Wednesday, 30 January 2008

Craig Joubert waves play on to Twickenham - Telegraph

Its not often that the ref gets centre stage in the press (f0r the right reasons, that is)

Craig Joubert waves play on to Twickenham - Rugby Union News - Telegraph

I think the comments he makes about being a 'facilitator' and "...for every decision a referee does make, there are probably five or six that he doesn't..." are the nub of the misunderstanding that most non-referees fail to appreciate.

Monday, 28 January 2008

Back to Earth

Its been a pleasant couple of weeks, hard-fought vets matches. Tough and uncompromising, yes but played with a convivial bonhomie. Last weekend it was a welcome foray into league rugby, OK, its only Surrey 4 but league nevertheless. Haslemere, the home side were playing Old Oundelians, in a top-of-table clash. The game was quicker than recent weeks but there also a step-up in mental edge and I was slow to grasp this.

The players were much more focused on the result and how to effect it. To this end, it was a game with many voices, not necessarily challenging my decisions, but trying to shape my call. Usually, I filter out this noise but it is rarely this pervasive, you become aware that it is you being played, as well as the ball.

The game balanced on the two back-rows, Haslemere had the bigger bullying pack but the open side was too keen on leaving his feet at the breakdown. The Old Oundelian's No7 was simply offside a great deal, but very quick off the mark none the less. Early in the second half, Haslemere dived straight to the ground and killed a promising attack 12 metres out, no question of issuing a yellow card to the captain. Against the run of this things Old Oundelians suddenly were able to run the ball from deep and managed three scores in the 10 minutes they held the numerical advantage. Tempers simmered through the match, with a couple of unpleasant off the ball punch ups, it is frustrating knowing its going on and not catching it. The pace of the game did not afford me the luxury of frequent look-backs as the ball moved away from the breakdown-something I need to work on.

In the end, it was well earned win for the visitors, they controlled the pace and kept the ball from the larger home pack. Not a great performance from your host; on the plus side, I kept up with play effectively but demerits for allowing too much chat and not establishing sufficient authority.

Friday, 25 January 2008

Familiar Friends

Old Paulines this week, always a pleasure as a) they are only a mile from my home b) 'club class' changing rooms and c) efficient Old Boys who make sure the balls are pumped up and and that I get a beer in the club house.
Refereeing one's former team mates is always a tricky call. I was assigned a Vets match at Old Paulines (OP) in which they happened to be entertaining my old playing mates. London Welsh were rarely a ref-friendly side when I played with them, largely a feature of the more rough'n'humble nature of Valleys rugby. Their past experience of me reffing came from my early days with more enthusiasm than common sense. One has to add to the mix the knowledge about the back rows handy with their fists, the one(s) happy for a bit of back-chat and the inevitable lack of grace when it comes to staying upright at the tackle. The hosts must have found it odd when most of the their oppo are on first name terms with the referee. Its best to be straight and explain, that knowing the ref works as much for a team as against.

An inauspicious start, from the kick off the ball moves close to the touchline, but no touch-flag and the knock-on is given. Wrong, everyone points out that the judge's hand is up but the flag is out sideways. Lets go back for the line-out. Shortly after, the Welsh get good line-out ball on their ten metre line, scrummy hands on; check the OPs offside line fine, Welsh outside-half kicks straight into the OPs No7 and OP run the ball back for the first score. A suitably miserable fly-half hints that there was an offside but I assure him there wasn't (he still wasn't convinced at full time).
It was an evenly matched game in which Welsh held an edge up front, but handed to many turn-overs once they moved it wide (thanks to OPs No7). The Welsh certainly looked to be finishing the stronger but were rushing things. Overall it was a good tempered game (thankfully) but was tarnished by the poor contact discipline at the breakdown. It still amazes me that blokes who have played the game for 30 years don't know when its a ruck. "But I'm the tackler!" is the usual retort, yes, but you need to get your hands on it before the ruck forms not after!
A few beers with both teams afterward and some good feedback from both sides. A more objective analysis was to come as they started a web-discussion on how to fill-in my referee report card. Better than last time was the result from my ex-team mates. A move which I hope continues because I'm covering them at home in two weeks.
The match did provide a suitable photo for this pager banner!

Wednesday, 16 January 2008

Recent Weeks

The post-Christmas season has given me a couple of decent games. Dorking Vets proved to be a handful up front for the oppo and the referee; masters in the dark arts, most notably their ability to keep it hidden. It was an expansive and fast game for the level, or maybe I'd had eaten too much turkey. The visitors included a couple of youngsters, to the displeasure of the hosts. A conversation between two of the kids in the backs prompted some wag on the home team to offer, "Hey, are they swapping Pokemon cards?" A ripple of laughter from both sides and the ref. Here's a link to their match report OldSutts. A good win for Dorking despite an epic 3/4 field try from Sutts in the last move of the match. I was glad I didn't blow sooner.

Last week's London Irish game was moved to the visitor's pitch at Chobham because of the rain. The lateness of this move mean there were no lines on the pitch, this wasn't as difficult as it sounds thanks to some good humour from both sides. The addition of some useful development squad players saw Irish the easy winners, thought the Chobham front row enjoyed making mincemeat of the 19 yo opposition. Heavy mud and marked uphill slope takes it out of your legs at the Chobham second pitch and I was greatful for the forward pass in the what was to be come the last move, length of the pitch turn-over tries aren't my favourite in the 85th minute.

A good chat with the Irish coach included my London Welsh past, he remarked they were always fiesty matches between the Exciles. Indeed, today was my first time on the field with the Irish that didn't involve a punch-up!

I'm Back

It's been a quiet a while since I last posted a message and I have to confess it was sheer laziness. I have been read a couple of other referee bloggers
and I am inspired to take up the metaphoric pen once more. Both of these referees operate at the higher end of the game and I hope to bring a flavour of Level 12, which can range from fat old Vets to the first teams in second or third county league.
Since my last posts, I have learned a lot and do get the odd positive comment in the bar after the game. Experience is hard earned and is founded on not letting them see the fear in your eyes! If you behave and act like you are in control, surprisingly, that is what you get.