Blue 29 (5T) – 12 (2T) Black
An absolute classic example of a Level 11 match. Nobody was quite sure if there would be enough players to start the game. Nobody was quite sure who was playing in which position. I was the only person to bother to warm up. We had to delay the start by 10 minutes because players were still on the way for both teams. Scrums were uncontested from the start. Neither team had a kicking tee. One player had a prosthetic leg (yes really!). Both captains agreed that neither team was likely to last 80 minutes and requested 30 minute halves. Like I said, welcome to Level 11. The only thing unusual was that I actually had two touch judges for the match.
Weather was fair and the pitch was in good condition (once I had removed a large bush as I warmed up…obviously alone).
Blue started with 14 players and were soon down to 12 because of injury. Despite this they played by far the most coherent game with good use of their fly half and wings to score the majority of their tries
- Lineout – focus on positioning at front and then following the ball as it is thrown in.
- Lineout – communicate more with the backs.
- Increase my use for shirt numbers for offences.
- Remember options available especially in-goal.
Management of Players
This was far from challenging as a game, but I was concerned before the match that the nature of the game would lead to poor discipline combined with low skill levels and a large number of ‘old hands’ who see challenging the referee as part of the sport.
I was deliberately very firm and confident from the off. I made sure that I was very clear of expectations at the breakdown (always an opportunity for a flash point at this level) and talked more than I normally would to players to ensure I set a good standard from the off. This worked well and there was very little trouble at the breakdown even at the end of the game as players became very tired.
At this level the breakdown is always very scrappy and contested hard. I tended to use ‘unplayable ball’ earlier than I would have in the past to break things up early. This combined with clear comms about hands, off-feet and releases meant that this part of the game was well managed.
It became evident that the Black 7 was a younger player with less experience. It took a firm talking to him and the captain to calm him down in the ruck. I also had to manage the Blue 12 in a fairly heavy handed way to ensure that he was playing within the bounds of safety after a couple of ‘clear outs’ where there was no use of arms at all.
Line Out (no scrums to discuss)
This was a major focus area for me during the match. I concentrated hard on tracking the ball back through the lineout and also turning to monitor both sets of backs. This is staring to come more naturally now and I am starting to see the lineout from a different perspective.
Communication and management of the backs was far better at the line-out. I consistently monitored position, communicated with them when necessary and signalled when the line-out was over if a maul had formed.
This was an area of minor improvement. I did manage to use shirt numbers around 25% of the time at offences but this is an area I still need to keep working on especially given it helps my confidence and comes across well with the players.
I must have been doing it more than I think given it helped my to identify consistent issues with the two players mentioned above.
I have started to use time when the ball is dead to talk to players who are infringing but not in a way that is worthy of a penalty. Again this helps to manage the game, build the confidence of players and make and future decisions easier to sell if the player knows that you have already spoken to them ‘off the record’ about an aspect of the game.
I suspect I have gone backwards a little in terms of position at the breakdown. It felt, on reflection, that I may have been too close on a number of occasions (sucked in by the wrestling) and could have monitored the defensive line more closely (I’m sure my assessor will let me know next week).
Proposed Areas for Focus
- Lineout – re-enforce improvements on position and management of backs.
- Shirt numbers – let’s get that way above 25%
- Still no idea what my whistle tone is like.
- Get focus back on position at the breakdown and scrum
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All in all a good day at the office. These games are difficult to manage and the feedback from the players at the end of the match was probably the best I have had. In reality, for a referee at my level, the key is to get out on the pitch and to allow a bunch of blokes to enjoy a game played safely, fairly, and refereed at their standard. Job done on that front!