Saturday was my first level 10 match and the first game of 2011 and whilst all 31 of us needed to blow away a few cobwebs, it went well. The venue was club I seem to be sent to surprisingly frequently, at least 2-3 per season; its not particularly close either. Still it has warm changing room, friendly alickadoos and proper first aiders. Moving up a level also meant playing on the first pitch rather than their awful, inclined, mud-swamp of a second pitch.
The first half progressed well with the visitors just about getting the edge with their organised pack. The home side admitted to using a lot of youngsters who “didn’t use the top 2 inches”. The surprising thing was how long it took for the first scrum, I am aware I do give a lot, this goes back to an assessor telling me to blow early at rucks before frustrations boil over. However, in this case, whilst the rucks weren’t particularly tidy, the ball was coming back were it deserved to be fairly quickly and handling was sharp enough to hold down the number of knock-ons.
Both front rows seemed to behave themselves but the visitors did seem to twist it regularly. The back row binding was a problem from both sides and materiality was a useful tool. I did penalise but only when the flanker got in the way, made the tackle or forced an error. The flanker captain of the visitors questioned my consistency with the “stay bound” instruction and I pointed out to him that the only way he could see that the opposite No8 was detached was if he himself was breaking early. Sheepish retreat.
The visitors got some luck from the kick-off, Blue caught the ball close to their 22 and the fly-half’s poor pass to his centre rebounded of his shoulder and into the arms on the oppo for an easy run-in to score under the posts. The visitors were starting to complain about stamping, indeed, one forwards showed me a stud scrape on his hand, which I am sure he deserved, however it is frowned upon these days as it scares away Sky viewers. So when I over-heard a home prop boasting about the arm that he stamped on, he and his captain were warned about the outcome if I caught him doing it.
I have to admit to two errors, one technical and one judgemental. The home side were awarded a penalty on the visitors 10m line and attempted a cross field kick to the their winger, unfortunately the defending winger caught it and called for mark, which I instinctively gave (d’oh!). Luckily no-one noticed and they failed to remember the incidence when he later called for a mark from a kick-off and I called play-on. Next up, in the dying minutes the home side are 10 pts down, 10 m out and pressing for a try, the defencive player is trapped on the wrong side in a ruck and I’m about the blow for an attacking scrum when the scrum half brings his foot down sharply on the player’s calf. Clearly deliberate and close to the knee joint, I showed him Yellow but it should have been Red.
The post match feed-back was positive with a couple of minor issues with rucks (as always) and strangely communication. Physically, I’ve been tested harder in some level 11 games but I’m happy that I came through this well.