Tag Archives: referee

Heimlich Maneuver in the Park

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With the waiting finally over the World Cup kicked off with an amazing ceremony in Auckland before the All Blacks took on Tonga on last Friday night.

What has been great about all the matches so far is that all the so called ‘minnows’ are anything but. The conditions have played there part – but the smaller nations have stepped up and significantly demonstrated that the gap is closing.

An upset is definitely on the cards. Other than the All Blacks obligatory choke! It seems that 24 years is too long to wait – and the pressure is mounting with Graham Henry rotating his team yet again.

The biggest talking point was over the officiating of the Wales v South Africa match – with the Welsh squad and management calling foul over a missed penalty kick.

A kick that missed. A kick that the replays showed as inconclusive – but appeared to have missed. A kick that THREE officials all agreed missed.

Lets not focus on the other two missed penalties, their try from a forward pass or the missed dropped goal in front of the posts. Wales smashed South Africa all over the park – but couldn’t seal the deal.

But rather than focus on their own short comings they are focusing on blaming the officials for not taking the action they are not able to take – and the action that if they did (by going to the TMO) – would have told them the kick missed!

Last weekend I had an irate coach very unhappy about a similar moment within the first half. A line out within their 22 that led to a driving maul and a crash over try.

The coach was furious – lambasting me for not noticing it was not straight. It was straight but that is irrelevant. On and on he went about parity and continuity.

I nodded and listened and then mischievously suggested it may not have been straight – a rare error from me on the day. But there were many errors and problems in the game. I offered to go as far as buying him a pint for every error he felt I made – in exchange for a pint for every mistake his team made.

He declined ruefully.

His team lost 66-0!

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Lawrence of Anomaly

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It’s tough at the top, or so they say. The reality is that actually it is tougher in the middle. The expectations placed on referees is growing at all levels of the game, and none more so than those lucky (?!) few who make the international grade.

Tomorrow England face Argentina in their opening World Cup clash in Dunedin. The most significant name on the team sheet is that of one Bryce Lawrence, the New Zealand referee charged with the arbitration of the match.

Normally the choice of referee is simply a matter of curiosity as a rugby fan, but this selection has some serious significance. England have NEVER won a game with Lawrence in charge. Coincidence? Maybe.

But then consider that the recent shock (but deserved) win of Italy over France in this year’s Six Nations had signore Lawrence at the helm. In matches with southern hemisphere versus northern hemisphere teams the south have always prevailed. Bias? Maybe.

Worst of all, Lawrence had the most significant impact on the 2009 British Lions tour to South Africa.

He officiated the first test so badly that most international press had a field day in criticising his quality and pedigree – he is after all the only New Zealand international referee (Steve Walsh in now Australian) and his dad was also an international referee.

He came into his own special league less than 60 seconds into the second British Lions test when he made the recommendation to yellow card Schalk Burger for eye gouging! Any under 9 player could tell you that contact with the eyes is a simple and straight red – a concept seemingly way beyond Lawrence. Incompetence? Maybe.

So tomorrow promises to be a tough day at the office for England. Even if a competent display is forthcoming will Lawrence favour the south over the north, the underdog over the favourite, as appears to have been is form for the last 3 years at International level. Anomaly? Maybe…..

The Jackson 10

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Whilst the All Blacks retained the Bledisloe Cup with a convincing win over the Wallabies, the real talking point was the appointment of Glen Jackson as Assistant Referee for his first international outing.

Jackson hung up his boots in 2010 after playing 130 matches for Saracens, and having played for Bay of Plenty and Chiefs before the North London side. He was a fantastic player, and whilst he represented New Zealand Maori, he was unfortunate not to get higher international honours. Well it appears that the NZRFU and IRB might make that dream come true – as a referee.

The game needs referees who have played at the highest levels, as they bring a greater understanding and empathy for the game – understanding the pressures the players and teams face on the biggest stage.

Also making a rapid return to international rugby was Kiwi bad boy Steve Walsh. Walsh who became notorious for his on and off field antics, which led to a ban during the 2003 World Cup and then led to him being effectively fired by the NZRFU and IRB after allegedly turning up to a conference intoxicated. Since then he has reformed and now represents Australia as a ref – and has been appointed to the 2011 World Cup, the rugby equivalent of Lazarus returned from the dead!

