Monday 22 December 2008

Light Blogging

Not many game reports recently as I've injured my ankle, a suspected osteochondral defect, out on a light jog. After 3 weeks of physio I tried reffing only for it to flare up. So it off to a surgeon and to have scan and lets see what he says. In the mean time if anyone wants to analyse the scan image feel free.

Friday 19 December 2008

Thursday 18 December 2008

Vainikolo The Volcano GBH

Luckily they don't mind England Stars getting physical with the public in Bath.

England Rugby Star Lesley Vainikolo The Volcano Charged With Causing GBH

Guscott cleared of assault

Now lets see how that Gloucester - Bath rivally plays out on this on!

Mind you, I'd wager my Granny verses Guscott; Lesley, well you won't tell him its a girls name would you?

ELVs a sham

Dear readers, are we surprised to here the pleating Aussie!

ELVs a sham, says Stade Francais coach - The Independent

The goldfish-like attention span of the average Aussie supporter might need a larger and larger fix of a more shallow product. However, the pipe line of new players and supporters has never been stronger in the NH. 72,000 for a club match in Paris, 50,000 at Twickenham. What size is Thurmond Park now? These are crowds NZ and Aus are lucky to get at full internationals!
This fan base was formed under the traditional laws, it wasn't broke and doesn't need fixing. I fear that rugby now has too many administrators trying to justify their jobs.

Wednesday 3 December 2008

England's whinging about referee sets a very poor example: Rugby Union - Telegraph

Those that worry about rugby going the way of soccer get plenty of ammunition here.

England's whinging about referee sets a very poor example

"England's managing director whinged, the coaches warned the ref that England would cheat, the captain had no authority and the players no discipline. Collectively it warranted a straight red card"

I am beginning to think the Telegraph reads this blog!

" forwards coach John Wells said: "I had one skill as a player: I knew how to cheat and cheat well. We've got to make sure we're smart if issues develop."
Wells might as well have written the referee a letter saying that England intended to go in for a spot of serial cheating against New Zealand

At least we now know that the England team do listen their coaches.

"Martin Johnson's first task in the new year is to send Andrew, Wells, Borthwick and the entire England squad on a crash course in refereeing.
Who ever thought we would see the day when the England rugby team needed to sign up to football's Respect campaign"

As an RFU referee, if a player or a coach is disrespectful to me in the club house, I am encouraged to report it. The very public criticism of referees this autumn series is setting a awful precedent for players at all levels of the game. Pass on your concerns, far enough, but press conferences are not the conduit for disparaging the ref.

Monday 1 December 2008


The pre-match entertainment at Twickenham kicked off with four girls in evening gowns playing some rock-cum-classical arrangement. It dawned on me what it was; Kashmir by Led Zeppelin
Not entirely sympathetic to the victims of the Kashmiri separatist nutters running amuck in Bombay, don't you think?

England 4 - All Blacks Nil

Before I injured my ankle I was already going to Twickenham on Saturday, despite the excellent hospitality, it would have better entertainment to have watched the Welsh game.
England have to question why the referee was cause for such comment on Saturday and against Australia.
Regular readers will know I don’t usually commentate on other refereeing performances but in light of the disgraceful England display it provides and opportunity to illustrate a couple of game management points.
The level of indiscipline displayed by England on Saturday would have shamed a Surrey 3 Vets side. I was listening to the Ref-link and Alain Roland was very clear that he was prepared to bin as many as necessary to get his point across, yet still England’s penalty count mounted and the players walked. Many will come up with the usual bleat about how New Zealand gets away with murder. International referees won’t get everything right, they will get far more right than me, but they will be consistent and will treat both sides fairly. All referees will interpret Laws and how they see the game slightly differently but it will be the same for both sides. The difference with players like Richie McCaw is that they learn very quickly how the referee will be applying the Laws and adapt their play accordingly. England were such slow learners, they deserved to be held back a year.
Different sanctions for fowl play will depend how teams are responding to verbal warnings from the referee. On Saturday, Roland had warned England a couple of times about killing the ball before yellow came out. There was no discussion with the Kiwis, effectively both sides get a couple of ‘free’ goes, England used up their extra lives very quickly and paid the price.
To be fair to England, they seem determined to front up to New Zealand and give them a physical encounter, the Haskell card showed that this stretched to cheap shots but a few other flash points failed to provoke the Kiwis. Flood’s high tackle was accidental but reckless and dangerous too; at that level players are expected to have much more precision. Again, in the context of everything that was going on, the referee was extremely frustrated and the sanction was probably tougher than if that had been an isolated incident. Keep the referee sweet and you will be rewarded.
The sad thing is that England game plan appeared to be limited to stopping New Zealand playing rather than bring anything constructive to the party. Thankfully, my afternoon was saved by Lee Byrne’s try against the Aussies, as sweet a piece of rugby as I’ve seen all autumn. I am certain Alain Lewis was a much happier referee on Saturday night than his countryman Mr Roland

Tuesday 25 November 2008

RFU Survey

This blog has previously mentioned the proactive involvement of the RFU in establishing attitudes to the ELVs. Whilst I think they came to this late in the game, they, together with the WRU have successfully thwarted the Northern Hemisphere implementation of the Sanction ELV (free kicks for penalties).
Anyway, now we have all had a couple of months with the ELVs they are looking for our opinion once again. RFU Survey. I urge you all to go and have your say.
I thought I would share my answers. We should remember that the tougher stance on sealing off at rucks is not ELVs and no one is asking your view on that.
ELV 1 - Assistant Referee - Assistant Referees to provide additional information to the referee to assist in decision making.
Strongly agree – this formalising what has been done for number years. It is interesting to see the TMO being used to widen his contribution to adjudicate on tries and foul play
ELV 2 – Maul -Remove reference in Law to head and shoulders not to be lower than hips.
Disagree – I take the view that the maul should be held up, body positioning need to support this. Additionally, players going in and down are putting their neck at risk. I don’t see how this sits with the bridging (a bad thing apparently) directive at mauls.
ELV 3 – Maul - A defending team may pull the Maul to the ground.
Strongly disagree – It’s tough to tell if it’s a pull down or a collapse. It removes a skilful, team-work element to the game. Eight blokes onto one sternum is going to hurt and eventually cripple someone. Mr Murdoch and Mr O’Neil don’t think it puts bums on seats but try telling that to The Shed or Welford Rd. If it’s dangerous for U19 then it’s dangerous for all
ELV 4 - Lineout and Throw When a defending player receives the ball outside the 22 metre line and passes, puts or takes the ball back inside the 22 by any means, there no gain in ground
Agree – it’s proved a bit tricky to police with TJs, but it puts more pressure on the defending side and maintains some advantage for the attacking side. That aside, the aerial ping-pong seen in top matches is dull and I hope coaches come up with a more imaginative tactic.
ELV 5 - Lineout and Throw- A quick throw may be thrown in straight or towards the throwing team’s own goal line
Strongly agree- OK, so it speeds up the game and level 12 often needs a few breaks, but it has triggered some great counter-attacking runs. Anything that reduces the number of lines Wales need to complete the better
ELV 6 - Lineout and Throw There is no restriction in the number of players who can participate in the lineout from either side (minimum of 2).
Agree – Perversely, this has decreased the space for the fly-half as the Kiwis have used the additional numbers to launch defence from the lineout, rather than mid-field. From a ref perspective, its one less thing to watch for.
ELV 7 - Lineout and Throw The receiver in a lineout must stand 2 metres back from the lineout.
Does not effect the games

