Big Dai is a Level 10+1 Rugby Union referee for the London Society. After playing for many years in the Social side of a leading national club, he started refereeing a few seasons ago. He recounts his adventures trooping around South West London to give the ungrateful a game of weekend rugby.
Monday, 19 December 2011
Bang to the Head
I am not surprised, a bit of tape to stop your ears getting roughed up, that is all you need
Headgear won't protect players from concussion | Stuff.co.nz
Wednesday, 14 December 2011
Brian Moore's advice on Managing the Scrum
Friday, 18 November 2011
The Laws, they are a changing?
Wednesday, 16 November 2011
Things that go Bump in the Afternoon
Friday, 11 November 2011
Error Tolerance, Zero
Rugby Club Bars
My host's home ground having been swindled away by Chelsea (apparently) are tenants at this larger league club. Grotty changing rooms but a modern, welcoming bar, an OK pint of London Pride and an excellent lasagne.
Rugby Club Bars
The best facilities on the circuit, the students even bought me not one but two pints of TEA. Sadly the real ale selection has dropped from six beers to only three
Wednesday, 9 November 2011
More on that Tackle
For anyone who thinks it isn't dangerous, please read this.
Monday, 17 October 2011
How to avoid a tip tackle
Another example of Mr Rolland's judgement on tip tackling, more of a 'traditional' spear tackle but the man is consistent.
The question must be how many of this delightful compilation you would not red card?
That tackle and the Red Card
Friday, 14 October 2011
Upsetting the Saffas
Tuesday, 11 October 2011
Top Ref Slams Lawrence
Monday, 10 October 2011
Friday, 7 October 2011
Rugby on a Cricket Day
Game one was another first as it was a Daily Mail Cup U18 game in SE London, it was a new competition for me so I made sure I brushed up on the tournament rules. Both were state schools but one had a long rugby tradition but the home side where relatively new to it. The pre-match pitch inspection showed that the 5m line-out line was actually 10m in and thus the 15m line was at 20m. There were no flag posts either. I’m sure it wouldn’t happen at Whitgift. I agreed with both coaches that I would judge where the line-out would start and ‘throw not 5m’ would not be aggressively policed.
The game was fast and aggressive, the visitors where by far the most skilful but the controlled mayhem from the home side kept them in touch. This mayhem didn’t always help them, 3 yellow cards saw the home side play half the game with 14 men. The first should probably have been a red. The second row looked to strike a player with his head during a scrum. The other two where reckless straight arm high tackles. The scrums where troublesome as two opposing props constantly went in crooked, hard to apportion blame but they had been coached well on how to cheat, penalties where shared between them. The game ended with one try apiece, two penalties to a conversion and penalty saw the home side edge it 11-10. Their reward, a match against last year’s winners!
That evening saw me run the line for a development game under lights. A good performance from the man in the middle, I helped him out with some advice on what was happening on the opposite side of the scrum. We were not miked up so interactive communication was impossible. It was interesting to hear the disparaging coaching comments, I was able to introduce them the concept of “straight-enough” at the line-out.
The following day I was back to same school for an U15 match, this time the opposition was one of the top rugby schools in the area. The coaching staff even had ipads for match analysis! A bad fall on the hard ground saw a home player complain of back-pain, he was on the touch line but play started to get dangerously close so the coaches agreed to end the match, 43-3 to the visitors, only one more score before I would have been forced to call it a day anyway. The game did allow me to fulfil a teenage ambition, accompanying the PE-mistress around the back of the gym!
The final game was the first ‘proper’ game, a Surrey League 2 match in weather more suited to a cricket match. Strong running from the visitors and a more organised pack saw them easy winners at 32-3, the home side found some form in the final quarter but it was too late. They were pressing hard for a score but dropped the ball or conceded the turnover, evitably the visitors gave away a couple of penalties and the captain was sent to the bin for handling on the floor. “I thought could, I was the tackler?”, no you were laying on your back on the wrong side and picking up the the ball and throwing the ball back to your scrum half, is cheating in my book. Even after this the the home side failed to capitalise. After 80 mins of rugby in 30 degree heat the beer was cold and plentiful.
