Tuesday 28 December 2010

Half Season Review

It has been a few weeks since my last game as the weather once again takes its toll, its a good time for reflect on the season so far. The year ended with the good news of my promotion to level 11+1, hopefully I can consolidated this in the second half of the season and move up again. 
I have found the standard of games to be very good with the odd exception. Better, faster games bring their own challenges with speed of thought and foot being the main ones, but they also avoid some of the more ugly and sloppy elements of lower level games.
Inspired by Dave Garvey's post on Facebook here are some of the highlights so far.

  • Most Impressive Side: H.A.C 1st (level 9 game so much better than I'm used to)
  • Most Improved Side: Paulines 3rd 
  • Best match (Standard of rugby): LSE v Sussex Uni (fantastic Sussex fly-half)
  • Best match (Enjoyment): RUMS v QMW (just for having a prop admit the penalty was correct)
  • Best Host: Surrey University Ladies (fantastic facilities, great beers and a genuine interest in what I thought)
  • Worst Experience: Refereeing my old side when the ref didn't show up and thus having a frost night drinking with them when they narrowly lost.
I am hoping the weather doesn't disrupt to much of the early season as I want to keep up the momentum I've gained. Its looking like I will have another month or two of mid-week games as you can see the student games are providing some of the season's best moments.

Monday 13 December 2010

Old School Ties and Fez-Heads

imageI made up for the lack of recent actively with two matches this weekend. Saturday saw me take on a senior league game and Sunday it was U13 action.

Yet again on Saturday it was a close game, with the home side holding out for a 20-17 win, despite being outscored 3 tries to 2 and managing to miss 4 penalties in front of posts in the final quarter. The was some great individual skills on display, especially from Black 7, who I suspect should have been on the receiving end of my whistle more often than I managed.

It wasn’t may best day, rucks were a little untidy and all four props wanted to bugger about. Both captains channelled their front row’s complaints to me at the break. The black loose head side was the most troublesome with both props looking to turn in. Practically every scrum ended with them at 90 degrees to each other. The cause of this could be either one, but the actions of each looks like the other is committing a foul. Its very difficult to assign blame. A good chat with the prop in the bar helped me to understand what was going on which I hope will help next time.

The only flash point of the game was at 15 from time as yellow 9 tip tackled black 7. The player was winded but recovered quickly and his team mates were calling for a yellow card. Whilst he did take the legs through the horizontal, the ball carrier was already low down and the tone of the game had been very clean. A stiff warning and a penalty in front of the posts (which was missed!) was sufficient.

Sunday was a all together calmer game, London Welsh youth v Saracens. As happened earlier in the season, London Welsh, started very slowly and lost the game in the first 10 minutes. They were 29 points down at half time but they drew the second half. Reffing the kids does see me coaching them to a large degree. They won’t learn through penalties alone and verbal communication is used to a higher degree. The Welsh scrum was very weak and judging advantage for knock-ons became a lopsided affair, as Welsh were better served with opposition ball in open play than by loosing possession on their own put-in.

The youth game on the adjacent pitch was held up for 40 minutes as two ambulances arrived to treat a freak collision that rendered two lads unconscious. Never a nice thing to happen.

Thursday 9 December 2010

Why the Ref doesn’t always blow

Referee training last night; mental not physical. The topic was materiality and it is an import concept for keeping the game rewarding for players and entertaining for spectators.

The idea is that the referee will only blow for an offence if its effecting the game. The laws of rugby are complex and at any one time, technically, several offences might be committed but the referee must decide if they affecting the flow and outcome of the game. Example, the prop might be in front of the kicker but he is unlikely to reach the receiver quickly enough to affect his actions, the winger might be a different matter. Similarly, at scrum time the outside backs may be offside, but the scrum half shots down the blindside.

As a player or spectator you may see the technical infringement and be baying for a penalty, but the referee is making a judgement as to whether that offence is making a difference to sides ability to win or use the ball effectively. Play some rugby or have yet another kick, which do you want?

