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