Monday, 8 October 2007

The ref

TV3 News last night quoted an online 'poll' in which people were asked to identify who was to blame for the All Blacks' loss. Fifty-five percent of those who chose to respond blamed the referee, with the remainder pointing the finger at (from memory) the team, the coaches, and "other."

(Curiously, no one in the poll mentioned the French, which may just have been a flaw in the poll, or it may point to a curious flaw in the NZ supporter -- the inability to give credit to a team who beat us fair and square.)

But can we really blame the ref?

This is rugby, remember, and one of its characteristic features is that it's planted thick with laws, man's laws, laws requiring the interpretation of one individual with a whistle who has the power to penalise.

Good players play to the referee. They recognise that, in a game like rugby, forward passes won't always be picked up (and they'll be happy to take the rub of the green when those missed calls go their way). They notice what the referee allows and disallows, and they play to that line. That's what good players do. What good players don't do, or shouldn't do, is put their own fate and that of their team's in the hands of the ref. When the ball was chipped over his head and he chose to step in front of the French chaser, right in front of his own posts, that's exactly what McAlister did. He gave the referee the power to decide his fate. To do that in a club game would be dumb. To do it in a World Cup quarter final ...

If anyone's to blame for McAlister being sin-binned, it was McAlister. If he thought the chip for the line was covered, then shepherding the runner was unnecessary and dumb. If he thought the line was undefended, then he was offering himself up to be sent off, and offering the French a penalty try on a plate. If, that is, he thought about it all -- and the evidence for McAlister having much to think with at all is comparatively scanty.

The referee wasn't to blame. To ask the referee to decide your fate like that -- and then to have your supporters blame the referee -- now that really is just dumb.


  1. "The referee wasn't to blame."

    He has two touch judges. They're not there as ballboys.

  2. Jonathan Kraplan needs glasses then.

  3. I find it ironic we winge year in year out about the touch judges and referees having too much say and calling stupid things penalties.

    And now we are winging that the referee didn't blow his whistle enough and the linesmen didn't intervene enough...

    Think of the children people. What lesson are we giving them blaming the ref? THis is a libertarian site, where is the personal responsibility?

    the side with 75% possession should end up with more than 44% of the points, no matter who is reffing.


  4. Folk can argue the validity of McAllister's send-off etc all they like, but the fact is that France was awarded 5 points from a try from a forward pass.

    That was as wrong as if Ali Williams had been given his try when his foot was clearly over the line.

    And as it happened, those 5 points WERE the difference between playing the semi and going home.

    That's what I'm cheesed off about. And that's *not* to say I disagree with the fact that their performance on this occasion was found wanting, while the French rose to the occasion.

  5. Haven't wanted to watch a replay but the French scored a runaway try. The ref will nearly always be behind the play. It is near impossible to be able to tell a forward pass at a distance and at speed I would have thouhgt.

    Remember the lines judges had been told to keep out of assisting in that area.

    If there were no TV ref WIlliams would likely have got the try but they are not allowed for forward passes so the comparison is irrelevant.


  6. "It is near impossible to be able to tell a forward pass at a distance and at speed I would have thouhgt."

    Yes. Which is why they have touchies to assist in making those calls.

    "Remember the lines judges had been told to keep out of assisting in that area."

    Were they? What the hell for?

    "If there were no TV ref WIlliams would likely have got the try but they are not allowed for forward passes so the comparison is irrelevant."

    But there IS a tv ref which is why Williams' try wasn't awarded. I'm perfectly aware of the fact that video refs are NOT used to determine forward passes or knock-ons etc, which tends to further justify the reason for the touch judges don't you think?

    Look, this particular point is simple: one try was rightly disallowed and another wrongly given. In the absence of technology, the error lies with the match officials.

  7. Peter Thorburn who is now the US coach said they were briefed before the cup that linesmen would not be involved except for foul play, late tackles and in touch.

    Strangely they couldn;t even call not straight line outs - when they aer the best placed official to do so...

    AS mentioned, we are reaping what we sowed. We have complained for years over too much linesman involvement and this is the result.

    I don't dispute the forward pass, but would not blame the officials as I think they were either unsighted or in a poor position to judge (given it was a breakaway that will always be a possibility) or were not allowed to make a call. That is the rugby bureaucracy's fault not the officials'


  8. Hi Insider. I hear what you're saying and I heard Peter Thorburn on the radio this morning, too. I also heard Paddy O'Brien in response.

    After listening to them both, I got the feeling that O'Brien's plan was to discourage petty interference on the part of the touchies, don't you? And I wouldn't disagree with that objective.

    But as for position, Kaplan was right there when it happened. He was in a good place to make the call. Which makes me wonder whether he was following O'Brien's directions to the letter, rather than the spirit ...

    Who knows.

  9. Sus

    I quite agree with the objective of reducing petty interference and haven’t seen that forward pass to know where the officials were in comparison – I saw it live and called it forward but not seen it again. But they can play an advisory role and alert the ref to infringing so that he can keep an eye out.

    I am more critical of refs who see an incident which they wave on then get a report from the linesman and appear to take that judgement over their own eyes. Refs should be the judge and free to ignore the linesman if they believe they saw an incident and were happy with it rather than being bound to take it, as appears the rule. (accepting that what I see on TV may not be what the ref sees but how many times do we see supposedly high/ marginal late tackles happen right in front of the ref being flagged by linesmen further away).

    I am also critical that the TV has meant many officials are scared to make a simple call – same in cricket. Classic was in the New Zealand France game when Rodney S scored the try. That should have been clear to the linesman and no requirement for tv. There the ref was on the other side of the ruck so couldn’t see it but it was obvious when the bodies cleared. But given the reaction this week you can hardly blame them for caution…



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