There is a clear difference between advantage and materiality, the former has clearly affected the game and should nothing come of the resultant play, then we go back. It is important that the referee shouldn’t hide ignorance of infringements behind the materiality cloak so it is important to communicate to players that you’ve seen what happened; a quick comment at the next break in play, “Watch the offside, backs”, “Prop, keep behind the kicker”, etc.

Judging materiality has to take into consideration many factors, firstly, as always, safety but also intent. The vets prop may have fallen at the ruck, because he’s old and fat, not a cheat (he may of course be both). The score and time in the match also affect the decision, is a marginal penalty with 2 minutes on the clock going to change the result and would that be fair.

In the end the most important skill, in this context, that the referee can have is good empathy for the players and how they want to play. Keep the game flowing, reward good positive play and let them know how and what you are thinking.

Wednesday 8 December 2010

Brightest and Best

Its bit frosty but snow was gone around here, my match was confirmed by the home team. I arrive at the ground and the home side are running out to warm up and only then did the message come through, sorry but the visitors cancelled on Monday. The administrators at this prestigious London college had failed to tell the team and subsequently me. Their ladies team had called off a game because they couldn’t get a referee, but failed to tell the opposition. I did have home XV and visiting XV unfortunately they where different sexes. Great use of resources all around.

Its a shame because I didn’t get to use my new ‘refereeing’ gloves. Burrrhh!!

Tuesday 7 December 2010

You with the whistle , you're being sub-ed

The only solution is for refs to get fitter, it fundamental to the spirit game that we are the sole arbiter of law.

A Call to Give Rugby Referees Some Reinforcements - NYTimes.com

That said, there is scope for assistant refs to contribute more, which is certainly the direction that English refs have been going for sometime. Interesting that the article is from the US.

Thursday 2 December 2010

Six Nation Match Officials

How the hell did Steve Walsh get Eng v France after his performance in Wales v SA. On a similar vain how did Bryce Lawrence get two matches and Nigel Owens only one.

"Bloody Hell"

All I know is I am certain its nothing to do with his dad.

Tuesday 30 November 2010

Students Run Riot

24112010114Well, not quiet a riot but whilst their classmates caused a nuisance in the West End, I had two excellent sides in a BUSC cup match. In new departure this season I have been refereeing midweek student games as I am out of work. Its proved to be some of the best rugby I’ve been involved in; players who are fit, well drilled and disciplined. They have yet to be corrupted by the old cynics who’s hay-day and last training session with a descent coach was 10 years ago.

In approaching two teams for the first time I, like other referees, will eye up the players and judge who I think will be the side most likely to win. In this case, the home side were mostly lean and tall, the visitors a mixed bag of sizes with a smattering of fatties. This week was to prove just how much I know. Right from the start the visitors were sharper out of the box, controlling field  position and pace of the game. Whilst the home team’s forwards had the edge, the visitors’ fly half was exceptionally talented; its not often you see a 40m drop goal at level 11.

The first half saw the visiting team establish a sound lead, but the second, saw the home team fight back. Pressure on a clearance kick from in-goal saw the ball sliced to touch in-goal; 5m attacking scrum. Excellent pressure saw the visitors defensive scrum disintegrate, penalty; and having watched the TV the captain opted for a second scrum. This time the defensive loose head turned in; penalty again. Captain encourages his pack on; “One time time lads and its a penalty try!”, to which I slap him down, “I’ve watched the telly too, its not necessarily so”. Truth is he was going to get one in all likelihood, but I don’t want it decided for me. The attack managed to score a legitimate try and the vertical position of the flankers meant that the penalty try was there if needed. However, having reflected on the situation, next time I would have given the penalty on the first offence. The front row had stood up, the back row had detached and it was clearly a very unsuccessful and illegal end to a scrum that was heading towards the goal line at at a rate of knots.

