Thursday, 23 October 2008

The Whistler

Another sunny afternoon, but thankfully chillier than late. I am going to grant anonymity to this week’ teams to protect the guilty, in what was a frustrating game to referee. I’ve had some challenging level 11 games in recent weeks, were the speed and skill of players required quick thinking and good control; players were generally positive.
On Saturday it was a level 14 friendly and the drop in skill was marked but the disappointing aspect was the negative play. The home side, Red, were the better drilled team with the higher fitness, I had reffed them last season and clearly remembered a couple of bad tempered characters, though the captain was a calm and reasonable fellow. As with the opposition, they combined a mix of youth and old timers.
The visitors soon looked to be out gunned up front but scored an excellent first try though a fantastic angled run from the fly-half. The penalties soon started coming thick and fast at the tackle area. Both sides seemed unable to stay on their feet or roll away from the tackle. Red responded with some ill-disciplined foot work which resulted in the warnings of cards being issued. A mouthy critique of my performance from Red’s second row saw the team marched back 10m at least twice.
The visitor’s defence held up well, but they failed to roll away from the tackle and this frustrated me and the opposition. It’s a hard line to decide whether it was cynical or old-age, I suspect a mix of both. The frequency of the offences gives me a couple of options; a) whistle on very occasion (and destroy the game),
b) stretch the bounds of what is a material offence (and stretch the patience of the opposition) or
c) yellow card people and hope that gets the message across.
In this case I went for mixture of a) and b), the third option is not what 3rd team rugby is about when the fitness and skill levels are challenged and none of the offences where in the red zone. What ever I did, I was on to a loser but you can only give players the game they want to play. Red were still managing to lead comfortably but the level of chat was still too high despite shorter tolerance that previous matches.
The second half saw the visitors tire and the cheating become more blatant, the Red chat became more pronounced. I needed to make and example and the new hooker’s call of “not straight ref” saw me penalise Red there and then. Soon after, more foot work on the tackler on the floor saw a Red player spend 10 mins on the touch line. The visitors’ no8 started to be more obviously offside, at one point he managed to pick up opposition ball from a scrum. As he also used his position of pack leader to discuss referee discussion too vocally, I think, in retrospect, he too should have cooled off for ten minutes. The missing Red player seemed to galvanise his team mates and they put the game beyond doubt with two well taken tries.
As there was no separate referee dressing room I wasn’t looking forward to showering with the home side, but the good humour returned quickly. Not an epic display from me; plus points, the short tempers in Red were kept under control, negative points I failed to encourage a positive attitude to play from the visitors and deal with their cheating on the floor.
An now, a couple weeks off for family affairs.

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