I’m please that all three games felt comfortable, teenage hormones and fast league rugby pushed me but I’m happy that I didn’t miss much and everyone was happy with the game I have them. The confidence that has developed over the last two season means I can stand further back and see more of the game and manage it without whistling too often.
New Rugby Brand
Tuesday, 27 September 2011
What is a Forward Pass?
Monday, 26 September 2011
Argies vs Sweaties
I've just watched the game and I think Barnes called it right, look at these two stills, the back foot of the ruck is just ahead of the 5m line. I've tried to pause the action just as scrum-half Lawson moves his hands, ruck over, ball out. Contepomi (no12) is pretty much where he needs to be as the ball starts moving, a foot over at most and well within the boundary of human error. He is very fast off the mark which is what is deceptive, but the speed of the scrum half's service is ponderous and telegraphs to the Argies what is going to happen.
Some referees would have pulled Contepomi up for what happen but Barnes was right, albeit more from luck than judgement but I guess he isn't that fond of deep fried Mars bars anyway. Wayne Barnes didn't cost Scotland the game, it was their complete inability to create tries.
Assessed in the Sun
Wednesday, 21 September 2011
Tuesday, 20 September 2011
Monday, 19 September 2011
Rain, Shine and telling the Time
One of the lesser used Laws is 11.4 OFFSIDE UNDER THE 10-METRE LAW; Red 10 fields a kick and hoists an up and under, instead of going 30-40m upfield, it goes up and down. Black 12 fields it 5m forward but every player around him is off-side and can't tackle him.
The scrummage was tricky all afternoon, there was an early penalty for not driving straight, but Black were complaining about Red not taking the hit when I penalised them for driving early. This was a tough one to spot, something the Black prop gave me tips on in the bar later; its all in the foot work. A new prop in the second half caused me huge problems, he simply refused to bind. He started on the tight head and after a reset conceded a penalty then moved to the loose head where the same thing occurred. At this level, I am going to coach and re-set first, make it clear what I want and then penalise. I'm comfortable that was the correct course as the prop in question was returning after many years out. He got the message in the end but for safety's sake penalising someone without correcting their technique isn't going to benefit them. On Saturday in a level 10 league game it will be straight to penalties and potentially a card if he fails to comply.
After avoiding any rain all last season, the weather managed pay-back but despite that, it managed to be a great afternoon of rugby, open, clean and with a great spirit, which fits in with my philosophy.
JP Doyle deals with difficulty
Rugby Club Bars #10
A great community club, three sides playing at home so there was plenty of life in the bar. Referees always like it when the bar staff know to give you a pint or two without asking for payment. The field captain didn't seem keen to talk but there was plenty of convivial chat with the team captain. A good pint of Green King IPA
The World of Rugby Referees
Wednesday, 14 September 2011
We would all agree that the ITV RWC commentary is rubbish, even worse than Stuart Barnes. Whilst watching the match, I’ve taken to listening to John Taylor and Brian Moore on TalkSport. Love him or hate him as a player, his analysis is informed and passionate. As far as referees are concerned the ‘informed’ element is only half baked. I know he has done the ELRA ref course but he hasn’t had pitch time and is lacking in continuous professional development.
His bug-bare for the World Cup is referees giving warning to captains after a number of penalties. “Is that a final warning, or what?”, “will the next penalty be a yellow or not?”. He believes the ref communication is not being specific enough. He is probably right, but that is the point, the referee doesn’t want to restrict himself. The sanction of a card is game management tool, the treat is as effective as its use. When to use a card isn’t always black and white, a succession of penalties in mid-field is not the same as one or two 10m out from the goal line. In this regard the referee does not want to make a promise it would be inappropriate to keep.
Lets consider after 20 mins, Blue are under the cosh, four to five penalties have been conceded and two successful kicks have been made. The ref is going to give an warning, if he makes it specific then he is duty bound to yellow card someone; what ever. Next thing, Blue are on the Red 5m line, attacking and there is crossing, a penalty offense, but the referee has ‘promised’ a YC, the Red captain is expecting but it is hardly fair. The open warning gives the referee flexibility to judge a suitable sanction; in this case, Red clear their lines with a kick. If Blue kill the ball 10m out from their own goal-line then the referee still has the option to go straight to his pocket.