The home side definitely held the advantage in the second half and into the last 5 minutes were a score behind and looked like levelling things, until a flanker’s tackle put the ball carrier’s legs through the vertical. Not a spear-tackle but dangerous enough under the recent directive for a penalty, smack in front of the posts and the fly-half nailed it.

A great game and some fantastic feed-back once again, the players felt the advantage I used allowed them to play the game whilst the previous week, the teams had been blown of the park. Rugby was the winner then. Its good news when even the losers are happy with the ref.

Wednesday 24 November 2010

GPS on the Pitch

Not entirely convinced my the sensitivity of my GPS reading
'Running around today

Season So Far

Looking at my last post and my lack of updates and you might expect that I have jacked in this reffing lark. However, you would be very wrong. I have rediscovered my reffing mojo, if not my blogging mojo.

Things have come together well so far; I’ve had some great games, super feed-back and my fitness has improved. I am undecided about whether the new tackle directive has changed things for me, personally, but I believe it is reducing competition at the breakdown making it simpler to police.

The best part of the season has been the quality of the games I’ve been given. Good sides of an appropriate level, players who have skill, fitness and want to play positive rugby. Many players lower down the levels misdirect frustration at their own inadequacy at the referee and there has been less of that. At my first game this season, the home team believed I refereed at a higher level (I’m currently 11); very flattering, even more so a few weeks later when a level 9 team said the same thing. There been a fair number of ‘best referee this season’ comments which is great.

The better games have stretched my fitness, particularly as I’ve started doing mid-week student games (I’m currently out of work). There was only one game, where I felt I was too far behind play, it was in the aftermath of man flu, but speed will need to improve if I am to rise higher.

I do promise to keep you all better informed about what I’m up to.

Friday 10 September 2010

The Season Gets Underway

The new season fast approaches and my first scheduled game is coming up this Saturday. Last season was a disappointing one, so much was washed away or frozen off, I didn’t get any momentum and there were too few games to judge my grading so I stayed at level 11. Despite doing a Assistant Referee course, I had no appointment, so that is looking like a waste of time for all involved.
It certainly got to the point that I wondered if just being a spectator might be best way of spending a Saturday afternoon. I find myself at the start of the season with less than the usual anticipation but I am hoping that a couple of good games and an early positive assessment will re-fire my enthusiasm.

Thursday 26 August 2010

Another Season, Another Interpretation

Will it mean much for those of us at level 11? Not really

BBC Sport - Rugby Union - Law tweaks leave Wales set for glory

Nevertheless, a good piece on how the tactics at the top change with iRB messing with the game

Friday 6 August 2010

Andre Watson telling how it is.

I can sit here or on Twitter during matches and try to explain how referees approach a game. However, I don't have the authority and experience of ex-international referee, Andre Watson. Here, he fields questions from unhappy Bok fans about the Tri-nations. Well worth a read.

SA Rugby - Official Home of the Springboks

Wednesday 23 June 2010

New Referee Blogger

I have yet to read a better description of the tackle area, well worth a read.


Friday 9 April 2010

Wales, Italy and a muddy field in Surrey

Blogging has been light this season as matches have been thin on the ground and I don’t want to get on to the debate how good or bad international referees are. What I don’t like is the increasingly public debate about the quality of specific referees and the way coaches now routinely assess the referee as part of the post match interview. The iRB and RFU need to start stamping down on this, we know where it ends up, Ferguson and Wenger being the clues as to where.

My last full adult game was a couple of weeks ago, I would have loved to watch Wales thrash the Italians, but I hadn’t had a run out and, well it’s only Italy. It was my third time with the home team this season: the first ever with the visitors. If there was any doubt that it is players that wind up refs and not the other, then this match illustrated it well. The first half had been largely uneventful, the visitors running up a three try lead and every thing was good humoured. The visitors brought on two replacements at half time, a lock and flanker. Immediately the ‘comments’ started; questioning decisions, calling the line out or forward passes for me. I asked the captain to put a lid on it but it continues. A penalty for dissent is given following a break-down offense and the second, quickly taken penalty results in a try against the visitors. As they regain the upper hand things calm down again.

