Interpreting the advantage rule

Tuesday, 22 April 2014 00:28 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

With a shortage of local rugby over the Easter weekend, most rugby enthusiasts who were not holidaying in the cool climes of Nuwara Eliya were compelled to have a look at the overseas rugby schedules. There was plenty of rugby on show. Whilst it will be a herculean task to summarise those games, there were a few things that caught my eye. The quality of the rugby dished out by the Southern Hemisphere teams vis-à-vis the Northern Hemisphere. The game is more expansive and the teams are willing to try out new tactics. The winger will try at all costs to stay in the field of play when very close to the touch line, so much so that they are willing to fling the ball back towards their support players in the fervent hope that it will be collected. Whilst this may appear fraught with a degree of risk, the number of times that the ball was collected by the support play was large. The other oft-employed tactic is the kick passes cross field. It’s amazing to see the amount of try scoring opportunities that are created if executed well. The rolling maul is used often and many teams are in a quandary as how to stop the rolling maul, without illegally collapsing the same. In all these, the referee plays an important role. Most of the overseas referees interpret and play the rule of advantage well. Many a local spectator is at times confused as to what constitutes an advantage. Is it possession, territorial or a psychological advantage? On a number of occasions it was observed that following a knock on by team ‘A,’ team ‘B’ opted to kick the ball and although the aerial display continued, with no apparent advantage to team ‘B,’ play was allowed to continue, with the referee calling ‘advantage over’. The only rationale that can be attributed is that team ‘B’ consciously chose to kick away possession and hence the referee did not deem it necessary to stop the game for a scrum. This actually lets the game flow and there is more running rugby that set pieces being the order of the day. In a related incident, referee Steve Walsh was jeered off the field by an incensed 30,000-strong Brisbane crowd who believed that the Brumbies hooker Moore should have been sent off for his upper-cut on an opponent. The citing commissioner agreed not to take action against Moore, who hit Reds flanker Ed Quirk. Referee Walsh ruled that Quirk first held Moore at the ruck, prompting him to lash out, and that illegality denied what was “a clear try” to Will Genia. Here the advantage rule was not interpreted correctly. Ironically the holding of Moore had no bearing on the scoring of the try, as he was not in a position to defend. However, the referee thought otherwise, as he felt that the holding on the jersey had triggered the upper cut. Queensland coach Richard Graham believed Walsh got it wrong. Brumbies Director of Coaching Laurie Fisher was adamant justice was done as holding defenders should be outlawed. “The sooner they get rid of that the better,” Fisher said. “The bottom line is you cannot hold a player.” In New Zealand a schoolboy has achieved the remarkable feat of scoring 60 points in one match. It was reported that Matt Whaanga scored 10 tries and kicked five conversions for South Otago High School as they overcame their opponents with a comprehensive 70-5 victory in Balclutha on New Zealand’s South Island. Whaanga, a year 12 pupil who stands about 6ft 1in tall and weighs nearly 15st, said he thought his team-mates were “pretty happy” with his points tally. Interestingly, there was no time to celebrate for long as Whaanga and his team-mates were out chopping firewood after the game in order to raise money for a tour to Australia. Wonder when any of our local players chopped wood in order to raise funds. (The writer can be reached via scrumaf@gmail.com.)

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