There were some really good moments during this past weekend’s 6 Nations, but it didn’t start with the game at the Millenium Sadium on Friday. Sure, it was a good win for Wales, keeping their title ambitions alive, but what a poor spectacle for the public. This is not the rugby that either team is capable of. I agree with Gatland when he says that teams are so well organised that attack is difficult. Also that the field is cluttered and that the athletic ability of all players has improved in leaps and bounds resulting in a claustrophobic environment. I also think the laws could be altered to create a better platform for attack. In addition, the referees and their managers could do a whole lot better to ensure this product is stepped up a gear or 5.
In this regard, I thought Wayne Barnes had an indifferent game. I don’t think it’s enough these days to say, ‘I didn’t get anything wrong’. I think there is a greater burden of responsibility on referees to read the game and ensure that all stakeholders get their chop. I felt he tried to manage the game without a train smash rather than being brave and getting the game going. The endless scrum resets ate away at the clock and delivered the stop-start product that no one wanted. Perhaps his dressing room chat could have been better directed, but the players were allowed to operate in the grey vacuum, with no punitive action being taken to ensure a better product. It’s not good enough. For anyone .
Scotland were deserving victors against Italy. They have been very unlucky in the past few games and for me look to be on an upward curve. They needed this win and will need more to give the players confidence going forward. Jaco Peyper delivered a consistent, solid performance that produced a decent game of rugby and one that allowed the game to get a bit of momentum.
The England vs Ireland match was a tough battle. I warned that it may become an arm wrestle, but I feel there were really positive moments in the game when it came alive. England were deserving winners. They bossed the one area I thought the Irish were vulnerable at – the scrum – and seemed to have the edge across the park. Their defence was generally very sound, and their line speed was impressive, even late in the game. They guard their line really well … the makings of a championship team?
The referee had some interesting decisions on the day.
There was a call for Irish obstruction when Sexton appeared to go through a hole, which I thought was fair enough (although it needs to be added that we often look at who initiates the contact, and it was England who did!).
I thought the call to deny Hartley’s try was poor. The timing of the whistle was wrong and once the ball/body part of carrier is across the line, there are a whole new set of laws that comes into play. For a few seconds, he clearly didn’t do anything to promote the ball, which incidentally, is being held up by Connor Murray in the field of play (a case can be made for penalty try if you consider that Murray did not allow the fair placement of the ball). If you wait long enough, then obviously something illegal is going to happen. I thought the momentum ensured by the England arrivals forced the static Hartley over the line after which he then tried to place the ball, which he is entitled to do. If you feel that he didn’t get the ball down, then a 5m attacking scrum is the next best option. To penalise England did not make sense!
An Irish player takes an England support player out, and ref correctly spots it, but bizarrely wants to play advantage, even after Dan Cole does exactly the same thing. Ridiculous! There is no advantage!
I agreed with the yellow card against Haskell (at any speed it is yellow). It was a very good spot and intervention by TMO, Veldsman.
I cannot agree that Mike Brown’s constant and reckless use of the boot, which made contact with Murray’s head, is one big accident. World Rugby has gone to great lengths to protect the player in the air. It should be no different for the player on the deck. Brown needed to exercise more care when putting his boot there in the first place and a red card would have been more apt. The reckless nature of the act (three times he did the same thing!) would then be used in mitigation of sentence. I am gobsmacked this wasn’t cited!
In the same incident, an English player (21) fails to roll away. Despite having enough time to get the right number, the public are now subjected to another endless period of checking that the ref, who can’t remember anymore, has the right number. Not ideal.
Josh van der Flier goes over the line, but the ref is unsighted. He asked try or no try. As a result of not seeing the actual grounding, the try is denied (even though it probably was scored). This is the correct procedure, protocol and outcome, but I do have sympathy here for the Irish.
Later on, with Ireland pressing the goal line and having a great maul with forward momentum, I spotted at least two cynical infringements to prevent the maul from reaching the ultimate success. First a player (Robshaw?) enters from the wrong side and then Cole dives on the ball when he is never onside. This type of cynical play is what is stifling the modern game. Attack is suffering and hence the spectacle too. The penalty is not enough, not even at the lower grades. There needs to be a better read by the officials and a greater sanction.