In the dying minutes the flanker is pinged for going off his feet and playing the ball on the floor, “ Its against you red 16”, he slams down the ball and asks me if I’m having a “Giraffe”, no I’m not but you’re having ten minutes (from the two that were left). As he walks from the field further comments about my refereeing proficiency see me up that card to a red, the first for a while.

In the end, I though it was a reasonable day at the coal face, but two old, lazy props and a mouthy flanker make me think a few beers and the Wales games may have been a better way to spend the time.

Monday 1 March 2010

The Angry Ref - “Oh Captain My Captain”

A new referee writing from the US, I think.

The Angry Ref - “Oh Captain My Captain”

Not exactly on message from an RFU perspective but entertaining and vocalizing what the rest of us are thinking

Thursday 25 February 2010

So what was it like for you?

The London Society's latest recruit talks about his first outing with a whistle.
Brought back memories it did, well expect for the spectators, TV crew, international referees running touch. Otherwise much the same as my first outing

Brian Moore -I was flawless as a referee

Hopefully he will get further run outs and will ditch those stupid tights!

Sunday 21 February 2010

No more Mr Nice Guy

Ref training last week was shaped by the need to be tough on the causes of crime, even in lower level games. Just because its a Level 11-14 game cheating spoils everyone’s afternoon. The players may be old, slow or just crap, but they know how to flop on the ball, handle in rucks, late tackle and punch without the ref seeing it. The answer is to deal with it, penalise and card if they are not listening.

Saturday’s game had all the above. The home side was a team I had already reffed this season, and it didn’t go well with a high penalty count and I should have shown cards earlier.

The game started badly for the visitors with two shoulder injuries in the opening 15 mins, with only one sub their early promise was soon eliminated. It got worse soon after as a late and borderline spear-tackle saw the tackled player off the field with a stinger in his lower back. The tackler was yellow carded. 13 men and the contest was heavily stacked against them. Still they turned around at half time only 10-7 down thanks to some desperate defending and a superb scrumaging.

The temper on the second half was tense and edgy, there were a few late hits from both sides and the two locks had their own private battle which they managed to keep hidden. The visitor’s open-side had a different view on what was ‘on your feet’ to me and the home side were persistently offside at the tackle area. At the time I seriously thought of binning a number of visitors, but I was conscious of keeping the contest going; 11-12 players would have made the game meaningless. I think the threat kept them on edge but was I being too nice. Looking back, the home side should has lost a player but at the time I was concerned about consistency between my approach to both teams. They eventually lost a player in the dying minutes as the visitors pounded the home try-line for a consolation score.

It was clear that a good deal of hidden punching was going on, and despite my best efforts I couldn’t catch anyone. The lock battle was at the centre of this. This was tough as the home captain was involved, a player that would be best described as Danny Grewcock’s evil twin. He calmed down after I told him he role as team enforcer was incompatible with being captain.

A home win 32-14 and a first season loss for the visitors. I was pleased with containment of the home side compared with our earlier encounter this season. I held the chat and comment more successfully than recently too. I suspect that this would have been much tougher if the visitors had remained at 15 and the scores tighter, but then my pocket would have been a lot busier.

Sunday 14 February 2010

Smelling of Roses

Referee David Rose criticised by the Quims coach as his team gets spanked 46-6

Sky Sports Gloucester v Harlequins

I suspect that there was a lot more going wrong than just the referee's decisions?

Thursday 11 February 2010

A background in cheating

The Pitbull and IMHO one of the better TV pundits has been very vocal in his criticism of international refs and how the game's Laws are evolving. Following a presentation to the London Society in November (which I missed) and some constructive engagement on The Referee Forum, he has taken up the challenge and has completed a entry level referee training course. He is due to referee his first match next week, I suspect his touchline audience will be better informed than my first outing.