ELV 8 - Lineout and Throw The team not throwing into the lineout MUST have a player in the 5 metre channel who must be 2 metres away from the front of the lineout. This player cannot join the lineout until the ball has left the hands of the player throwing in.
Agree/disagree- I’ve picked this one up once. If the defending team want to leave this channel open its upto them
ELV 9 - Lineout and Throw Lineout players may pre-grip a jumper before the ball is thrown in.
Agree – This has been ignored for years
ELV 10 - Lineout and Throw- The lifting of lineout players is permitted
Agree - ditto
ELV 11 – Scrum - The offside line for a player who is not in the scrum and is not one of the scrum halves is 5 metres behind the hindmost foot of the scrum
Agree – The additional space seems to be used effectively for most teams, but policing it is very difficult without a touch line team. If there is too much nonsense with the front rows then I don’t spend much time watching the back-line. Still, I have picked it up a couple of times.
ELV 12 – Scrum - The defending scrum half must stand next to his opponent when the ball is put into the scrum. Once the ball is in the scrum the scrum halves may then either (1) follow the ball ensuring that they remain behind the ball (2) retreat behind the hindmost foot of their players in the scrum or (3) retreat behind their side's 5 metre offside line, but if they do so they may not come forward again until the scrum is over.
Not affected – Generally, this has needlessly complicated the pre-match team talk
ELV 13 - Posts and Flags around the Field The corner posts, and posts at corner of touch , in goal and dead ball line, are no longer considered to be in touch in goal except when a ball is grounded against the post.
Strongly Agree- At my level, with no TMO, it’s made life much easier.

Thursday 20 November 2008

Laid Up

Apologies for the light blogging but I'm injured at present. A torn cartilage in my ankle. In the mean time I shall be watching Wales take on the All Blacks with this image in my mind.

Monday 10 November 2008

Are you thinking what I'm thinking...?

A few days ago I commented on Green and Gold (very one-eyed) Aussie blog

Green and Gold Rugby-Referees for Wallabies Euro Tour

I think Paul Ackford must have read what I said.

I see the Aussies are blaming the ref again for their poor showing against Italy.. and what is it they call us, whinging poms?

Friday 31 October 2008

O'Neil at it again

If anyone can slap down the motor mouth O'Neil it is the Dude!
australian & new zealand whine
It was much better when they only came very couple of years anyway.

Thursday 23 October 2008

The Whistler

Another sunny afternoon, but thankfully chillier than late. I am going to grant anonymity to this week’ teams to protect the guilty, in what was a frustrating game to referee. I’ve had some challenging level 11 games in recent weeks, were the speed and skill of players required quick thinking and good control; players were generally positive.
On Saturday it was a level 14 friendly and the drop in skill was marked but the disappointing aspect was the negative play. The home side, Red, were the better drilled team with the higher fitness, I had reffed them last season and clearly remembered a couple of bad tempered characters, though the captain was a calm and reasonable fellow. As with the opposition, they combined a mix of youth and old timers.
The visitors soon looked to be out gunned up front but scored an excellent first try though a fantastic angled run from the fly-half. The penalties soon started coming thick and fast at the tackle area. Both sides seemed unable to stay on their feet or roll away from the tackle. Red responded with some ill-disciplined foot work which resulted in the warnings of cards being issued. A mouthy critique of my performance from Red’s second row saw the team marched back 10m at least twice.
The visitor’s defence held up well, but they failed to roll away from the tackle and this frustrated me and the opposition. It’s a hard line to decide whether it was cynical or old-age, I suspect a mix of both. The frequency of the offences gives me a couple of options; a) whistle on very occasion (and destroy the game),
b) stretch the bounds of what is a material offence (and stretch the patience of the opposition) or
c) yellow card people and hope that gets the message across.
In this case I went for mixture of a) and b), the third option is not what 3rd team rugby is about when the fitness and skill levels are challenged and none of the offences where in the red zone. What ever I did, I was on to a loser but you can only give players the game they want to play. Red were still managing to lead comfortably but the level of chat was still too high despite shorter tolerance that previous matches.
The second half saw the visitors tire and the cheating become more blatant, the Red chat became more pronounced. I needed to make and example and the new hooker’s call of “not straight ref” saw me penalise Red there and then. Soon after, more foot work on the tackler on the floor saw a Red player spend 10 mins on the touch line. The visitors’ no8 started to be more obviously offside, at one point he managed to pick up opposition ball from a scrum. As he also used his position of pack leader to discuss referee discussion too vocally, I think, in retrospect, he too should have cooled off for ten minutes. The missing Red player seemed to galvanise his team mates and they put the game beyond doubt with two well taken tries.
As there was no separate referee dressing room I wasn’t looking forward to showering with the home side, but the good humour returned quickly. Not an epic display from me; plus points, the short tempers in Red were kept under control, negative points I failed to encourage a positive attitude to play from the visitors and deal with their cheating on the floor.
An now, a couple weeks off for family affairs.

Friday 17 October 2008


Tonight I am off to a benefit dinner for Stuart Mangan. It is a tragic story, on 5th April 2008 Stuart, who was 24 at the time, broke his neck, whilst playing rugby for Hammersmith & Fulham RFC’s Second XV in an end of season friendly against Hampstead in Fulham, London. Stuart was playing fly half and the injury, which is extremely rare, occurred in open play. He is now teraplegic.

The greatest aspect of rugby is the brotherhood that battle on a muddy field brings. His team mates have rallied around and are raising funds to support his long term care. Tomorrow they are encouraging teams across the country to “give 2 for Stu”; £2 from every one playing rugby would raise an enormous amount. If you are playing tomorrow encourage your mates to take part. You can find more details here.
Stuart Mangan Appeal

Thursday 16 October 2008

Google Search Words

Two questions.
Which two people found this site with the search words "Referee Porn"?
What else did they find?
It takes all sorts, I guess

Tuesday 14 October 2008

Out in the wilds

A relatively long journey out to Farnham this week for merit league match involving, possibly, the most geographically disparate teams in the Surrey leagues, Farnham and Battersea Ironsides. Luckily, I'd managed to remember all my kit first time out this time. Another bright sunny day and unseasonally warm, such that I arrived to find the visitors training in the shade!
It was soon evident that the home side were a better drilled lot (it turned out the Ironside had a lost a number of players to their 1st XV) but the defence from both sides was strong. The first major incident of the match involved your hero on the deck himself. Black were moving forward and the player was well tackled by Green, the tackler's momentum saw his body swing around into my knee. There was a sharp pain and I dropped to the floor in some discomfort. I did manage to blow up to stop play whilst I received some magic sponge treatment. Luckily there was no lasting damage and play restarted with a Black scrum.
Next up, it was time to demonstrate to players why they know the laws a good deal less well than they think! Green are awarded a penalty (one of too many for offside) and kicked for the corner, they miss and the Black winger catches and calls Mark! Only a handful of Green realise that there can be no mark from a penalty, as I cry play-on. Some how the ball is scrambled into in-goal and grounded by Black for a scrum.
We were well into the first half before anyone scored, sustained pressure from Farnham saw Ironsides scoop the ball back whilst lying on the floor 3m out in front of the posts. I had no hesitation in issuing a yellow card and in retrospect it should have been a penalty try. However, the general good nature of the side probably give them the benefit of the doubt and I choose to stick with the penalty. Quick ball out wide and a converted try meant that at least justice was done.
The second half was fractious affair, the penalty count mounted and back-chat started. The break down became very untidy with players off their feet and on the wrong side. The penalty count for offside became very high as neither side gained momentum. I think I allowed good advantage but it still spoilt what could have been a good game.
Feed back from the captains was generally positive with the winning, Farnham, captain happier than Ironsides. Generally pointers were that I allowed the chat to go on too long, they would have preferred I clamped down earlier and harder - good to know! The other was that the scrummage penalties were over harsh and disruptive. The visitors were hugely out gunned upfront and I was close to calling a cessation of hostilities. Following on from the referee training a couple of weeks ago, I was more confident that I had spotted more dirty tricks and indeed the captain implied that I was unsympathetic due to refereeing higher level games. If only he knew!
An enjoyable afternoon, if scrappy game, Farnham the deserving winners at 18-3.

