JavaScript disabled. Please enable JavaScript to use My News, My Clippings, My Comments and user settings.

If you have trouble accessing our login form below, you can go to our login page.

If you have trouble accessing our login form below, you can go to our login page.

Officials need to play their cards right to end cynical play

Liam Gill of the Reds at the bottom of the breakdown against the Rebels.

Liam Gill of the Reds at the bottom of the breakdown against the Rebels. Photo: Getty Images

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.

15 comments so far

  • You seem to be making the subtle point that the Reds inability to score tries was due to the referee and not your own players. The fact, sadly, is that the Reds weren't good enough to breach the Rebels defence on more than one occassion. There was one period where the Rebels infringed but overall they played a disciplined game.

    The scenario of the scrum 15 out is all well and good, but the reality of the Reds this year is the ball would have been held up in the centres, or shovelled to the wing with no gain in ground.

    While I agree there is a case for a yellow card in the second half, I don't believe there was a clear-cut incident for which a YC should have been awarded. At best it was 50-50. Cause for a snide piece in the Herald? I think not.

    Mario Speedwagon
    Date and time
    March 15, 2012, 10:07AM
    • Reminds me of the Reds-Waratahs game last year. The Tahs had a scrum on the Reds' goal line. Given that the Tahs' scrum had been the better of the two all match the expectation of a try was high. The Reds proceeded to collapse scrum after scrum as they were being driven back. After 3 or 4 resets and no yellow card for cynical play or penalty try the Reds get the hit on and win a tight head. It was the turning point in the game and the Reds went on to win. Yes, cynical play should be harshly dealt with.

      Date and time
      March 15, 2012, 10:22AM
      • If the scrum in that situation was such an advantage, why not elect for another one?

        O M Wootts
        Date and time
        March 15, 2012, 10:24AM
        • That's exactly what I was thinking.

          Date and time
          March 15, 2012, 1:56PM
      • As a past whistler I wonder when I watch the modern refs - do they really understand what the players ar trying to achieve? I have seen a game played at a country outpost without a referee but have never seen a game where the referee was the only participant! Link, you are spot on. There has even been a case where a penalty try was awarded and the offending player was NOT yellow carded! I even dreamt where EVERY scrum penalty awarded in the attacking zone 22 went to the attacking team - and they were NOT allowed to kick at goal. Collapsed scrums became a thing of the past. Go The Reds!!

        Grae Gafia
        Sandstone Point
        Date and time
        March 15, 2012, 10:40AM
        • "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"

          A penalty doesn't make the scrum disappear at all - the non infringing team does by deciding to take a different option. If you wanted a scrum, have a scrum!

          All this talk of cynical play reminds me of the Reds v Force match and the NFL style blocking going on from the Reds in nearly all facets of the game; in particular players getting in front of a player taking a catch and preventing potential tacklers getting through - and also the very interesting lines being run by support players so as to prevent a would be tackler reaching the ball carrier. The Reds are masters at this tactic (see Will Genia's try against the Crusaders in the final last year for a great example).

          I'm not saying all teams don't do this sort of thing, but taketh a plank from thine own eye before thou taketh a splinter from another's (or something).

          Perth via Rakaia
          Date and time
          March 15, 2012, 12:05PM
          • Agree the Reds have a knack of having player in the way at opportune moments, but Genia's try was because of a defender rushing out of the line. He was asking to be sidestepped.

            Date and time
            March 15, 2012, 2:05PM
          • the man did rush up, but I would argue Genia only managed to sidestep him because there was a Reds player in the way


            Perth via Rakaia
            Date and time
            March 15, 2012, 2:32PM
        • Ewen, what is wrong with a scrum reset? Whilst I love the way you get the team to play, I hope from now on you guys will reset the scrum in such situations.
          For scrum penalties, why don't they introduce an option that if you elect to reset the scrum, you reset with an advantage rule - ie/ you lose the scrum then you will get the ball back for a short-arm penalty. OR, perhaps ban kicking for goal from scrum penalties but still allow a kick for touch with the throw-in?

          Date and time
          March 15, 2012, 12:56PM
          • I agree with the concept of dealing out far more yellow cards for cynical play. Based on the games I've watched this year - I would say that 2 yellow cards per game would have been a fair result, as there is always moments of play that are deliberately slowed down. Whilst people will cry that this would turn the game into a sideshow, you will soon see that the game will open up, tries would be scored, and teams will think twice about being cynical. Yellow cards are a good thing for the game - use them refs!

            Date and time
            March 15, 2012, 1:12PM

            More comments

            Make a comment

            You are logged in as [Logout]

            All information entered below may be published.

            Error: Please enter your screen name.

            Error: Your Screen Name must be less than 255 characters.

            Error: Your Location must be less than 255 characters.

            Error: Please enter your comment.

            Error: Your Message must be less than 300 words.

            Post to

            You need to have read and accepted the Conditions of Use.

            Thank you

            Your comment has been submitted for approval.

            Comments are moderated and are generally published if they are on-topic and not abusive.

