As a coach it's hard not to go back and analyse key moments of a match which influence the overall outcome or rhythm of a game. Generally these moments aren't the flashy tries or pieces of individual brilliance and are often missed by the casual fan.
When reviewing these plays you do so not to criticise a decision and nor am I advocating a change to the laws. Rather these moments are analysed as they provide good discussion points on the cause and affect that key moments have in a rugby game and the overall impact they have on the outcome and entertainment factor.
Think back to just before halftime of the Reds and Rebels game last Saturday. The score was 6-0 to the Rebels and a try for the Reds would have been vital from a scoreline and psychological point of view.
Attacking scrum on the right hand side, the Reds are feeding the ball 15 metres out from both the tryline and in from touch. There's a short-side on the right that is big enough to be defended and you have a scrum which 95% of the time goes the way of the attacking team. Statistically more tries come from scrums so the ingredients are perfect.
The crowd moves to the edge of their seat and everyone is thinking…try time.
The scrum packs and we all wait in anticipation for the backline to be unleashed with a pre-planned and practiced set-piece move, created to exploit the rare opportunity where seven defenders are forced to cover the 65 metre width of the field. This is where the best odds exist for an attack where they can be confident of at least bending the defence's line.
The front row collides and the whistle sounds. The referee awards a full-arm penalty to the Reds. The shot at goal is chosen – and executed – before the players trudge back to beyond halfway where the game recommences with a long kickoff. At this point the Reds begin their journey to get out of their own half and back down the other end of the field. The psychology in this part of the field is vastly different to when you're at the other end – you won't see the flashy stuff here!
Had a try been scored from this key moment it would have shifted the mindset of the crowd as they would spend halftime thinking about what might be and not what went wrong. Anticipation is a big part of sport and the opportunity for supporters to 'feel' the atmosphere is a major reason.
When I reviewed the Rebels game this is one pivotal moment that sticks out and I am left wondering what might have been. Missed opportunities are critical in sport, including the ones that aren't always as easily spotted, and this is an occasion where we felt we could have potentially changed the dynamics of the game.
Discussing the cause and affect of these situations is also interesting so let's dig deeper to assess the outcome this moment had on the entertainment and result of the game.
A penalty at the scrum does many things. It makes the actual scrum disappear for a start. Your immediate reaction might be that this is a good thing but probably not for the team on attack.
The penalty goal will also tick the box as an outcome and therefore it can be argued that an advantage has been given to the attacking team. When you consider scoring tries is our primary focus, this argument is only valid when the penalty is awarded outside of goal kicking range.
Not many captains will turn down three points but the reality is this means the opportunity of seven points disappears. You also need to add the loss of territory and 75 metres resulting from the ensuing kickoff. It's a discounted haul for the attack.
I can hear you all yelling tap and go! This would please those on the edge of their seats and is actually a viable option provided you have a reasonable chance of scoring, or at a minimum, engineering a tactical advantage.
It's so viable that we even tried this tactic in the second half but to no avail. We accrued a series of penalties and advantages and eventually took a shot at goal before retreating to the other side of the field. We spent five minutes attacking their line and could have kicked at goal, but we really wanted to score a try.
This brings me to my next point. The yellow card for cynical play seems to have drifted from the game. While I can't believe I am advocating this, the reality is yellow cards equal more tries and it also serves as a deterrent against repeated and deliberate infringements.
On average at the Reds, we concede one try for every yellow card we receive. That's an extremely high ratio.
As much as seeing 15 players go against 14 is unfair, so to is cynical play that goes unpunished. It deprives the fans and takes the fun from a match.
I'm of the belief that there is enough homogeny in today's game. It has been boxed to create equity rather than encourage superiority. While we play around with the interpretations, we need to be vigilant on the affect this has to our game and we need to understand the cause of how the game is played directly links to fans.
We need them to be sitting on the edges of their seats in anticipation of what is about to come. Not sitting back and ruing what could have been.