Wednesday 1 October 2008

Sunshine and Back-Chat

A bright autumnal day saw me drive a short distance to New Malden, and then drive back as I realised I’d left my ref watch behind at home. The home side, Old Emanuel looked keen and ready to go, but Old Paulines where still shuttling their team to the ground.
The early exchanges were evenly matched and OPs sensibly took a penalty when it was offered them. Soon after a scrum gave the visitors an excellent attacking platform, the subsequent squeeze saw the OE tight head prop move out and in on the hooker, I gave a penalty which the OPs took quickly and were soon under the posts as the home side failed to react. The Old Emanuel response was immediate, a lovely weighted kick-off was collected on the 10m line by No7 who slipped one tackle and with two nice side steps was across the line. The fastest try I’ve seen.
It was becoming clear that neither side was keen on keeping quiet and persisted in questioning decisions and trying to referee the game. Both sides were marched back in the first half and OE conceded a full penalty. I certainly, upped my game from last season but it did not fully keep a lid on it.
Another penalty saw OP take a 13-7 lead into the second half, a fair reflection on the advantage they held. OE managed the first score of the second period, fired with a renewed enthusiasm but being on the back foot saw OP up their level of back-chat; even in the middle of mauls they still found time and effort to talk. They may well feel aggrieved if someone is trying to pull down the maul illegally, but if the maul does not come down and continues to move forward, I am not going to stop the game- except to possibly penalise them for dissent. Following the second OE try of the half, a vocal description of my refereeing efforts from the try line, meant that the game restarted with a penalty.
The final OE try came soon after as pile of bodies on the touch line saw a hand dart out to ground the ball. I was in the process of blowing up for a scrum and extended my arm instead. A frantic few minutes saw OE look to extend their lead but in the dying seconds OPs took a fine long range try to steal the honours, the two penalties being the difference between the sided.
In the end it was a scrappy game from two sides capable of playing good rugby, but with a need to keep their mouths shut and not bleat like spoilt little children for the whole game.

Thursday 25 September 2008

Some Clarity

In Tuesday's post I talked about the confusion with when a maul ends 'Al Italia' i.e. the oppo disengage and run away.
Its seem there now some direction from the IRB, the RFU (god bless 'em) asked this question..

The RFU has requested a ruling relating to Law 17
A maul is formed with Team A pushing their opponents (Team B) back towards their own goal line with the ball being clearly visible at the rear of the maul, all the defending side (Team B) bound to the maul voluntarily exit the maul, has the maul successfully concluded or is the maul still active?

And the answer from the IRB is

The maul has not successfully concluded and it is not still active.
As the players of the team not in possession have all left the maul the maul ceases to exist and has not ended successfully or unsuccessfully as determined by the definition of a maul. The maul has ceased to exist and the ball is now in open play and the relevant Laws apply.

So do I penalise, obstruction, do I let the oppo pop around the back? This Saturday, I'll shout and tell the ball carriers to use it and hope they take the hint.

South Africa take stand over laws

South Africa take stand over laws

Hopefully this is the beginning of the end for the Sanction ELVs. Having campaigned against ELVs I have found those applied in the Northern Hemisphere to be broadly positive as they have made the game easier to ref (caveat - no to pulling down mauls). The whole free-kick for penalty/scrum variation are a fundamental change in the game and must be resisted. The only remaining champion for the cause is Australia's John O'Neil.

Don't you just love it when the Aussies are on the losing side!

Tuesday 23 September 2008

Monday's a training day..

After the slick central training night last week the cosy confines of the regional meeting. Three major topics, the maul, sealing off and foul play at the tackle/ruck engagement.

The new laws and directives have caused confusion as to when the maul ends. The Italian tactic of running away (6N 2-3 years ago), where by they disengage and run around the back to target the ball has been deemed bad form. If the oppo disengage, the maul is deemed to continue, but how do you defend this or referee it. What if the oppo re-engage?- If the ball is at the back, then it is obstruction, if the oppo target the ball, it is offside. If the ball is at the front, then no offside and maul reforms. It is probably best to pull it straight down.
But what if only one or two men are pulled down and the ball carrier remains upright and bound to a team mate and continues without the oppo engaged? Then again, the maul continues until there is a material disadvantage?? It looks like best practice from the ref is to judge the maul over and encourage the team in possession to use it or call a penalty for obstruction if the oppo re-engage. It was much easier if we just penalised the pull down.
There are two big initiatives from the IRB, one is sealing off at the tackle and the other is foul play whilst engaging at rucks.
The first has always been an offence but has been over looked. Players have always arrived at the tackle and bridged the tackled player; wide stance, head and arms on the tackled player or driven over the player and crashed down on the oppo side. This unfairly prevents the oppo having a crack at rucking the ball and must be punished. At lot of players are actively coached to do this and may find this enforcement a surprise, but the key justifications are
i) stay on your feet at the tackle, no matter which side and
ii) enter the ruck/tackle with your shoulders above your waist. Looking like George Michael in a Hampstead toilet is no-longer acceptable.
Ben Kay is clearly over the top here, but Bakkies Botha's intervention as 'enforcer' is foul play and is to be discouraged.

Bakkies Botha seems to provide plenty of material to illustrate the next directive

The days of launching into a ruck, tackle or maul without attempting to bind and with the soul intention of 'being physical' are to be stamped out. Its foul play, plain and simple. Youtube Bakkies Botha for plenty of examples.
To cap it all some nice new kit; track suits to keep us warm this winter, lush!

Monday 22 September 2008

Sunny, South West London

The rugby season is now in full swing so, what feels like the sunniest Saturday of the year bakes the turf of Motspur Park. This was another Level 11 game and one that amounts to local derby. The referee training from Thursday night was fresh in my mind so focus on the front rows and closing off at the tackle were to be my points of focus in improving my game.
As it turned out the scrums were generally well behaved and proceeded well compared to last week. The home side lacked the of bulk of the visitors but as with the rest of there game, were better organised. They typically managed to step over the ball as it was put in, though it did catch them for a crooked feed once. Two scrumage incidents stood out; KCS had an attaching scrum on the 5m line, there was a tremendous shove as the ball went in and the defending tight –head stood up, the shove looked straight so I awarded the penalty to KCS which they took quickly and scored under the post. Wimbledon protested they had called a man down; nobody looked hurt as the scrum broke up so I was happy not to stop KCS using the advantage. It turns out it wasn’t a front-row and was merely a knock on the leg. It hardly warranted a stoppage so it was a good call; Wimbledon needed to react to the whistle better.
ELVs came into play in the second incident, a strike against the head saw the KCS back line needing to rearrange defensively, they rushed up and took a stand on the old, back-foot line and it was obvious to spot. Strangely, ten minutes later, the strike went the other way and Wimbledon conceeded the same penalty. ELVs played a part in the second try as KCS scored in the corner, the corner flag was clearly taken out as the ball was grounded, and against short lived protests, the try was good.
The tackle area was particularly scrappy, with KCS frequently handling and Wimbledon going off their feet. One incident saw the visitors turned over in the tackle, Wimbledon had no players in the game at the ruck to complete when KCS stepped over and picked up the ball. There was no penalty as there was no contest, KCS had won the ruck and by picking up they were being positive in getting the ball going forward. In making any discussion, referees should always look to reward positive play. I am not convinced Wimbledon saw it that way.
Sadly, there was no de-briefing with the visitors, post match, so I will have to wait for the card to come back. The home side gave me some good comments but at 34-0, they were bound to be pleased. From my own point of view, I was happy with my response to the high level of chat which diminished with action and I felt more confident that I was dealing with the scrum decisively. However, it was a bad afternoon for positioning, with three scrums as the ball carrier ran into me or being on the receiving end of a clearance kick – ouch!

