a slightly built gentleman, followed up the kick, fielded by the oppo flanker, but failed to bring down the flanker or let go, the flanker proceed up the field, ball in one hand and winger in the other!
Ugly moments include the difficulties at the scrum with setting the distance and early engagement, feedback was that they didn't like my cadence on the touch-pause-engage. More unsavoury was yellow card for a retaliatory shoe following some post-tackle niggle, there wasn't enough malice to justify anything more harsh and neither did the tone of the game.
A more challenging match than the week before, the new laws didn't make too much of an impact and positive feed back from two decent teams.

Monday, 8 September 2008

ELV in action; world continues to spin!

Finally the season arrives with a late appointment following a pleading call to the appointments manager. Fortunately it was only a short drive, as I had to get back to cook a four course meal for guests.
It was my first visit to the Reeds Weybridge (blue) ground and it boasts a most attractive setting. The pitch was lush and well marked, but there was a strong downfield wind and rain was threatening. Some confusion over the kick off time saw the home side already warmed up whilst there was only trickle of arrivals by the visitors. The wait time allowed some discussion about the ELVs, most players were aware, but their knowledge came from Super 14 and Tri-nations and free-kicks for handling in rucks was highly anticipated.
I have encountered the visitors, Economicals (black) a couple of times, and this time looked younger and fitter than their opposition, with a large bench to rotate through, something the home side regretted agreeing to.
The home side choose to play up hill and into the wind in the first half, and soon conceded three tries. They failed to protect the tackler and were turned over too often and this allowed the visitors to put considerable width on the ball. To be fair to the Reeds defence they worked hard to contain the onslaught which resulted in the tries proving difficult to convert. The pitch’s slope contributed to Economicals scrum being dominant and it was a surprise to see young and lean overcoming older and ‘wiser’. ELV-wise, setting scrums now involves getting the offside set at 5m, and extra couple of seconds for the front rows before the engagement. It was difficult to judge if they crept up as I was otherwise engaged with crocked feeds, binding and boring, unbound flankers and keeping scrum halves onside! Some thing to work on!
The side changed over at 27-0 to the visitors but the home side looked to make progress out of their claim that the slope was worth 50 points in the second half. A couple of good tries came early but increasingly they couldn’t breach the defence. I came close to awarding a penalty try when a floored black player caught a pass meant for a bullocking prop 7m out, but I couldn’t be certain it would have been a try given the number of defenders.
Soon after the new quick throwing law was used to great effect with the ball starting its flight a good 10-15m in touch, this added to general confusion within the oppo ranks!
In the final quarter the speed and fitness of Economicals took its toll on Reed and my good self, as pressure was turning territory into points. The penultimate try being a penalty try as the black centre was high-tackled 4m out, accidental but reckless so no yellow. Finally score 12-58 to the visitors.
Good points;
no injuries or fighting!
My fitness seemed a little better,
I managed to keep a check on back-chat
ELV didn’t prove too problematic
Good feed back from both team.
Needs improvement;
I was bit quick on the whistle when good advantage might have developed
I wasn’t picking up all the handling in the rucks that Reeds seemed to witness.

Friday, 5 September 2008

Season Begins

After an inital false start (no game assigned for this weekend) I now have a match, a friendly between two local sides. I have reffed both before though not at the homeside's ground.

After months on grumbling and complaining it is time to put into practice the ELVs- hoping the players have had some instruction! I will approach the matter with an open mind; aside from the maul change, I do not thing there will be too many problems.

New Season Resolutions
I aim to be much tougher on chat- inspired by the Trouble Shooter. Authoity is key and I need to be better at establishing it.
Better communication - listen Wayne Barnes on ref-link. Words not whistle and let the game flow. Players have to help by responding to my instuctions
Fewer penalties - following on from above; frustration comes from receiving or conceeding too many. Could it be a scrum to restart? Blow early and don't let it become scappy.
Fitness - I like to thing I move well for a fat lad, but loose a few pounds and gain an extra yard of pace
Carry on enjoying it and aim for promotion at Christmas

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

RFU turns its back on Rugby League

Was it revenge for all of those years of talent 'going North'? Either way it was a missed placed plan from England's perspective with all their potential talent.

Blood and Mud: RFU turns its back on Rugby League:

With the execption of Robinson and Tuqiri, all RL converts have been a waste of money. The successful ones have only been that way because of their position, wing; tacitically the least challenging on the park - catch, run fast and have good feet.

Union is a much more complicated game. The players who moved the other way were successful because of this, a lifetime of learning the game's nuances. Even the physical advanage that RL players once had had been eliminated. I would like to see a re-match of the (wigan)RL vs (Bath)RU game that was tried after RU went open. I think is would be 2-0 to RU these days.