Another case might involve what I think of as the time-fade of warnings. The same 20 mins from Blue and a warning from the ref. The warning works and Blue’s discipline improves, its 15 mins until they give away another mid-field offence, Red has concede two or three penalties in this time. Blue’s compliance with the warning is rewarded by no card, they’ve listened and co-operated. The card can still come if they revert to form but for the time being they retain 15 men. Again if the specific warning was issued then the Red captain will expect the card. If the offence is in the red-zone and/or is cynical or dangerous, then the ref still has the flexibility to go to his pocket.
Issuing specific, open ended threats of a card binds the referee and reduces his option for delivering a fair game for all players. The use of cards is always there for the referee but needs to be contextualised.
Tuesday, 13 September 2011
World Cup Thoughts
Its a policy of this blog not to comment on the performance of top referees, no matter how bad they appear to be, they still know more about this game than me.
The big controversy in week one is the Hook penalty that TV cameras showed going between the posts. As a Welshman I would love it to have made it, but I doubt very much if it did. You can’t see it cross in front of the right post, it probably past outside and above the post. The two assistants referees were the best placed to judge and they seemed in no doubt as to if it made it. One dimensional TV pictures don’t tell the full story. I am sure it was Barnesy that referred to the TMO for a drop goal, a couple of years back. He knows it is available and he was happy to trust his view point and his ARs.
Courtney Laws was banned for two games for dropping a knee on an Argentine prop. Personally, I thought he deserved a card for the late tackle on the Argy no12 who left the field as a consequence. Rugby is a rough game but players have a duty of care to fellow players, Laws was at best reckless and that, in itself, deserves sanction. A two game ban is well below the threshold for kneeing an opponent.
Back from the Summer
Tuesday, 6 September 2011
Exclusive! Martyn Thomas' Phone Hacked
Lets say we sweep this under the carpet until after the RWC, after all the 1st Class tickets and hotels are booked. Once I've enjoyed my RFU jaunt down to the colonies, I'll go quietly. No expensive legal fees and bad press, you understand? Just as we discussed at the East India? "
Friday, 10 June 2011
Brutality in the Sun
The good news is that the two injured players were not as badly injured as first thought, indeed no teeth were missed and the eye injury was superficial.
Thursday, 21 April 2011
He still managed to whistle to stop play, professional to the last
Saturday, 9 April 2011
Scrum V talk Refereeing
Friday, 8 April 2011
Rugby Club Bars #10
Wednesday, 30 March 2011
Walking with Giants
As LondonRef moves up the grades he can claim something in common with the best refs in the world; refereeing my old side London Welsh Occies Vets. Wayne Barnes recently took charge of these fellas in a merit league match vs Ealing Vets on the playing fields of Richmond, dog-shit and all. Its a long way from the World Cup Final he is likely to take charge of next year (Safe money, England won’t be in it).
Chatting to my old muckers at the weekend they were clearly in awed by the experience; these players will only grudgingly acknowledge a referee as being any good. To be truthfully at the level they have played in the past they would not be getting the best the game can offer. Like many Vets they contain players who have played at much high levels and been accorded referees as such. When you have seen what a National Panel referee can do and you now have a 40 year old never-going-to-be, you are going to be frustrated but that is the nature of the game.
The most fascinating aspect of their critique was the he only gave 4 penalties in the entire match. I think in my early encounters with LW Occies this was closer to 40. Have they suddenly got better, or did Wayne miss all that going off their feet and handling in rucks? I suspect it is neither. How did he handle the inevitable discussion about “didn’t you see that, every time sir?”
Barnesy gave an excellent talk to the Ref Society last year which he outlines how he approaches refereeing games. Using his judgement of materiality he looks to see if blowing his whistle is fair and equitable and I guess, does it increase the enjoyment of the game for all those involved. Making sure this runs smoothly requires good communication skills either in pulling players back from the brink of committing an offence or letting them know you saw it and why you didn’t blow.
I’ve tried to use a lot from that talk to improve my game this season and by my reports it seems to be working. It is also important to consider who he was reffing, a Vets merit match requires a different touch to my student cups games or a Tri-nations decider in Ellis Park.