Saturday 20 September 2008

Help for Heroes

Fantastic day and a great game. The team I reffed, doubled by fee when I said was donating it to H4H. One question, will the Revenue be collecting the VAT the charity was obliged to charge on the ticket sales??
How could Des (part-time) Browne show his face? He has less respect in the forces than 'Buff" Hoon!

Donate Here

Friday 19 September 2008

Thursday's a Training Day...

One of the great benefits of the London Society of Referees is that it is able to attract great speakers to training nights. Wayne Barnes, a graduate of the society is a regular at meetings and last night one of the newest premiership referees PJ Doyle was giving the benefit of his wisdom. The main event was Neil Hatley, the Guinness premierships, most experienced prop and academy coach at London Irish.
Neil gave a fantastic talk on scrumaging, what players and coaches want from referees and how to achieve a fair contest. The England scrum coach Phil Keith-Roach gave an excellent talk some time ago, but Neil added a practical and well illustrated angle.
Key recommendation were to get front rows square and stationary before calling the engagement and what was extremely useful was to show front row misdeeds. Its all well and good talking about what should happen and what to look out for, but having it played to you in slow motion with an expert pointing it out was marvellous. The fact that many of these infractions were un-penalised by international referees provided much debate. It made me realise how much I had been missing or at least allowed to go, not realising the disadvantage I had perpetuated. Clearly a new vigour will apply at Saturday’s game.
ELV and IRB directives also came under discussion, as you might expect this included the 5m scrum offside enforcement, or lack there of. There is so much to watch at scrums, primarily because of safety, the distant drift of defenders to the ‘old’ offside will rarely be caught, particularly without touch judges. Out of the corner of the eye, 3m looks much the same as 5m. Unless the scrum is going well, not even the premiership referees appear to have penalised this yet.
Finally, we are under strict instruction from the IRB to enforce players onto their feet at rucks. We are all conscious of defending players diving off their feet to ‘win’ (read kill) the ball. Less emphasis has been placed on attacking players driving over the ball and going to ground or bridging the tackle. This prevents and obstructs the opposition trying to ruck the ball fairly, and needs to be punished. You have been warned, plenty to take into tomorrow’s game.

Thursday 18 September 2008


From this morning's Daily Telegraph

I can't begin to express how angry this photograph made me. Has no one explained to the man in the middle that this match is necessary because of the shamefully inadequate funding of the rehabilitation of British servicemen by his government. All he sees is cheesy photo op- a good shoeing is too good for the one-eye snot-gobbler.

Please make sure you donate some money this weekend.
help for heroes-donations

and show your support for the last pillar of British public service that has integrity and can still stand up as the world's best.

Tuesday 16 September 2008

Cheese, Eating Surrender Monkeys Strike Again!

Just when we thought the combined Allied forces had repelled the Anzac forces at the gate;

ELVs set for expanded France trial

The French roll over and take it again!

Monday 15 September 2008

Chobham vs Camberley

A bright sunny day at the home club with three home sides in contention, including the top fixture against some familiar faces from London Welsh.
This was my first level 11, merit league game so I wanted to focus on the pointers from last week, particularly positioning. The first difference I have noticed from higher graded matches is that both teams are out warming up well before kick-off, no stranglers still on the way! The home side were adamant that only the permitted 5 subs are to be used which is reasonable considering the effect seen in my last match.
Thankful the notoriously boggy Chobham pitch was dry with lines on this visit and the home side chose to play uphill. The visitors started well and enjoyed clear dominance of territory and possession yet some how managed to end the half two tries down thanks to tenacious defence from the home side. Indeed, after some ruck handling and going off feet, Chobham were facing a yellow card and penalty try, the next phase they managed to clear the ball legally.
The visitor's best chance came as a cross field kick was caught in-goal by the oppo, but I pondered as the cross-kick had sailed between the posts; drop goal or not? Since it wasn't attempted as a drop goal it wasn't drop-kicked and it was penalty advantage anyway. Unfortunately, the visitors failed to capitalised on the pivot move they tried and the tide turned against them in the second half.
Running down the hill with decent, quick ball, the Chobham centres cut loose, clearly playing below their potential they rarely failed to make good ground and the home side ran in five unanswered tries in the second half.
Comedy moment of the match came as the home winger, a slightly built gentleman, followed up the kick, fielded by the oppo flanker, but failed to bring down the flanker or let go, the flanker proceed up the field, ball in one hand and winger in the other!
Ugly moments include the difficulties at the scrum with setting the distance and early engagement, feedback was that they didn't like my cadence on the touch-pause-engage. More unsavoury was yellow card for a retaliatory shoe following some post-tackle niggle, there wasn't enough malice to justify anything more harsh and neither did the tone of the game.
A more challenging match than the week before, the new laws didn't make too much of an impact and positive feed back from two decent teams.

Monday 8 September 2008

ELV in action; world continues to spin!

Finally the season arrives with a late appointment following a pleading call to the appointments manager. Fortunately it was only a short drive, as I had to get back to cook a four course meal for guests.
It was my first visit to the Reeds Weybridge (blue) ground and it boasts a most attractive setting. The pitch was lush and well marked, but there was a strong downfield wind and rain was threatening. Some confusion over the kick off time saw the home side already warmed up whilst there was only trickle of arrivals by the visitors. The wait time allowed some discussion about the ELVs, most players were aware, but their knowledge came from Super 14 and Tri-nations and free-kicks for handling in rucks was highly anticipated.
I have encountered the visitors, Economicals (black) a couple of times, and this time looked younger and fitter than their opposition, with a large bench to rotate through, something the home side regretted agreeing to.
The home side choose to play up hill and into the wind in the first half, and soon conceded three tries. They failed to protect the tackler and were turned over too often and this allowed the visitors to put considerable width on the ball. To be fair to the Reeds defence they worked hard to contain the onslaught which resulted in the tries proving difficult to convert. The pitch’s slope contributed to Economicals scrum being dominant and it was a surprise to see young and lean overcoming older and ‘wiser’. ELV-wise, setting scrums now involves getting the offside set at 5m, and extra couple of seconds for the front rows before the engagement. It was difficult to judge if they crept up as I was otherwise engaged with crocked feeds, binding and boring, unbound flankers and keeping scrum halves onside! Some thing to work on!
The side changed over at 27-0 to the visitors but the home side looked to make progress out of their claim that the slope was worth 50 points in the second half. A couple of good tries came early but increasingly they couldn’t breach the defence. I came close to awarding a penalty try when a floored black player caught a pass meant for a bullocking prop 7m out, but I couldn’t be certain it would have been a try given the number of defenders.
Soon after the new quick throwing law was used to great effect with the ball starting its flight a good 10-15m in touch, this added to general confusion within the oppo ranks!
In the final quarter the speed and fitness of Economicals took its toll on Reed and my good self, as pressure was turning territory into points. The penultimate try being a penalty try as the black centre was high-tackled 4m out, accidental but reckless so no yellow. Finally score 12-58 to the visitors.
Good points;
no injuries or fighting!
My fitness seemed a little better,
I managed to keep a check on back-chat
ELV didn’t prove too problematic
Good feed back from both team.
Needs improvement;
I was bit quick on the whistle when good advantage might have developed
I wasn’t picking up all the handling in the rucks that Reeds seemed to witness.