Brian Moore: my background in cheating will come in handy for life as a referee - Telegraph

I hope that he enjoys it and both sides take something from this but I suspect a Monday outing will mean his first match is not the Old Fartonians 4th XV that most referees start with . I wish him good luck.

Wednesday 3 February 2010

Lack of Action

I haven’t been that active on here of late and that is largely due to lack of games to talk about. I went to some Autumn internationals, I was ill, Christmas came along and then we have had the frost. However, last week, some idiot forgot to tell me and Society that my game was canceled until 9.30 on the Saturday morning. This meant it was too late to get a reappointment. That isn’t as bad as couple of weeks before went I turned up at my home ground to find the game had been canceled. Its only phone call – please make it.
The previous week was an uplifting match. On paper it should be evenly balanced, a Jonap 1 merit fixture, but the home side had better organised forwards and the visitors weren’t up for tackling. It ended 73-7 but strangely it felt closer.
The only trouble came from a loose head, whose technique was to drive straight up and binding seemed to be optional. Two free kicks and two penalties and he was close to getting a yellow card before he was subbed as the scrum went uncontested. His excuse for the binding was an injury that prevented him getting his elbow up, ‘fit enough to play then fit enough to bind properly’ was my response.
I was impressed with the visitors since despite the thumping they received, there was no griping or back chat. I’m either getting better or they are particularly well behaved – shows it can be done.
No game for me this weekend as it the only game that counts all season; Wales v England.

London Welsh Trumoil

I haven't commented much on this one, but it is a sorry tell of alleged fraud, deception and poor due diligence. With the club back in the hands of the good and true its time to look to the future.

What is needed a coherent plan which must start with what level funding the club can raise and which level of the game that will get them. Previous planning seems to have been to aim for the top level or bust; well now they are bust. What next?

I don't think the club have leveraged the brand successfully in the past; this must be addressed. Though I think it has been moving in the right direction, there is an enormous amount of untapped potential. London Welsh has good facilities and a great location which are under utilized.

Once the potential value of franchise has been properly assessed then the club has the hard decision to make. Can it afford to play in GP (not a chance), the Championship (probably) or will it be lower down.

London Welsh have to access if the value of franchise is enhanced or reduced by the 'soft 'n' friendly' family club with a good social atmosphere and the need to centre activity at Old Deer Park? London Irish is a much bigger and successful club because of its move from Sunbury. Many current members (myself included) won't like this but it may be for the greater good. If the new management maintains the status quo then the club may have to accept a lower league is the best balance of ambition and resources.

The membership and owners needs to realise the club is neither a ‘community resource’ nor a business but must recognise the success will come from objective business management and engaging the broader stakeholder community.

Finally, the RFU needs to end the arms race in the lower leagues. Salaries in the lower leagues are clearly at a level that is unsustainable and are only justified in buying promotion to the top level. However, like the rest of the country, debt and living beyond ones resources is doomed to failure; Coventry, Birmingham, London Welsh and Manchester have all hit the skids this season. Simply, there is not enough money in the game to allow this to continue. The solution is either to pull up the draw bridge to the Premiership and allow funding and salaries to find its own level or if the RFU want to use the Championship as a development league then it needs to increase the funding available and impose a salary cap.

Monday 18 January 2010

Referees to get TVs

Sounds like a good move to me. It will save a great deal of confusion an
will see the referee restored to the sole arbiter of law


Back after a Long Break

Originally uploaded by Dai Stanton
The combination of Autumn Internationals, man flu, Christmas and the weather have contrived to keep me off the park for over two months. Sunday saw me return to action in a U17 game which was a top of the table clash.

The home side were dominant, but managed to give the oppo two first half interception tries. They fought back to win 18-14 despite the referee blowing up 8 1/2 minutes early and needing to restart the game.

It wasn't my best day, the lay-off took its toll as did the mince pies. I wasn't sharp enough and my fitness was below where it needed to be for the speed of the game. Still and enjoyable contest.