Monday, 1 December 2008

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

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