Friday 5 September 2008

Season Begins

After an inital false start (no game assigned for this weekend) I now have a match, a friendly between two local sides. I have reffed both before though not at the homeside's ground.

After months on grumbling and complaining it is time to put into practice the ELVs- hoping the players have had some instruction! I will approach the matter with an open mind; aside from the maul change, I do not thing there will be too many problems.

New Season Resolutions
I aim to be much tougher on chat- inspired by the Trouble Shooter. Authoity is key and I need to be better at establishing it.
Better communication - listen Wayne Barnes on ref-link. Words not whistle and let the game flow. Players have to help by responding to my instuctions
Fewer penalties - following on from above; frustration comes from receiving or conceeding too many. Could it be a scrum to restart? Blow early and don't let it become scappy.
Fitness - I like to thing I move well for a fat lad, but loose a few pounds and gain an extra yard of pace
Carry on enjoying it and aim for promotion at Christmas

Wednesday 3 September 2008

RFU turns its back on Rugby League

Was it revenge for all of those years of talent 'going North'? Either way it was a missed placed plan from England's perspective with all their potential talent.

Blood and Mud: RFU turns its back on Rugby League:

With the execption of Robinson and Tuqiri, all RL converts have been a waste of money. The successful ones have only been that way because of their position, wing; tacitically the least challenging on the park - catch, run fast and have good feet.

Union is a much more complicated game. The players who moved the other way were successful because of this, a lifetime of learning the game's nuances. Even the physical advanage that RL players once had had been eliminated. I would like to see a re-match of the (wigan)RL vs (Bath)RU game that was tried after RU went open. I think is would be 2-0 to RU these days.

Tuesday 19 August 2008


The South Africans seem to give their referees a high public profile as the website shows. The story below will now serve as inspiration for my use of yellow cards this season, especially if I encounter my old club team !

The Legend of Dick Jefferys

"The teams were lined up to run on but were waiting for one latecomer to arrive. Dick Jefferys blew a tetchy blast on his whistle and shouted at the tardy one to ‘buck up there'. The latecomer took exception to this and gave Dick a two-fingered sign, with vocal accompaniment, whereupon Dick waved him back to the changing room, hustled the teams on to the field, awarded a penalty on the centre spot to the non-offending (he would have said ‘non-offensive') team, advanced the penalty ten metres on receipt of the inevitable objections and signalled three points virtually before the match had begun. Now that took some doing!"

A lesson to all of you who may be a little too chippy!

Victory Is Ours!!

When the IRB announced that the Sanction ELV would not only be tried in a single competition, it signalled some hope.

If this turns out to be true (there is no word on the IRB website) then the most controverisal aspect of the ELV are dead in the water. The word from New Zealand is that players and referees are having trouble with the phyiscal requirement of playing a faster game. Furthermore, I can not see how the IRB could sanction a split in the Laws on geographic lines, given the consequences of the last time this happened.

So let is raise a glass to the "57 Old Farts" of the RFU for saving our game.

Tuesday 12 August 2008

More ELVs

A few weeks ago the question was asked what if captains/coaches requested the game be played under the old Laws

maul elvs

The official answer is that referees are there to referee the game according to the Laws stipulated by the RFU. No debate.

ELV; the Official Training

Originally uploaded by Bigdai100

Last night the great and good of the London South West referee region gathered to be ELV’d. The official line is ours is not to question why and we will get on and apply the laws in games. The general view is that aside from the maul pull down, there is no dispute with the ELV as being applied in the Northern Hemisphere. Efforts to speed up the game, such as the quick throw-in were only unwelcome for the extra physical effort needed to control them.
The broader issue of the Sanction ELV (pure evil and the Aussie RL Trojan Horse) wasn’t discussed but I did get the feeling from the RFU officials that HQ is dead-set against these coming into law. Comment from the RFU referee development officer suggested that ‘speeded-up’ game in SANZAR is such that even with 7 replacements, players are suffering serious weight loss and even elite referees are having trouble keeping up with the pace of the game. God help the rest of us!

Notes on the individual Laws; I am assuming readers are broadly familiar with the northern hemisphere ELVs

Assistant Referees

For high level games this will continue as it has been for a number of seasons were TJs have always assisted. This does not mean that the reserve for the Extra-Bs will be doing anything other than marking touch. The referee remains the sole arbiter of Law.

Law 17 – Maul

There will be a clear distinction;
Pulling down a maul – Legal
Collapsing a Maul – Penalty
Players can bring a player down by pulling between the shoulders and waist, but not the collar. Players on the ground can not pull down a maul this will be a penalty. Any action involving taking out a opposing players legs is illegal.
As the maul goes to ground, Referees will encourage the ball to be used; otherwise sides will risk a turn-over

Law 19 – Touch and Line Out

The ball can not be played into the 22 and kicked directly into touch and ground gained. If it bounces 1m in field and then out that is fine. If there is a tackle, ruck, maul or it is touched by any opposition player then ground can be gained just like last season.
If centre of a scrum is outside the 22 and ball comes out inside the 22 then that is played backed.
With line outs, it is all about the middle line, a steal on the 22 is not played back, so kicks directly to touch are OK.

Quick Throws

These can go in any direction, but must cross the 5m as last year. There is no off-side, so the non-throwing side can position themselves anywhere behind the point of touch and 5m in to challenge a receiver of the ball. Usually requirements for a quick throw remain; it must be the same ball and must not touch a non-player. There will be greater focus on the speed of ball release from players tackled into touch. There will be an assumption that the quick throw in on, and that this should not be prevented, sanction will be a penalty 15m in.

Line Outs

Minimum of two players and maximum of 13 in the line; there must be a receiver.
The non-throwing side must have a ‘hooker’ in the 5m channel and they must stand at least 2m from the 5m line.

Law 20 – Scrums

Off-side for numbers 10-15 is 5m back from the hind-most foot of the scrum. At a scrum 5m from the goal line, the goal line remains the off-side line, even if the scrum moves towards it. It was felt that the extra space gives the attacking back-row a large advantage at this range and Referees will be watching for wheels and may reset more often to discourage this.
The scrum half’s off-side line remains the ball, but defending halfs can not drift across more than a meter. If they go around the opposite side to the put-in, then they can not move past the flanker, should they retreat back across the 5m, they can not return.
It’s not an ELV, put an IRB directive on No8 will be enforcing the full bind. They must be fully bound as the rest of the scrum engages and can’t ‘rock in’ to an engagement. Last season this would be not bound penalty, now it is an off-side penalty (not bound- not part of the scrum, inside the 5m)

Corner Flag

These are no longer in touch, unless the ball is grounded against them. Defenders will need to switch on, if the ball hit the post and bounces into in-goal, the ball is live and it is not automatically a 22 drop-out. Similarly, hitting the post and going into touch is now 5m line-out.

I still expect mayhem on the few weeks of the season, most referees expect to be contructively coaching sides, but don't expect a pre-match lecture; they will expect you to know the Laws.

Monday 11 August 2008

Argies Dumped on again

Originally uploaded by fabdany

During the World Cup, the Argies (Wales' own colony) and the Georgians demonstrated the power and skill that good mauling can bring. Damn entertaining too, unless you are a Fosters-Soaked Aussie 'Sports' fan that seem to be setting the agenda for rugby union "development".

