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.