There are two ironic outcomes from this, the first is some of the same players have regularly hurled abuse in the bar for Mr Barnes reffing Wales like he reffed the Occies, hopefully they will be more understanding next time. The second is that, despite dominating the early part of the match, London Welsh ran out of steam at the end of the match and lost. The game was one of the fastest and most open they can remember. So some things never change, it was the ref’s fault they lost the match!
Monday, 7 March 2011
Rugby Club Bar #8
Monday, 7 February 2011
Rugby Club Bar #8
Out in the countryside for a colts game. A good, sturdy club house with plenty of memorabilia though the fire wasn't lit the welcome was warm; a bottle of sports drink was offered on arrival and a pint of London Pride was presented with little delay. There was even a Creme Egg for LondonRef Jnr.
Sunday, 6 February 2011
Rugby Club Bar #7
Friday, 4 February 2011
Boomerang Rugby Ball Shot
Thursday, 3 February 2011
Rugby Club Bar #6
Red steal the win, an omen for Friday?
An eventful afternoon with two University 2/3rd teams both showing great commitment and if moderate skill. Red scored first but yellow soon replied with three cracking tries. The scrum is looking like a key area of attrition. Yellow have a hugely strong Saffa loose head whilst red have a smaller but technically proficient Welsh tight head, with a high opinion of himself. The first quarter brings 3 scrummage penalties; driving up (yellow), driving in (red), standing up (red). After this they start getting the message, hopefully that they have a ref that has an idea what's going on. It wasn’t the end of the penalties but things settled. Truth is that the Saffa was single handedly destroying the oppo. I needed the “dominate, don’t destroy” chat at one point.
Towards the end of the first half, red score wide out. I'm standing close by for the conversion, about half way between touch and mid-field. As the kicker is running up I see that the touch judges haven't made it to the posts, so its going to be my call. My angle isn't good and the light is poor. Initially it looked to be going wide but the wind seemed to push it through, I am reasonably confident its a good kick and I give it. From the yellow players' reaction is immediately clear that it missed. I stand by my decision. The first half ends 19-14 to yellow.
Yellow score first in the second half, 26-14 but its a fair contest until the final quarter. A scrum on half way see red break and as I’m start running to follow them a body appears at my feet and my face hits the dirty. I struggle to blow my whistle to stop play but it seems red are crossing the line to score. I can’t give it and bring play back for a scrum. Red’s forwards are applying some good pressure and even score to bring it to 26-21. More pressure and yellow kill the ball 7m out; yellow card and No4 is out for the rest of the game. A red scrum 7m out sees the No8 break but he careers into me but keeps running, crosses the line and drops it, I’d called advantage for the bump so it comes back for the scrum which red score. 26-28 and we are into the last 5 minutes.
A sweeping wide move sees yellow score again to make it 31-28 with the conversion missed, surely its all over. With less than 3 minutes on the clock, play moves into the yellow 22 and red earn a scrum, its won scrappily and the 10 takes it on a broad banana run which sees him round the defence and score. 31-33 with the conversion missed I blow for time.
Yellow are now furious about the earlier conversion and I have some sympathy - I was probably wrong. My defence is that they needed to make more of an effort to provide touch judges. Despite this the feedback from both teams was positive and it was a game with some great rugby and plenty of enjoyment for all. I hope the 6 Nations has some matches with as much excitement…and Red stealing the win of course.
Monday, 31 January 2011
Flashy and Forceful
Two games last week and both ended up being disappointing. The first was a mid-week student game, out in West London and happened to feature the same visiting side as a week earlier. They had been big winners then but given the strong sports tradition of the home side I expected a closer contest. The traditions didn’t extent to the groundsman, who seemed of have marked the grass for every sport except rugby. The additional pitch stripes did make spotting forward passes much easier, not that seem to amuse the visitors too much
As the side’s behaviour was fresh in my mind, I prepared myself, strong scrum, width and speed on their counter attack and captain and No8 that don’t know how to keep quiet. In the first half, they certainly found things tougher; the home side where physically smaller, but threw themselves in to the game with great spirit and where only 12-0 down at half time. Having the advantage of the substantial wind and slope in the second half they could expect to even things up.