Springboks rely on legal aid

Having watched the first half of the match the Argies seemed to be competing well with the Boks but with their most devastating weapon neutered, they were never going to win a running game against the power Boks back line.

Having so long denied the Argies a place at the top table, the IRB have unwittingly taken away their favourite toys. Now let us think which other international team uses the rolling maul to devastating effect to bully the oppo?

Thursday 7 August 2008

A Very British Dude: Help for heroes

British Dude highlights a excellent and worthy cause. I would love to go to the match and might still do so. However, I expect to be refereeing that afternoon. I will donate my expenses for the day and bit more to the cause. It would be good if teams all around the country upped their match fee a couple of quid and donated that to the cause and sacrificed a couple of pints for those that have sacrificed a lot more.

A Very British Dude: Help for heroes

Help for Heroes

Wednesday 30 July 2008

George Gregan comes out of retirement

And takes up cricket!

Further law change !

Its barely 18 months since the current engagement sequence was introduced. Its purpose was to bring front rows closer together and, importantly, take the momentum out of the players on engagement. If I remember it was New Zealand that would come down and crounch and engage in one movement. This move looks to deformalise the pause.

New Zealand to trial further law change - WalesOnline

In fact research (Institute of Sport and Recreation Research New Zealand, Auckland) has shown that the "The decline in scrum-related injury claims is consistent with a beneficial effect of the new scrum law in the first year of its implementation." The change has worked, things can always become safer, but reducing the pause doesn't look a step in the right direction.

Secondly, this is the third set of law changes within 3 years, for gods sake! Has Nu-Labour taken control of the law committee of the IRB!

Tuesday 29 July 2008


As if to justify some of the opinionated drivel written here and on other sites, I can tell you I have been promoted from Level 12 to, wait for it, Level 12+1!

Next stop, the RWC final!

Thursday 24 July 2008

Maul ELVs

As we head toward the start of season, the most controversial ELV in the NH, seems to be the collapsing of mauls. At grass roots level, if both captains agreed to it, what would consequences of not applying this law? I could see the problem of choosing to ignore a law that was there for players safety, but playing to old laws that a few weeks earlier protected players from what was danagerous seems sensible.

It is a question that is already being asked of me.
Update: Follow the discussion at Rugby Forum
People that know far more than me on the subject

Monday 14 July 2008

Aussies treaten to take their toys away

As long as France and the UK maintain a population greater than the combined population of Australia, New Zealand and the rugby playing part of SA, the money, TV and your players will follow the code of the game that is played up North.

O’Neill: game could split in two - Rugby Union, Rugby - The Independent

Monday 12 May 2008

A Summer Lull

Its time to pack away the whistle, clean and dubbin the boots and look forward to enforced Saturday afternoons away from rugby.

There was an outside chance of game last weekend but nothing came of it, so that is it until August and the implementation of the ELVs. The Referee Society has a training day for us all and do expect some inconsistencies as we all get used to them in the first few weeks of the season.

An interesting comment was made that maybe the future is a franchise of 'Classic Rugby', the proper game played under the old rules. A world where ice baths and lucosade are banned and recovery is 8 pint session. A halcyon era were Wales are the best team in the world and a warm-up only occurred in the changing room after a match in January.

Blogging will be light in coming weeks as I head off to the tennis court.
for the photo

Thursday 1 May 2008


For many fans and players the 'trial' of the ELVs next season is a betrayal of the game they hold dear. Some of the of more contentious changes have been dropped, but the new laws fundamentally change the game we have played and watched from childhood. The reason is TV money and the driver is Murdoch TV. The powers that be need to understand the power of the consumer; that is us.
I propose that a mass demonstration to the ELV is staged on September 13th, 2008, the 1st or 2nd weekend of grass roots rugby that will be affected. I want, referees, players, spectators, volunteers at all levels to stay away in London, England, Wales, Scotland, Britain, France, Italy; where ever. We want to protect the game as we know it. It has always been a game that has common laws and values from the top to the very bottom. Let us show that is still the case. The money and the power of the IRB exists because we pay our dollar in match fees, tickets prices, Sky subscriptions, bar transactions, etc. Nobody plays, nobody refs, nobody attends a match, nobody watches Sky we all go down the pub and give a big V sign to the IRB and reclaim our game.
Are you with me. Forward this to those you think care.

The battle is lost!

A sad day for props

IRB announces global trial of ELVs

A partial victory with hands in ruck and offside at the tackle thrown out. The major problem comes from the Southern Hemisphere playing a very different game to the North.

I can see trouble ahead.

The meaning of rugby

Some very good analysis from the Independant on the politics of the Law changes

Battle for the soul of the oval ball game

Threat to the very fabric of the nation

A fine take on the ELV push

A Very British Dude: Threat to the very fabric of the nation

Monday 21 April 2008

Something for everyone

Yet another cancellation saw me scratching around for a game again this week. The re-appointment officer almost apologised for the perceived quality that was available, but as it’s been six weeks without a proper run out, I was grateful for anything. The home side were an irregular vets side, Old Wimbledonians, and the visitors, MetroNet, were appearing at their first match but the pre-match first impressions wasn’t indicative of what was to come.

The visitors, in red, started well with the wind behind them giving good field position and some pacey backs offering good scoring potential. This arrived with a smart looping move into the corner. Their forwards were coming off second best to the home side, and tempers were getting heated, particularly as a couple of Green tackles were a little high, but not deliberate. Green number 8 was a particularly “lively” chap and held some strong opinions on how the game should progress. I made it clear I wanted his temper controlled and mouth shut, that said, I recognised I would have to watch him over my shoulder.

Both sides where managing to play good rugby and things were finally balanced following a Green try. A promising chip through from Red, gave them a good line out position, but I was pleased that from a glace behind at the kicker, I saw Green 8 trip him. I offered Red a penalty at the kick or a line-out where green had carried it out (on the 5m line) – not a penalty but a good use of advantage. Green stole the line out but turned over the ball. They failed to roll away, but I came back for the penalty which Red took quickly and Green failed to pull their defence to cover; try time and complaints from Green. Yes, there were players in front of the kicker but they did not obstruct as was there was no defence. Quick thinking play rewarded.

The second half had started with a few changes and a warning about tempers to both captains. Red pushed hard against the wind and a promising move on Green’s 22m looked to be a certain score, until a fantastic interception from Green 12 saw him race up the field to score and convert. Despite his speed and my ‘size’, I made it to the 22m to award the try!

Red pressed forward again but were pinned back by an amazing 70m touch finder from the new full-back, right on Red’s 5m. The ensuing play saw Green squeezing for a push-over try but the reward was a penalty against the Red front row standing up. The Red loose-head then complained of a sore neck and requested un-contested scrums. As there were no other replacements I had to agree, Green had a great advantage removed and were not happy. Green now held a 15-10 lead and we headed in to the last 10 minutes of the match. Red’s dangerous winger finally got some space and belted down the line; the full-back came across to cover and pulled him into touch by his collar. Penalty try and a yellow card, the score was now 17-15 and things were getting tense.

Green pushed up field and Red held on to the ball in the tackle and conceded the penalty which Green converted, 18-17 with less than 5 mins on the clock. I realised that there was little scope for error on my behalf if I was not going to determine the result. Red pressed into Green’s 22, and Green’s scrum-half (who had been the No8) tried a box kick to clear from a ruck, the ball when up and down landing about 2m in front of were he kicked it. This put his entire pack off side if they choose to play it. Which they did! A penalty under the ‘10m rule’ - my first! Red just had to slot the points from a very kickable position, but they tapped it and two phases later some one dropped it! Green pressed up field and returned to 15 men. There was to be once more play and again Red’s winger steamed up field and it was looking like a final twist. He cleared the full back, but the touch judge (a Green player) signalled a foot on the line. I was happy that it probably was and blew for full time.

