Rugby seems to come sec­ond to dodgy refs

TMOs get it wrong too, and game los­ing ap­peal

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - SPORT - GAVIN RICH

WITH the All Blacks end­ing with a 100 per­cent record and the Chiefs win­ning Su­per Rugby, it should re­ally be re­mem­bered as the year of the Kiwi, but the New Zealand achieve­ments were ri­valled for at­ten­tion and at times even over­shad­owed by the TMO and ref­er­ee­ing in­com­pe­tence that blighted 2013.

It is a sad irony of the mod­ern game that the tech­ni­cal ad­vances made in the cause of re­mov­ing the howler have con­trib­uted to mak­ing the match of­fi­cials even more of a talk­ing point than they were be­fore.

“I’ve got some ad­di­tional in­for­ma­tion for you” are words that ir­ri­tate the fans even more than they must do the coaches, as over-of­fi­cious TMOs go through each try-scor­ing move­ment with such a fine-tooth comb and with such at­ten­tion to de­tail that you won­der some­times whether there is any point to cel­e­brat­ing a try when it is first awarded.

Time and again this past sea­son we saw in­stances where TMOs ap­peared to vin­di­cate the the­ory that if you look hard enough to find a rea­son to dis­al­low a try, you will find one.

The Damian de Al­lende score dis­al­lowed in a Cur­rie Cup match be­tween Western Prov­ince and the Li­ons in Joburg is a case in point, but an even bet­ter ex­am­ple came in the re­cent Test be­tween the Spring­boks and France in Paris.

Bok coach Heyneke Meyer prefers to be diplo­matic – as it suits his bank bal­ance to be so – but he and his fel­low man­age­ment mem­bers were pri­vately fum­ing af­ter the Stade de France match at the two scores that were dis­al­lowed. Both of them ap­peared to be per­fectly le­git­i­mate, with even the French ap­pear­ing to be sur­prised when the rul­ing went against the Boks.

It’s got to the point where you won­der if the crowd at the game should rather wait the in­ter­minable time it takes for the TMO to go through all the footage and ac­tu­ally make a call, be­fore ap­plaud­ing and cel­e­brat­ing the score. Of course that will take much of the spon­tane­ity out of the game, but then that is hap­pen­ing al­ready with all the time be­ing taken up.

The sport has been pro­fes­sional for nearly 20 years now and it is right that ev­ery ef­fort be made to re­move er­rors from the game, but at the same time it feels as though rugby is be­ing over­sani­tised and slowed up, and it is los­ing its ap­peal be­cause of it.

And with new scrum­ming laws not com­pletely al­le­vi­at­ing the time wastage that hap­pens be­cause of the set­ting and re-set­ting of scrums, such as when the Boks played against Wales in Cardiff, a match is edg­ing to­wards a point where it could soon take more than two hours to com­plete a game sup­posed to last 80 min­utes.

There are no prizes be­ing of­fered to those who guess that Ro­main Poite’s ec­cen­tric ref­er­ee­ing of the Cham­pi­onship match be­tween New Zealand and South Africa in Auck­land takes pride of place when it comes to ref­er­ee­ing in­com­pe­tence ru­in­ing a good con­test. The IRB even ad­mit­ted as much af­ter­wards, though it didn’t change the re­sult, nor con­se­quence to the rest of that com­pe­ti­tion.

By pick­ing up a full house of five log points against a Bok team down to 14 men for much of it, the All Blacks left the South Africans with too much to do in the re­turn game at El­lis Park if they wanted to lift the tro­phy. Meyer and his charges de­cided that chas­ing sil­ver­ware was more im­por- tant than the morale-boost that would have been brought about by a win over Richie McCaw’s team, so they played an at­tack­ing game that suited the All Blacks and gave them lit­tle chance of ac­tu­ally win­ning.

Full marks though to the All Blacks for win­ning a third con­sec­u­tive match on the Highveld, and their third in suc­ces­sion there where they had to put in a strong sec­ond half. They showed great men­tal strength to over­come a 20-minute pe­riod where they were down a man on the Boks be­cause of yel­low cards, which brings up another point: Is it re­ally good for the game that we so fre­quently see sit­u­a­tions where there is an im­bal­ance of num­bers? Surely rugby is sup­posed to be 15 against 15 and when it is not that, the pay­ing spec­ta­tors and tele­vi­sion view­ers are be­ing sold short.

Clearly there is much for the game’s de­ci­sion- mak­ers to think about, as the matches men­tioned were far from the only ones where ei­ther cards or ref­eree/TMO er­ror made a big dif­fer­ence. Jaco Peyper’s walk­a­bout in the pro­mo­tion- rel­e­ga­tion match at the Nel­son Man­dela Bay Sta­dium is still be­ing blamed in Port El­iz­a­beth for the South­ern Kings’ exit from Su­per Rugby.

And the TMOs that worked out of Mel­bourne dur­ing the Su­per Rugby sea­son added to the chal­lenge for vis­it­ing teams, with the Rebels prof­it­ing against the Storm­ers from of­fi­ci­at­ing that was abysmal in the ex­treme.

The Storm­ers were the only team to lose be­cause of it, but oth­ers who vis­ited Mel­bourne con­ceded tries that shouldn’t have been awarded, or had tries dis­al­lowed that should have been al­lowed.

So who says tech­nol­ogy solves all prob­lems? Well, it could have saved the Wal­la­bies from their one de­feat on their re­cent north­ern hemi­sphere tour. An Eng­land player stepped on the touch­line just me­tres from his own try­line in the sec­ond half when the Aussies were up, but it wasn’t picked up by ref­eree or TMO, and a minute later Eng­land scored the try at the other end that changed the mo­men­tum of the game.

Talk­ing of Aus­tralia, they had only one ri­val for the team/na­tion/ union who ex­pe­ri­enced the most up­heaval dur­ing the year – that be­ing the Sharks.

The Wal­la­bies off­loaded Rob­bie Deans af­ter the se­ries loss to the Bri­tish and Ir­ish Li­ons, while the Sharks dumped both their coach and their long-serv­ing chief ex­ec­u­tive in a way that sug­gested that the union that in­vented pro­fes­sion­al­ism in this coun­try was try­ing to rein­vent am­a­teurism.

Re­gard­less of the mer­its of the changes that were made in Dur­ban, in the pro­fes­sional era it is just not on for em­ploy­ees to hear of their fate from the me­dia.

The un­pop­u­lar new ad­min­is­tra­tion of the Sharks sal­vaged some pride when their team pro­duced one good 80-minute per­for­mance to win that rapidly de­pre­ci­at­ing piece of old tin known as the Cur­rie Cup, which prob­a­bly ex­plained the demon­stra­tive, child­ish way some of them cel­e­brated af­ter­wards.

Some coaches refuse to go on to the field to cel­e­brate a tri­umph on the grounds that the glory should be­long to the play­ers, so for a pro­vin­cial pres­i­dent to go onto the field, as Gra­ham McKen­zie did af­ter­wards to hog the tro­phy while the play­ers ran ahead, is poor form and not the be­hav­iour you would ex­pect from a real rugby man.

GALLO IM­AGES

NO JOY: The Boks were left be­mused that TMO de­ci­sions didn’t go their way – even the French thought they had scored.

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