The wet and windy weather meant that last week’s spectacular mis-passes from the fly-half were going all over the place and contributing to the scrum count. The home side fell apart in the second half conceding 6 tries, including an impressive chip and collect that would not have looked out of place on an international field. Final score 46-3 to the visitors.
My weekend game was a merit league match, first place vs second. However, this too proved to a one sided affair, with the home side running away with it. Brute force and team work were the defining features of the home side. A few beefy Saffas, who inevitably spent the whole game refereeing the game for me. However, it was the visitors who conceded my fastest yellow card. Attempted interception from Blue, knocked on, but I played advantage, the Red fly-half stops in his tracks and screams at me about the missed knock-on. You can go for rest matey!
The second half became very disjointed as injuries took their toll, one was nasty as a Red player was left with a hyper-extended neck injury which, thankfully only left him with a painful stinger. Scrums became uncontested after Blue loose head attempted to hook the ball back in and the scrum collapsed injuring the shoulder of his tight head. Blue finished as 43-5 winners. I had some good feed-back from both sides, but I think each expected the whistle sooner for infringements I was running advantage or judged immaterial.
Rugby Club Bar #5
An ageing but well loved/used bar at this South London Old Boys club. 3 rugby matches and some hockey players and even Lacrosse made for lively and crowded bar. Hook Norton bitter and Young's (very) Ordinary. The home skipper and some friendly alickados made for some good banter, especially with regard to scrums.
Wednesday, 26 January 2011
Rugby Club Bar #4
Monday, 24 January 2011
No one drowned this week, but it was a close thing. Plenty of games have been called off because of the water logged pitches in recent weeks. Indeed the venue for this match was swapped with the opposition, playing rugby in the mud is slowly being phased out. Despite the change of ground, the playing surface included three distinct puddles, the largest about 2-3m across! I warned the captains that I would blow quickly unless the pile ups happened in the shallow end!
The matched ended up as a great and good humoured tussle, the visitors (though technically the home side because of the ground switch) got the better of the first half, the first try was well worked with the player tackled on the line. The player landed with his back to me, though I was positioned slightly in front of him. I couldn’t see the ball, but judged it to be on or just over, it was only when he rolled over to get up, that I realised the ball was probably just short. I wasn’t going to reverse it and even with a TMO I wouldn’t have gone upstairs. There was surprisingly little complaint from the home side which was surprising given my previous experience with that team. Half time ended 15-3 to the visitors.
As the second half got underway, it be came apparent that the the home side were tightening up their game, they had a significant forward advantage and there two second half tries came from push over tries. Given the current discussion at the top of the game, these was well executed and the opposition took the pressure and didn’t drop it, stand up or disintegrate. Scrummaging under the current laws is possible if the players want to play to them.
The second try came after the yellow card was brandished for killing the ball 3m out under the posts. The ruck was a big pile of bodies but the purple arm across the ball was clear to see. If you are going to commit an offence in that position, don’t wear fancy matching under-vests.
With the game balanced at 15-all the home side where again camped on the visitors line, the ruck developed into a pile of bodies. The purple player at the back was on the wrong side, but couldn’t escape. It was going to be an attacking scrum until the scrum-half decided to intervene, 2-3 stamps onto the side ribs of the prostrate player. No question of a yellow, but a real question of whether it was red. Once again it had been a good natured game I warned the player that they might not be so lucky with another referee and in the end I didn’t fancy the paper-work.
Great feed-back from the players and score that was a fair result for what the two sides brought to the game.
Rugby Club Bar #3
A familiar bar for refs in this area as it is where we hold our monthly training sessions. Got served quickly, pint or two of Fuller's London Pride. Home captain also bought me a Lucozade without prompt too, or may be he left his own on the bar. Note the cabal of visiting alickados in the corner of the bar
Friday, 21 January 2011
Ronan O'Gara yellow carded for scuffle
Thursday, 20 January 2011
Medics Need Resuscitation
Back in my day the medical students of this illustrious London college swept all before them, winning the London Hospitals Cup each and every year. Yesterday they were beaten 78-0, and it is the third time I’ve reffed them this season in the league, each time its been a heavy defeat. The fact they are the arch rivals of my alma mater has nothing to do with that what so ever.
