Monday, 26 October 2009

3 Yellows and a flying Prop

With the words of last week’s assessor still fresh in my ears it was off to the Surrey countryside for a local derby in the merit league, a scrappy game full of incident was to follow. The home side (Blue) looked to be mix of youth and experience whilst the visitors (Black) seemed well loaded with experience. The pitch at this club has a significant end to end slope and this is a key factor in choosing sides at kick off. Use the early advantage or take the easier option for tired legs in the second half. Black choose the early advantage. This didn’t work out so well with an early, fast paced try for Blue. This seemed to wake-up Black who used their considerable forward advantage to dominate field position and possession.
Black’s mix of oldies looked to bully Blue early on and I warned them to calm thinks down. Minutes later as a promising move came to end just short of the Blue goal line, Black 16 had words with a Blue player before open-handedly slapping him. The ensuing yellow card was met with protests that it was only a slap, yes it was, if it had been a punch then it would be have been red. From scrumaging under the posts, Black were marched down the field. At 15 minutes in, it was certainly my earliest yellow card and the assessor’s advice did result in taming Black’s temper.
Another Black move came to end 3m out as a Blue player goes down over the ball, killing it. Again a yellow card but no penalty try as Black didn’t look to be certain to score. However, they did from the penalty and turned around 12-10 up, not a great advantage since they would be playing up hill in the second period.
The lack of position and procession had seen a big penalty count against Blue and the captain was warned to keep discipline in the second half but their new strategy was to use the slope and speed of their young backs to keep the old fellas in Black away from the ball. This worked with two early tries which put the game beyond Black. A bizarre aspect of Black’s play was the number of accidental off-sides from ruck and maul. I say accidental but there is a case for obstruction and a penalty, but I judged that the forward players were just too lazy to retire properly. They found this very frustrating but I offered the penalty interpretation and that quietened the complaints. There was to be a third yellow card as a Black winger, chipped through, the Blue defender, jumped to charge it down but deliberately landed in a way to trip the attacking player. The captain had been warned that the penalty count was high and that was reckless play.
The scrumage in this game was a tough one to control. The wizened operators of Black verses the bulk and youth of Blue. The first half, pushing down hill, Black adequately contained the Blue pack. I over heard the Black tight head complimenting his 19 year old adversary on his efforts. However, in the second half, it all started to go wrong; Blue were now pushing down the slope and Black struggles to hold the engagement hit. This resulted in a couple of free kicks for the early push and for delaying the put in. However, in the final quarter, Black’s loose head popped up repeatedly. The first penalty was against him for not taking the pressure and standing up, then against Blue for driving up and then, once again against Black at the loose head flew up in the face of an almighty shove. There is often an element of lottery in getting the call right on front row offences but I am getting more confident calling it right and going for a sanction rather than a re-set.
What did it take out of this match? It was a spirited but disappointing spectacle, there were too many penalties but try as I might they were generally clear, obvious and fair. The early and confident use of a yellow card calmed things down and got both sides focusing on the game. I cut down on the commentary to players and acted with more confidence in key game management phases and the new positioning at kick-offs, line-outs and goal kicks seemed to work well. Final score 31-12 to Blue.

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