A great game, with drama and some fantastic play, the tension and passion bubbled under the whole match but I kept a lid on things. The assessors comments from last time helped, with fewer penalties but I still need to cut chat and I don’t think the scrums were well-enough managed.

Welsh RU against proposed laws

Lets face, win or lose, Wales deliver a pretty entertaining performance under the old laws.

WRU boss Roger Lewis said: "It's not in the best interests of the game that these laws are introduced en masse."
There a couple than would tidy things up but the package is flawed

BBC SPORT Rugby Union Welsh Welsh RU against proposed laws

Ieuan Evans told Scrum V: "I can imagine Australia's sticky fingers being all over this. The laws look like rugby league by stealth.
And which country dominates rugby l**gue??

Now hopefully, the RFU (and England have more to loose in their "style" under the old laws) will see these ELV kicked in to touch (sic). The money may come from Sky but Sky's rugby income is heavily reliant on the UK.

"Apparently, the ELVs are intended to increase ball-in-play time, but the ball-in-play time in Wales' games in one half alone was around 33 minutes."

Wales v France this year set a new record of over 56% ball in play time, it is rare for Super 14 to be more than 40%.

Thursday 10 April 2008

The thin end of the edge

All referees make mistakes from time to time, they know, you know it though they will never admit it to a player on the park. The Laws of the Game are very complicated and many infringments are committed simultatiously, the role of the referee is to determine which is material and to ensure that positive play is rewarded. To do this he need to command unquestioning authority from those on the park, this proposal would under-mine that.

Just when you thought the rules of rugby couldn't get more confusing From ScrumBag

It would show us up to be human!

Friday 4 April 2008

Referee Wit

From the Times

Statisitc Porn

For those of statistically minded nature, this makes interesting reading. Most fascinating is the record for ball in play during the Wales v France match; 57% or 46 minutes 08secs all without the ELVs!

IRB Six Nations Analysis

Referees and ELVs

The London Referee Society is one of the largest and best organised referee organisations in the UK and possibly the world. The Society provides officials for everything from U13 matches through to national leagues. Many professional referees have graduated from its ranks, the most famous being Wayne Barnes (if you don’t know who he is, ask a Kiwi).

Last night at one of our meetings, we where addressed by a senior RFU referee development officer. Discussion turned to the Experimental Law Variations (ELVs), he was at an IRB meeting last week and it seems there is a strong desire by the IRB to trail these at EVERY level of the game and this could be as early as next season. Previously, the IRB has pledged not to change Laws in the two years prior to a world cup, which would not leave much time for analysis before they became permanent. Apparently, the Six Nations are cautious but not yet against the experiment.

More about the ELVs Here

The mood of the refs present was generally hostile. Most agreed that some ELV made sense; corner flags not being in-touch, not being able to kick straight to touch from the 22 and even 5m off-side at scrums. It was the ruck and maul proposals that met with hostility; it was felt that the grass roots of the game (players and spectators) did not want change and had not been engaged in the discussion. The use of free-kicks instead of scrums to re-start play would radically alter the balance of play, and whilst the game would become faster, this would not suit all players (and officials!).

The IRB Playing Charter states with the Object of the Game that “ The wide variation of skills and physical requirements needed for the game mean that there is an opportunity for individuals of every shape, size and ability to participate at all levels

The lower emphasis of the scrum would lead to a lesser role for the tall and round, and fewer people participating in the game.

My view was the majority of the refs present felt that ELVs are not what the community game needs and Law changes should not be rail-roaded through because the professional game (and the Southern Hemisphere in particular) sees this as the way forward. There are far more people playing in fields up and down the country on Saturday afternoon than playing at the top level who deserve a say, on this and they don’t have voice.

Wednesday 2 April 2008


I've been tagged by

The rules are:
The rules of the game get posted at the beginning.
Each player answers the questions about themselves.
At the end of the post, the player then tags 5 people and posts their names, then goes to their blogs and leaves them a comment, letting them know they've been tagged and asking them to read your blog.So, here goes...

What I was doing 10 years ago:
Getting divorced from Heather Mills evil twin
'Enjoying' the single life
Thinking Molley Molone's (Richmond) was the best a Saturday night could get
Having trouble keeping my weight up at 86kg
Playing great rugby

Five things on my To Do List today:
Finally write this
Appeal against my wife's parking ticket (again)
Find Fitna on YouTube
Go to Gym (postponed until tomorrow)
Book train tickets to Hull

Snacks I enjoy:
pork scratchings (the real snack porn)
plain crisps
Jamon off the bone
mixed fruit, nuts and seeds

Things I would do if I were a billionaire:
Bank roll London Welsh and pay for its supporter to learn the laws
Buy a row of debentures at Cardiff
Bank roll the Libertarian Party
Never drink cheap wine, except at my Southern French/Tuscan Villa

Three of my bad habits:
Nose picking
Penny wise and pound foolish

Five places I have lived:
Mostyn, North Wales
South Kensington

Five jobs I've had:
M&S assistant
Letting Buildings Manager
Student Union Sabbatical
Private Banker

Current position:
Waiting for Dinner

Five people I want to know more about (in other words the five people who I'll be bothering later today...!):

Monday 31 March 2008

An then there was one

A confusing and ultimately disappointing weekend. I was supposed to have two games, a local Surrey League game on Saturday and a U15 game on Sunday. Firstly the Sunday match was changed to U13; younger and lower skills. Secondly my Saturday match was scratched, a second game was offered local to me, but before they could confirm I’m called for another league game. I’m finally called 2 hours before kick off to learn that this match is cancelled. It’s all too late to get another match, which is disappointing given the overall shortage of referees.

Still, I managed to get to watch my old side, London Welsh Occies, hammer London Scottish in the semi-final of the Middlesex Merit competition. There are some photos here;
London Welsh Occies
I had a good chat, post-match, with the Level 8 referee who managed the game, with some interesting pointers on how he interpreted foot-up in the scrum; not something that gets pinged very often.

Sunday in Richmond park with Rosslyn Park and Dorking youth was a one sided affair, with a superb performance from the Dorking fly-half. A star of the future, he popped up everywhere, taking two of the four tries and kicking three conversions. I had a good chat with the Park coach and it included the ELVs, our shared view was that collapsing mauls and hands in rucks my well work at the top of the game, but it is asking for trouble on a wet January afternoon with lower level teams.

Tuesday 11 March 2008

National Schools Sevens

I opted out of refereeing at the weekend as the pub beckoned to watch Wales chase a Triple Crown and I needed to keep some energy for all day Monday at the National Schools Sevens at Rosslyn Park. It is the largest rugby tournament in the World with games played over 4 days on 12 pitches. Most of the top rugby playing schools from the UK participate, as well as invitation teams from Spain, Nigeria and Eastern Europe.

I have volunteered to referee for the past 4 years and I recommend it to any refs who can spare the time. Each year they contrive to find the worst weather available in March. Usually is it a bit of cloud or some wind. This year ‘the worst storm of the winter’ stuck. The force 9 gale was blowing down the pitch, blasting icy rain into my face, whilst branches fell from trees around us. The pitches began to resemble swimming pools as the lightening. Not a great day to christen my new Mizuno boots!

