Well, not quiet a riot but whilst their classmates caused a nuisance in the West End, I had two excellent sides in a BUSC cup match. In new departure this season I have been refereeing midweek student games as I am out of work. Its proved to be some of the best rugby I’ve been involved in; players who are fit, well drilled and disciplined. They have yet to be corrupted by the old cynics who’s hay-day and last training session with a descent coach was 10 years ago.
In approaching two teams for the first time I, like other referees, will eye up the players and judge who I think will be the side most likely to win. In this case, the home side were mostly lean and tall, the visitors a mixed bag of sizes with a smattering of fatties. This week was to prove just how much I know. Right from the start the visitors were sharper out of the box, controlling field position and pace of the game. Whilst the home team’s forwards had the edge, the visitors’ fly half was exceptionally talented; its not often you see a 40m drop goal at level 11.
The first half saw the visiting team establish a sound lead, but the second, saw the home team fight back. Pressure on a clearance kick from in-goal saw the ball sliced to touch in-goal; 5m attacking scrum. Excellent pressure saw the visitors defensive scrum disintegrate, penalty; and having watched the TV the captain opted for a second scrum. This time the defensive loose head turned in; penalty again. Captain encourages his pack on; “One time time lads and its a penalty try!”, to which I slap him down, “I’ve watched the telly too, its not necessarily so”. Truth is he was going to get one in all likelihood, but I don’t want it decided for me. The attack managed to score a legitimate try and the vertical position of the flankers meant that the penalty try was there if needed. However, having reflected on the situation, next time I would have given the penalty on the first offence. The front row had stood up, the back row had detached and it was clearly a very unsuccessful and illegal end to a scrum that was heading towards the goal line at at a rate of knots.
The home side definitely held the advantage in the second half and into the last 5 minutes were a score behind and looked like levelling things, until a flanker’s tackle put the ball carrier’s legs through the vertical. Not a spear-tackle but dangerous enough under the recent directive for a penalty, smack in front of the posts and the fly-half nailed it.
A great game and some fantastic feed-back once again, the players felt the advantage I used allowed them to play the game whilst the previous week, the teams had been blown of the park. Rugby was the winner then. Its good news when even the losers are happy with the ref.