The first week was a local match, I even cycled to the ground and it involved a side I’d encountered a couple of times before; the oppo where new to me. I gave a good long briefing to both teams about the summer law changes and new directives. Naturally, most of this was news to the players except the maul law. In retrospect, the subtleties of hands in at the tackle were lost and I think it left them with the impression that hands were fair game from everyone. It did prove useful as at least one turn-over came from the legitimate use of the new ruling. Well, I think it did!
Both teams were evenly balanced, though the loss of a prop and the subsequent 2/3 of the game played uncontested probably cost them the win. Neither team seemed to control rucks well, which made them messy but competitive. I played rucks loosely which allowed a bit of niggle to develop, but this didn’t spill over, despite the home team’s combative Saffa No8. A word of warning to players if you have a distinctive accent; keep your thoughts to yourself, otherwise it makes it easy for the referee to pick you out and penalise you directly.
One of my season’s targets is to get a better grip of discipline and it was an early yellow card for the defender on the floor, 10m out, kicking the ball back as the scrummy was about to pick up. Black scored a crucial try from the resulting penalty
Final score was 22-22, my first draw, four tries from each team but some tricky kicks to convert.
My second match was supposed to be a third team game in south London, but the club had bumped the referees up a match as they had botched their referee appoints (very naughty boys). The home side just managed to scratch together 15 with a couple of subs, were as the visitors had 8-10 subs which the home side foolishly, it turns out, allowed them utilise. There was some good early pressure from the home pack, but the oppo had a wonderfully skilful and youthful back three who twice capitalised on some half chances to score. It was a marvellous chip and chase game that the home side could not counter. The home side converted some pressure into a score as chip through was knocked on by the defending full-back, not attempt to catch, 5m out, penalty try. I ran play through another phase to see if they could get a proper score but it wasn’t coming.
The scrums were tricky all afternoon as both front row wanted to mess about, as ever a tough one to decide who is up to what, there were a couple of obvious free kicks and penalties but an awful lot of resets.
Eventually the youth and fresh legs made a difference and the score began to flatter the visitors in what had been real contest. Final score 17-45.