The West district covers a large area from Richmond up to Watford, which invariably requires me driving to matches. I haven't decided whether to name the Clubs I ref yet, to protect the guilty, but sub-jurdicy prevents me naming Saturday's clubs. Being relatively new I get to ref low grade matches, 2/3rds, Vets and friendlies. This suits me for now as I'm learning the ropes, it also means that the players are generally, as unfit as me.
This match was a big one for me, I was having my first Assessment, this involves a retired ref who watches me and gives some objective feedback. All very welcome and better than the ear-bending you get off the Players after the match. Traffic grid-lock is SW London meant I was over an hour late and missed the scheduled kick off time. Not a good start, it meant I was totally in the wrong zone, mentally, for kick off.
Almost immediately there was a bad call in-goal, but then Black started to cry foul, "Ref I was punched/kneed/stamped". Its very hard to see if this is deliberate. Stripes were certainly a physical side - Vets too, well practiced at avoiding the ref's eye with such tactics (I've played with some of the best! )
Next stripes start, "Hands in ruck, Sir", "Falling over the ball, Sir!" Well, yes I can see that which is why the penalty count is so high and you're just as bad.
Whilst Black were clearly the better side, they were getting stuffed up front, only the skill of their open-side was securing them any good possession. Think George Smith or McCaw, always borderline at the breakdown and this was reflected in the penalties against him.
It was one try a piece with a penalty goal to Black, I disallowed a Black try as I judged the kick-through to have bounced on the touch in-goal line before landing back for the blindside to pounce on. Next, a ruck is won by Stripes before being knocked on, the Black No8 is walking to the touch line, one too many knees to the head, he's had enough. Sadly, I didn't see it so there is nothing I can do except warn the Stripes captain. Black 8 is persuaded by his Captain to stay.
Inevitably, it boils over, a high tackle on Black and as I arrive, the tackler is repeatedly punching Black on the ground. Stripes complain that he took the first punch but retaliation is the crime and he must walk, red card. Nothing unremarkable about that until as be walks off the field he choses to restart the conflagration! Needless to say that all hell breaks loose and its time to head for the showers.
What did I learn? The more competition one allows on the floor, the more flash points it creates. Even if I'm looking for trouble, some people can always hide it. Arrive early and mentally prepare for the match - get in the zone. And finally, I discovered how to fill in a disciplinary report!
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