Tuesday 27 September 2011

What is a Forward Pass?

I can't imagine it is going to shut people up in the pub but as this is from the IRB we must take it as gospel

Monday 26 September 2011

Argies vs Sweaties

Wayne Barnes is quickly losing vacation destinations if the ITV commentators are to go by. Its 4 years since he could happily go out after dark in New Zealand and now catching a cheeky tin of Tennants Super is denied to him.

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

I was looking forward to the season kicking off properly, a Surrey Conference 1 match between two Old Boys sides. Thus, it was disappointing to arrive at the ground to discover the visitors had cried off and it was now a friendly. Further excitement ahead of the game was that I was due to be assessed by the Society, the first time in about two seasons. 
The weather was unseasonably warm so the prospect of an open game on an extremely large pitch was a little daunting; I've played game on smaller pitches than the in-goal! Further disappointment was avoided as the visitor's  prop finally arrived, but spent most of the rest of the afternoon rolling around hurt. How can props be so fragile?
The first half saw the sides evenly matched, good open play but a very high penalty count, White drew a final warning from me about 30 mins in as they killed the ball. There was no consistent pattern, but in a league game it would have brought a card earlier. The teams went into the break with the home side 13-10 to the good. The second half was an avalanche of White, hard running from their centre with excellent support at the break down saw the home side run out 56-10 winners. Fitness and fresh legs on the big pitch certainly was a factor, I could feel the running taking its toll on my own legs.
Thankfully it was a very positive report from the assessor, the best thing she could say saw that the game was well within my comfort zone and that I wasn't stretched. Some minor development points but these were clearer secondary signals and changing my position more often at the line out. Over all I am very pleased, hopefully these will improve my future games and get me promoted. Those teams up there need me to give them a good game, as JP Doyle might say.

Monday 19 September 2011

Referee Wisdom

Nigel Owen "The easy part [of being a referee] is picking up the law book and learning the laws, the difficult part is going out there with a whistle and knowing when not to blow it"

Rain, Shine and telling the Time

A great way to kick off on the right foot with your referee is to tell him kick off is at 2pm and tell everyone else it is at 3pm.
Last Saturday was the second game of the season and the second last minute appointment. The home side where a mixed social team and so were the visitors but the average age between the two was about 10 years. The youngsters choose to kick-off and used the slope to finish the game off in the first half. They clearly were able and willing to play the game at pace which caused a couple of questions when they took quick penalties. I am willing to take a sympathetic approach to back-10m with older sides, so long as players keep out of the way. However, standing still or moving in to make a tackle are getting the opposition a second go. The next point is that there is no Law covering a second quick penalty, this falls under Myths of the Game. It is a game management tactic, no penalty can be taken until the referee has given the mark, I won't give the second mark quickly because a succession of tap penalties become very messy and confusing for all involved. Order and not chaos is what make a great game and ensure that all get my full attention. 
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

London refs where treated to a pep-talk from the pocket rocket that is JP Doyle the Irish-English premier referee on Thursday. He spoke about focusing on the how you wanted your game to played and dealing with difficult  moments on the field. The two clear messages to come out of the talk were to believe that you will give those players a better game than anyone else by applying your own game philosophy. What ever that philosophy is, it should focus on making the game better for the players and spectators, if you are refereeing for yourself and not them, then you are refereeing for the wrong reasons.

Doyle had some interesting clips showing iRB refs responding to challenging situations. One of the good examples was Wayne Barnes giving two red cards in a Harlequins v Leicester game. 

Barnes has seen the incident clearly as it happen, he's gone to his AR, described what he's seen. He doesn't ask for any input from AR, he is using the time to clarify he thoughts and given the technology, explaining to TV why and what he going to do. He is calm, assetive and clear through out. 

Steve Walsh also featured. 

This clip sees the Waratahs get frustrated with Walsh and it all starts to get personal. Walsh's response to the dissent is unnecessary, the sarcasm only irritated the players further. 

Finally this clip of Dave Pearson

Clearly there is a lot going on here, it kicks off behind the referee, he is following the ball but the assistant referee, Sean Davey is watching the fight closely. Pearson approaches the AR to find out what is going on but then starts to suggest his own interpretation to the AR. Davey is trying but failing to give a perspective that Pearson fails to grasp. 

All three of these referees are highly experienced in pressure matches and the clips show us that remaining calm and focussed on an un-impassioned consideration of the evidence isn't always achievable. Barnes successfully uses the space of a chat to the AR to collect his thoughts and come to a clear and concise course of action. Getting time to deal with a situation on your won term is the most valuable thing you can manage, run through what you've seen, communicate clearly with other officials and players; deal with evidence, not emotion.

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

This is am excellent radio show from the iRB's very own media super-star Nigel Owen.

Nigel Owen's Whistleblowers

It looks are the grass roots of Welsh Rugby Union refereeing and it is fantastic to see the media give a whistle view of the game.

Its only available on the BBC iPlayer so you can only listen to it in the UK unless you follow these instructions.

Wednesday 14 September 2011

Referee Warnings

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

The Funniest NZ RWC Video.. bar none

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

The end of the last season saw LondonRef upgraded yet again and I’m now a level 10, hopefully I can add a +1 at Christmas and consolidate that by season end.
With the Rugby World Cup in full swing, it seems odd to be starting the new season last weekend. It was a last minute appointment, only 3hrs before kick off but close at hand. Still it meant a rummage through cupboards to find my kit. No, I hadn’t cleaned my boots since last season either. Changing at the ground, I realised that I had forgotten my ref watch, a pain but not insurmountable.
The two sides were familiar to me, though this was a mixed friendly, I recognised the visiting tight-head, he’s normally a chopsy old timer with a weak grasp of binding etiquette. I pointed this out to his captain in our pre-match chat and asked him to keep him in line. A point he told me he ‘appreciated’ over the post-match beer.
The game was great fun, closely fought and spirited for an early season friendly. The home side picked up a few free-kicks from scrum engagements going early but lost out by failing to stay on their feet and roll away at tackles. The visitors operated much more as a unit, getting quick ball and their big physical centre making hard yards. Final score was 17-13 to the visitors, with good running rugby from both sides.
It was a easy game to manage, despite a couple of flair-ups and the view from the bar was they appreciated me trying to keep the game flowing, again, focus on materiality and keep the penalty count down. A much bigger challenge coming next week with one of the top vets sides in the district. Must remember my watch for that one

Tuesday 6 September 2011

Exclusive! Martyn Thomas' Phone Hacked

transcript: "Listen old boy, its all been a ghastly shower, dirty laundry in public and all that.
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? "