Wednesday 28 October 2009

Holy Trinity

An exciting prospect for next week's referee training is that it will feature three top international referees giving us the benefit of their wisdom. Our own Wayne Barnes will be joined by Bryce Lawrence and Stuart Dickinson. The latter two will, no doubt, be keen to pick up tips on refereeing the scrummage from the lively JP Doyle (one to watch) .

Monday 26 October 2009

3 Yellows and a flying Prop

With the words of last week’s assessor still fresh in my ears it was off to the Surrey countryside for a local derby in the merit league, a scrappy game full of incident was to follow. The home side (Blue) looked to be mix of youth and experience whilst the visitors (Black) seemed well loaded with experience. The pitch at this club has a significant end to end slope and this is a key factor in choosing sides at kick off. Use the early advantage or take the easier option for tired legs in the second half. Black choose the early advantage. This didn’t work out so well with an early, fast paced try for Blue. This seemed to wake-up Black who used their considerable forward advantage to dominate field position and possession.
Black’s mix of oldies looked to bully Blue early on and I warned them to calm thinks down. Minutes later as a promising move came to end just short of the Blue goal line, Black 16 had words with a Blue player before open-handedly slapping him. The ensuing yellow card was met with protests that it was only a slap, yes it was, if it had been a punch then it would be have been red. From scrumaging under the posts, Black were marched down the field. At 15 minutes in, it was certainly my earliest yellow card and the assessor’s advice did result in taming Black’s temper.
Another Black move came to end 3m out as a Blue player goes down over the ball, killing it. Again a yellow card but no penalty try as Black didn’t look to be certain to score. However, they did from the penalty and turned around 12-10 up, not a great advantage since they would be playing up hill in the second period.
The lack of position and procession had seen a big penalty count against Blue and the captain was warned to keep discipline in the second half but their new strategy was to use the slope and speed of their young backs to keep the old fellas in Black away from the ball. This worked with two early tries which put the game beyond Black. A bizarre aspect of Black’s play was the number of accidental off-sides from ruck and maul. I say accidental but there is a case for obstruction and a penalty, but I judged that the forward players were just too lazy to retire properly. They found this very frustrating but I offered the penalty interpretation and that quietened the complaints. There was to be a third yellow card as a Black winger, chipped through, the Blue defender, jumped to charge it down but deliberately landed in a way to trip the attacking player. The captain had been warned that the penalty count was high and that was reckless play.
The scrumage in this game was a tough one to control. The wizened operators of Black verses the bulk and youth of Blue. The first half, pushing down hill, Black adequately contained the Blue pack. I over heard the Black tight head complimenting his 19 year old adversary on his efforts. However, in the second half, it all started to go wrong; Blue were now pushing down the slope and Black struggles to hold the engagement hit. This resulted in a couple of free kicks for the early push and for delaying the put in. However, in the final quarter, Black’s loose head popped up repeatedly. The first penalty was against him for not taking the pressure and standing up, then against Blue for driving up and then, once again against Black at the loose head flew up in the face of an almighty shove. There is often an element of lottery in getting the call right on front row offences but I am getting more confident calling it right and going for a sanction rather than a re-set.
What did it take out of this match? It was a spirited but disappointing spectacle, there were too many penalties but try as I might they were generally clear, obvious and fair. The early and confident use of a yellow card calmed things down and got both sides focusing on the game. I cut down on the commentary to players and acted with more confidence in key game management phases and the new positioning at kick-offs, line-outs and goal kicks seemed to work well. Final score 31-12 to Blue.

Monday 19 October 2009

An Assessor Calls

A lousy night’s sleep due to a sickly toddler is hardly good prep for my first league fixture of the season, never mind one that learn I am to be assessed on. Knowing you are being judged by someone other the players and crowd (i.e. someone that knows what he is talking about) is excellent for development, at the top of the game it carried out at every game with all the video highlights to go with it.
It was clear before that kick-off that the Home side (Blue) had an enormous advantage up front; their tight-head alone looked like he accounted for half the pack weight. He acknowledged that the visitors (Green) looked a little light and that he would go easy on them. I told him that I was happy for him to dominate, but not destroy; safety first.
Blue started strongly with dominate territory and good forward control, but the Green defence was resolute but they put pressure back on themselves by not find touch with kicks. This was a good deal more edgy than recent games, things simmered through out. An early incident saw Blue winger chip through, and the Green defender stood his ground as the ball flew over his head. Instead of stepping around or running into him Blue nailed him with a huge tackle! Penalty Green tackling the man without the ball, it was dangerous as the defender wasn’t expecting it. Two Blue tries did carry question marks; the first came from a Blue maul 10-15m out, the ball carrier detached from the maul and brushes another player, was it clear and obvious? In retrospect, yes and it should have been a scrum to Green. The next one was a forward pass which I couldn’t see as the defenders were obscuring my view. The assessor confirmed the forward pass but said it was understandable given my positioning which in itself was fine. Unfortunately for Green, they didn’t play the whistle and the Blue run in was easier than it should be.
Half time and the team turned around 17-3 to Blue but there was frustration that they had not got more out of their possession. The assessor introduced himself to me and I was surprised that he wasn’t an old pass-it type that usually carry out these duties. He gave me a couple of pointers for the second half, largely that my kick-off positioning wasn’t good – despite being moved there by a previous assessor and I was told to watch out for Blue 6 in the line out as his elbows and arms where in plenty of places were they shouldn’t be.
The second half started and an early line-out clearly shows the Blue front jumper interfering with Green, but as the ball is going over the top, it’s a quiet word as a run past, “keep your arm to yourself No 6”. A few minutes later it’s a free kick as the arms go in again, and later it’s a full penalty at which point the message gets through. Nevertheless, Blue continues to dominate despite a neat try from Green. A couple of sweeping wide tries finish off the game but it comes at a cost as the penalties against Blue mount, mostly for not rolling away from the tackle and going off their feet. A general warning to the captain is closely followed by a yellow card, though the assessor said this should have come sooner. Not that it mattered as apparently the miscreant managed to slip back the field un-noticed. The final point of interest was a disallowed try as beautiful Blue move was hauled up just short of the line, the Green tackler rolls away and Blue scrambles forward to ground the ball over the goal line. Decision; playing the ball on the ground, penalty Green. Final score, Blue win 32-8.
To be fair, Green were better than the score suggests but their weak scrum didn’t give them a platform and their forwards were too keen to get into an arm wrestle with a much better pack. Despite the niggle, edge and penalty count (17-8 against blue) the feedback from the players seemed to be positive
The assessor had some good feed back for me particularly about positioning at kick-offs and line-outs, which I tried in the second half to good effect. My penalty kick positioning was wrong and this allowed the Blue kicker to bring a touch line kick in 15m and I need to get closer in at rucks give my directions to players and then get out to the short side. Hopefully, there will be enough positive support to get moved up a level at the Christmas promotion board.