The game was barely a minute old when the visitor scored their first try but for the next 30 minutes the Medics held the tide, they worked well in the tight and scrambled defence saw them keeping out the Black tide. There were some minor issues with props not binding but there was a fair and safe fight in scrums, despite the physical disadvantage of the home side. The final ten minutes of the half saw three good tries, which finished off the contest. By now the visitors were securing fast ball and the excellent fly half was able to deliver double mis-passes which added width the home side could not cope with.
The first half ended with a yellow card for the Black hooker, as he attempted to pull down a maul using the head of the Red lock. Despite being down to 14 men, Black still racked up 4 tries, 1 in the first half and three at the start of the second. Red had by now completely lost all shape and as a few fresh legs appeared from the training match adjacent, some extra dynamism appeared. Unfortunately for Red, their best player, No8, was badly supported by his pack resulting in too many turnovers. There was to be another yellow in the dying minutes as Red flanker (one of the the fresh legs) brought his boot down on an errant leg in a ruck.
Despite the hammering the home side gave me a good score card and surprising the winning side were the ones to conceded two penalties for back chat.
Wednesday, 19 January 2011
Rugby Club Bars #2
Couple of New Links
lsrfur-blog is a fellow London Society who is young and keen and viewed as a Referee With Potential
therugbyref operates someone in the South of England and is a couple of notches further up the ladder.
Please have a read about these guys too
Out of the way old man
Sunday, 16 January 2011
Rugby Club Bars #1
Saturday, 15 January 2011
Lost my game today because rugby isn’t played in the mud anymore. Have got a second game at my favourite ground. Great facilities and selection of post match beer
Monday, 10 January 2011
Running off the Xmas Pud
Saturday was my first level 10 match and the first game of 2011 and whilst all 31 of us needed to blow away a few cobwebs, it went well. The venue was club I seem to be sent to surprisingly frequently, at least 2-3 per season; its not particularly close either. Still it has warm changing room, friendly alickadoos and proper first aiders. Moving up a level also meant playing on the first pitch rather than their awful, inclined, mud-swamp of a second pitch.
The first half progressed well with the visitors just about getting the edge with their organised pack. The home side admitted to using a lot of youngsters who “didn’t use the top 2 inches”. The surprising thing was how long it took for the first scrum, I am aware I do give a lot, this goes back to an assessor telling me to blow early at rucks before frustrations boil over. However, in this case, whilst the rucks weren’t particularly tidy, the ball was coming back were it deserved to be fairly quickly and handling was sharp enough to hold down the number of knock-ons.
Both front rows seemed to behave themselves but the visitors did seem to twist it regularly. The back row binding was a problem from both sides and materiality was a useful tool. I did penalise but only when the flanker got in the way, made the tackle or forced an error. The flanker captain of the visitors questioned my consistency with the “stay bound” instruction and I pointed out to him that the only way he could see that the opposite No8 was detached was if he himself was breaking early. Sheepish retreat.
The visitors got some luck from the kick-off, Blue caught the ball close to their 22 and the fly-half’s poor pass to his centre rebounded of his shoulder and into the arms on the oppo for an easy run-in to score under the posts. The visitors were starting to complain about stamping, indeed, one forwards showed me a stud scrape on his hand, which I am sure he deserved, however it is frowned upon these days as it scares away Sky viewers. So when I over-heard a home prop boasting about the arm that he stamped on, he and his captain were warned about the outcome if I caught him doing it.
I have to admit to two errors, one technical and one judgemental. The home side were awarded a penalty on the visitors 10m line and attempted a cross field kick to the their winger, unfortunately the defending winger caught it and called for mark, which I instinctively gave (d’oh!). Luckily no-one noticed and they failed to remember the incidence when he later called for a mark from a kick-off and I called play-on. Next up, in the dying minutes the home side are 10 pts down, 10 m out and pressing for a try, the defencive player is trapped on the wrong side in a ruck and I’m about the blow for an attacking scrum when the scrum half brings his foot down sharply on the player’s calf. Clearly deliberate and close to the knee joint, I showed him Yellow but it should have been Red.
The post match feed-back was positive with a couple of minor issues with rucks (as always) and strangely communication. Physically, I’ve been tested harder in some level 11 games but I’m happy that I came through this well.