As I approached what was to be my final match (the afternoon’s play was abandoned) I commented to a teacher that they could force their little charges to run around in shorts but why had I volunteered!

As the two 13 year captains approached, one dress in a maroon shirt with brown stripes and the other in maroon with mustard stripes, I informed them that as they shirts where so similar we would first toss a coin to see who would play in skins! The look of horror on their little faces brightened my day.

Maroon and brown turned around 21-0 and the opposition coach asked to make a quick 5 minutes for the second half. I was happy to oblige, I have never played or refereed in worse weather.

New Boots

My Canterbury boots finally gave up the ghost last weekend, it’s just my luck it should happen on the rare occasion I have two matches. They were very comfortable boots and I’m sorry to see them go. Being size 12 always presents problems buying boots, it’s easy to track them down on line but I want to try before I buy. Rugby Scene had a reasonable selection, but fully retail price is unattractive. managed to get me some Mizuno Wave Samurai, very shift delivery and 30% less than Rugby Scene – Bargain! (Londonrugbyref has no commercial interest in lovell-rugby, just happy to recommend good service)

Monday 3 March 2008

You've been a very naughty boy

Uplifting Afternoon

It was to be two games this weekend, a Surrey 4 league match for Saturday and U16 game for the Sunday.

A crisp and clear afternoon in Egham with the home team up against Wandsworthians and what looked like a very square pitch, plenty of width, anyway. Being ushered into the home-side’s changing room because there is no referee room is always disappointing. It’s comfortable having somewhere to escape to reflect on the match, especially if you have a tough match. Still, they were a friendly bunch and there was plenty of excitement about a tour to Hong Kong, Australia, NZ and LA; it sounded a good one.

Reflection from recent matches meant I wanted to focus on avoiding back-chat and a Society tutoring session from Wayne Barnes on the misdemeanours of the tackler were the key areas to think about. Part one was soon challenged by the Wandsworth South Africans, but a couple of sharp warnings saw pitch comment down to an acceptable level. I read over on rugbyrefereeblog that there is recruitment problem for SA refs, it is hardly surprising given the chippiness of your average SA player over here.

The game progress well with Egham enjoying good possession and territory but a couple of neat interception tries giving the visitors a comfortable margin. The rucks were a little loose and the Wandsworth back row took advantage, coming in at the side. The chippy SA openside eventual caught my attention at a defensive scrum 5m out. I called him back as he detached and then, as the scrum wheeled, he burst around the back and pounced the ball. The look of bewilderment as I showed him yellow was a picture, I later explained that there were one of three penalties from his actions and he could pick any one for his card given the general warning I had already issued

The home team took advantage of the extra man to add two tries to bring some balance to the scores.

I learned at half time that I was being officially assessed; I was confident with my first half display and continued that into the second. It has been two years since my last assessor visit so it was great to get some objective feedback. Generally, I did well; good positioning but a few too many penalties, stop these with an earlier whistle at scruffy rucks. Furthermore, I need to work on my pitch authority (I’ve been working on this but clearly more to do) and I need to improve my speed off the mark (fewer pies)! He was impressed enough to recommend an upgrade, so there something to look forward to.

Chatting back

I thought I would share this exchange on my old Team's message board. They were unhappy with their ref at the weekend. I can't comment on his overall performance but I think here, he has made the right call.

Our whingeing wound him up and made him emotional (he had fear in his eyes) and decisions started to go against us. I particularly enjoyed the penalty he gave against us when Ga (correctly) called their line out not straight - "I was going to give you the scrum ...".

If you persistently chat back, commentate, question decisions then you run the risk of a penalty. Even if the throw wasn't straight and the ref was going to give it, telling him it wasn't straight is going to be seen by all refs as questioning his decision, which is a penalty. It won't happen the first time or possibility the second but it is going to happen eventually.

We had plenty of chats and he told me he was looking for an excuse to card Clem (because Clem was whingeing). His excuse came in the 38th minute when Clem hit the guy who had just headbutted him.

Now I would never comment as such to a player, but any player who consistently whinging at you as ref is not going to be your best friend. Its the same as above. "he's off-side,ref"," forward pass ref?" If the ref didn't blow, it wasn't, by asking those questions you're questioning his decision. Penalty.
Clem was using up his credit and when it comes to a 50-50 of card or not, there is nothing in the credit column. Headbutt or not, you are going to get a card for throwing a punch. Its straight forward retaliation, refs rarely see the first offence but its much more likely they will see the consequence.

Most refs are out to enjoy his afternoon too, do engage in banter but when it comes to the decision process. Keep your mouths shut!

Wednesday 6 February 2008

Early Start

Against my better judgement, I agreed to referee the U13 match the following day as London Welsh took on Old Albanians. The gallons of beers celebrating the Welsh win wasn’t the best start to the 11am kick-off. Luckily, lots of Lucozade, 25 minute halves and a small pitch helped things.

The best thing about refereeing kids is how disciplined they are; no back chat, no hands in rucks, no sly punches. I’m not saying it doesn’t happen, just not very often. The first half in this match had only two penalties, everyone kept on their feet and rucked properly it makes a referee’s job very easy.

The visitors were in control from the beginning with a better organised pack and players that targeted the ball for the rip at the tackle. They had some good strong, physical runners who were able to beat some soft tackles. They managed to pop over some pretty decent kicks as Welsh at least managed to shepherd a number of the tries into the corner.

Big Game Review

These days, I do find watching professional games; I follow the referee as much as the players. There were some ‘not obvious’ decisions from the Eng v Wales referee, some I didn’t get and many which were badly interoperated by the audience in the bar and TV commentators.

Stangely, I felt the referee had a better game in the second half!

Double Trouble

England v Wales day at Twickenham brings a heady excitement to Richmond and Old Deer Park, the short journey from the end of the M4 and HQ means that it is a natural place get a pre-match beer or search for a ticket. For the Welsh exile it is the day that home goes to you. It was thus that volunteering to referee my old team mates verses a touring Vets side from Torquay seemed a good way of getting a game and getting into the atmosphere early.

At least the cold wind meant that a good deal of those in the club house kept close to the beer and I avoided a crowd of hundreds passing judgment on my game. The large touring party meant that it was to be game of four quarters, to give every one a game. This proved to be hugely disruptive as players and referee don’t have time to develop a rapport. The only continuity was with the Welsh fly-half and captain who openly bares his frustration with no-longer playing at a level that warrants top referees. The consequence was a constant torrent of questions and comments that has taught me that a zero tolerance for such behaviour is the only approach; ex-colleagues or not. It’s clearly an area I must take stronger hold in my game.

I established with both captains that whilst it was friendly and I was prepared to play good advantage and take a liberal view on knock-ons and forward passes, foul play and breakdown discipline would not be compromised. The reason for this is that these are the flash points in any match that inevitably lead to trouble if not firmly handled.

One thing I failed to establish was the restart protocol following the quarter-end. Was it to be a pause in play or a re-start? When I ended the first quarter with what would have been an attacking 5m scrum to Welsh and walked to the centre line, there was a good deal of frustration. Fortunately, the opposition sided with Welsh in that they were happy to continue with the scrum.

Welsh established a two try margin in what was an even game, they held their own whilst down to 14 men following the binning of the scrum-half after he kicked the ball from the base of the No8 at a defensive scrum 5m out. The second half saw the visitors start a comeback that would be replicated later in the afternoon. A break down the left wing, with a pass that might have been called forward on a regular afternoon saw the first try for the oppo, the visitors forwards started to establish a better platform which saw the second try, with 5 minutes to go. Both conversions gave the game to Torquay