Monday 12 October 2009

Tales and Flags

No game to referee this week as I was undertaking a Touch Judge development course. There is bit more to it that simply raising a flag roughly where the ball goes out. There is good deal about positioning, especially as play nears the goal line. Then there is the need to be the eyes in the back of the referee’s head, spotting trouble and communicating this to him, especially if both of you are wired up and linked to the TV. The secret code used to describe foul play is revealed. If the TJ describes the illegal action as ‘unnecessary’ then he is recommending a caution, ‘reckless’ means a yellow card and ‘dangerous’ warrants a red card.
Our tutor, Old Uncle Bob, is a former top, national referee and it is clear that from the video clips used, he favours swift justice for miscreants, recommending red cards far more quickly than any of the class.
Old Uncle Bob is well stocked with tales from his years with a whistle, two favourites from yesterday included the English international referee (not current) who’s pre-match routine included a couple of G&T’s before he took the field. Sounds more fun than Gatorade. Another English international referee arrived for France v Scotland with only a white shirt, forgetting the French change of strip. His only other top was a red training shirt, ripped at the side. With the aid of some safety pins he took to the field and the game passed without incident. However, his assessor did criticise him for not raising his arm high enough.
Spectator violence is something at has hit the news lately, but one of my classmates recounted a recent London New Zealand v Hammersmith match were a floored Kiwi was receiving a pasting from his opposite number. The swiftest retribution was delivered by the victim’s 5 foot girlfriend who matched on the field to deck the assailant with a decisive right hook! Classy bird!

Friday 9 October 2009

An ugly day for Rugby

Forget the summer of Bloodgate, cocaine, gouging and late night 'fights' in Wellington this is story from Coventry is the biggest disgrace of the season

played by humans, refereed by humans

Wednesday 7 October 2009

Cheats vs Druggies

My visit to the Stoop was my first Premiership match, playing on Saturdays generally precludes this and my team is London Welsh anyway. There was lots of razzmatazz and my location in a hospitality box gave a great view of the action. It was a cracking match and never let it be said that games with one try a piece lack drama.
Wayne Barnes in the middle gave a consummate performance, though rucks still managed to have a few too many players off their feet from my angle. The winning Quins try was tough one to call even with a TMO but thanks to Sky TV HD cameras the right decision was made. Ironically, it was the same high definition coverage that provided evidence for Bloodgate!

Note. There was more interest in these visitors to the box than the Quins players at full time. I can't help thinging they are going to be cold come January.


Double Dose

With a game to referee and trip to Harlequins v Bath, Saturday was a feast of rugby action. Luckily my game was local so a mad dash to the Stoop was just do-able.
The afternoon started with a stomach-in-mouth moment as I realised that letting toddler-son play with my whistle after the last match meant it hadn’t found its way back in my kit bag. The advice of keeping a (rusty) spare prevented any embarrassment.
The combatants were two well organised Old Boys sides and happily were a side higher than I had previously encountered from those clubs.
The home side, Blue started strongly setting up a Red line-out on their own 5m line. Red 8 left the line early and I awarded a free-kick, an ensuing ruck saw Red 8 go to ground and tap penalty saw Blue score neatly in the corner. However, once Red got their act together the tight play from their forwards was too disciplined for Blue to cope with, there was great running and handling from the Red backs, some neat behind the back flips. In contrast, on the many occasions that Blue pushed forward, the ball carrier was isolated and was turned over or conceded a penalty.
Comedy moment of the match came a Blue 15 was chasing down a kick that ran into touch, realising that he was heading for the half way flag he attempted to vault the flag, which raised a sensitive target for the top of the flag to whip into. The ensuing line out was delayed as the forwards and referee composed themselves.
The game ended with a healthy 38-18 win to the visitors thanks to better organisation and individual skills. From my perspective, no major flare-ups, though it seems I did miss an obstruction in the lead up to a try. I was well positioned but wasn’t looking at that aspect, I suspect they were right to question it; at least it didn’t affect the result. I came off feeling the afternoon had gone well and the feed back from the teams seems good too. Sadly no beers with the captains afterwards as I needed to run off to the Harlequins match.