And whilst the international boys were warming up for the coming season, I also strapped on my boots for the first time. Conditions were perfect as two National League sides blew out the summer cobwebs in a cracking, fast paced encounter.

The home side, who had the sharper edge in the three quarters, squandered four gilt edge changes, mostly through a lack of clinical finishing and rustiness. However, they kept creating and testing, and eventually they overran the visiting Scottish side with seven top drawer tries – whilst the Scots managed three scrappy tries through there dominant pack.

What was pleasing was that, whilst I too was rusty (and made one real clanger!) I quickly found my rhythm and felt comfortable with the pace and level of the game. Next up is another National league warm up where I hope to move through the gears a bit quicker.

The first time always hurts…

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Its only been 5 weeks since I last refereed a match, but having taken a break and been truly slovenly and self-indulgent, my first pre-season training session hurt. It hurt a lot.

For my end of season RFU JAM Test I managed to improve my fitness result by over 2 minutes – and only failed to get higher because I kept miss-timing those damn bleeps on the machine. If I was forced to do the test today I’d struggle to keep going for 2 minutes full stop. My usual 4.5 mile circuit normally takes me a shade over 30 minutes. Today I plodded and pounded along as if my feet were solid lead.

The only thing that distracted me from the pain and misery of the first session was my random selection on my iPod – which left me listening to some stand-up comedy. So I ran (and stumbled) along the route like some have half-crazed maniac, wheezing and coughing and occasionally laughing out loud. A cross between a lumbering rhino and hallucinating hyena. It took me 39m 35s to complete the route. Not an auspicious start.

My fixtures have already come in – at least two warm-up matches in August (including a National league fixture) and a very tasty opening weekend match between two top Level 6 sides in the Cheshire Cup. This is followed by my opening league fixture in deepest darkest Lancashire. I then have four consecutive exchanges around the UK.

Having missed out on promotion last season the pressure is on to improve my performance and management. However, I am starting the season without a coach, carrying a couple of injuries (old age!) and after tonight’s effort, seriously unfit!

The season starts here….and so far it hurts!

Mayhem in Milan

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The Milan International Sevens tournament has grown to a legendary status, with teams, players and spectators literally from the four corners of the globe coming together for a festival of beer, beer, rugby and beer!

This years “theme” was the Circus and we duly embraced the idea with an amazing kit to referee in – complete with Top Hat! Our Ring Master kit was a significant success – and we became the first non-playing team to win the converted “best interpretation” trophy. What was amazing was that the Mayor presented us (and the other teams) with the prizes – and downed a pint with each one! I’d love to see Boris Johnson do that!

The highlight for myself was refereeing the final of the tournament between Clandestinos (from Argentina) and Clan of Heaven (Italy) in an absolute cracker of a match. Frustratingly the Argentinean side prevailed and took the Cup. I say frustratingly because, whilst they were a fantastic side, they were also downright niggly and dirty. Despite 5 match officials they remained contented to throw punches, make late tackles and trip their opposition. The thing is they were so good they didn’t need to do any of this – just play!

The other highlights include one of our refereeing team retaining the Milan Campari drinking “campione” title and adding the boat race title – much to everyone’s amusement and his personal demise relatively expediently!

The event also raises a significant amount of money for overseas charity and is the clubs only fundraising event of the year. The figures speak for themselves:

500 players and coaches
150 games
10 refs!
15,000 spectators over 4 days
20,000 pints of Heineken downed
7,000 20″ pizzas munched
2,500 burgers eaten
E20,000 raised for charity

I would like to add the Gwent Police team definitely were robbed of their rightful claim on the Cassie Pieenar Trophy, for the most beer drunk, by Ingolstaadt Baboons from Germany – but those German lads did know how to drink too…just not quite as much as the Welsh!

The event really is the jewel in our season refereeing as it gives us the opportunity to go on tour and cause our own brand of mayhem and havoc. Check out the pictures from the event yourself – Milan Rugby 7s.

Roll up, roll up to 2012!