            Related Coverage

            Super Rugby 2015

            Round 1
            Fri, 13 FebTimes shown AEDT
            CRU 10 vs REB 20 Report Stats
            BRU 47 vs RED 3 Stats
            Sat, 14 FebTimes shown AEDT
            LIO 8 vs HUR 22 Report Stats
            BLU 18 vs CHF 23 Report Stats
            Sun, 15 FebTimes shown AEDT
            SHA 29 vs CHT 35 Report Stats
            BUL 17 vs STO 29 Report Stats
            WAR 13 vs FOR 25 Stats
            View All Fixtures
            Round 2
            Fri, 20 FebTimes shown AEDT
            CHF 19 vs BRU 17 Report Stats
            REB 28 vs WAR 38 Report Stats
            Sat, 21 FebTimes shown AEDT
            BUL 13 vs HUR 17 Report Stats
            HIG 20 vs CRU 26 Report Stats
            RED 18 vs FOR 6 Report Stats
            Sun, 22 FebTimes shown AEDT
            STO 27 vs BLU 16 Report Stats
            SHA 29 vs LIO 12 Report Stats
            View All Fixtures
            Round 3
            Fri, 27 FebTimes shown AEDT
            HIG 20 vs RED 13 Report Stats
            FOR 13 vs HUR 42 Stats
            Sat, 28 FebTimes shown AEDT
            CHT 25 vs BLU 24 Report Stats
            CHF 40 vs CRU 16 Stats
            REB 15 vs BRU 20 Report Stats
            Sun, 01 MarTimes shown AEDT
            BUL 43 vs SHA 35 Report Stats
            LIO 19 vs STO 22 Report Stats
            View All Fixtures
            Round 4
            Fri, 06 MarTimes shown AEDT
            CHF 17 vs HIG 20 Report Stats
            BRU 27 vs FOR 15 Report Stats
            Sat, 07 MarTimes shown AEDT
            BLU 10 vs LIO 13 Report Stats
            RED 5 vs WAR 23 Report Stats
            Sun, 08 MarTimes shown AEDT
            CHT 20 vs BUL 39 Report Stats
            STO 29 vs SHA 13 Report Stats
            View All Fixtures
            Round 5
            Fri, 13 MarTimes shown AEDT
            HUR 30 vs BLU 23 Report Stats
            FOR 17 vs REB 21 Report Stats
            Sat, 14 MarTimes shown AEDT
            CRU 34 vs LIO 6 Report Stats
            HIG 26 vs WAR 19 Report Stats
            RED vs BRU 29 Stats
            Sun, 15 MarTimes shown AEDT
            STO 19 vs CHF 28 Report Stats
            CHT 10 vs SHA 27 Report Stats
            View All Fixtures
            Round 6
            Fri, 20 MarTimes shown AEDT
            HIG 13 vs HUR 20 Report Stats
            REB 16 vs LIO 20 Report Stats
            Sat, 21 MarTimes shown AEDT
            CRU 57 vs CHT 14 Report Stats
            Sun, 22 MarTimes shown AEDT
            BUL 25 vs FOR 24 Report Stats
            SHA 12 vs CHF 11 Report Stats
            WAR 28 vs BRU 13 Report Stats
            View All Fixtures
            Round 7
            Fri, 27 MarTimes shown AEDT
            HUR 36 vs REB 12 Report Stats
            RED 17 vs LIO 18 Report Stats
            Sat, 28 MarTimes shown AEDT
            CHF 37 vs CHT 27 Report Stats
            HIG 39 vs STO 21 Report Stats
            WAR 23 vs BLU 11 Report Stats
            Sun, 29 MarTimes shown AEDT
            SHA 15 vs FOR 9 Report Stats
            BUL 31 vs CRU 19 Report Stats
            View All Fixtures
            Round 8
            Fri, 03 AprTimes shown AEDT
            HUR 25 vs STO 20 Report Stats
            REB 23 vs RED 15 Report Stats
            Sat, 04 AprTimes shown AEDT
            CHF 23 vs BLU 16 Report Stats
            BRU 20 vs CHT 3 Report Stats
            Sun, 05 AprTimes shown AEDT
            SHA 10 vs CRU 52 Report Stats
            LIO 22 vs BUL 18 Report Stats
            View All Fixtures
            Round 9
            Fri, 10 AprTimes shown AEST
            BLU 16 vs BRU 14 Report Stats
            Sat, 11 AprTimes shown AEST
            CRU 20 vs HIG 25 Report Stats
            WAR 18 vs STO 32 Report Stats
            FOR 15 vs CHT 24 Report Stats
            Sun, 12 AprTimes shown AEST
            LIO 23 vs SHA 21 Report Stats
            BUL 43 vs RED 22 Report Stats
            View All Fixtures
            Round 10
            Fri, 17 AprTimes shown AEST
            CRU 9 vs CHF 26 Report Stats
            Sat, 18 AprTimes shown AEST
            HUR 24 vs WAR 29 Report Stats
            HIG 30 vs BLU 24 Report Stats
            BRU 8 vs REB 13 Report Stats
            FOR 6 vs STO 13 Report Stats
            Sun, 19 AprTimes shown AEST
            SHA 10 vs BUL 17 Report Stats
            CHT 17 vs RED 18 Report Stats
            View All Fixtures
            Round 11
            Fri, 24 AprTimes shown AEST
            CHF 35 vs FOR 27 Report Stats
            BRU 31 vs HIG 18 Report Stats
            Sat, 25 AprTimes shown AEST
            CRU 29 vs BLU 15 Report Stats
            WAR 18 vs REB 16 Report Stats
            Sun, 26 AprTimes shown AEST
            LIO 34 vs CHT 29 Report Stats
            STO 15 vs BUL 13 Report Stats
            RED 19 vs HUR 35 Report Stats
            View All Fixtures
            Round 12
            Fri, 01 MayTimes shown AEST
            HIG 48 vs SHA 15 Report Stats
            BRU 10 vs WAR 13 Report Stats
            Sat, 02 MayTimes shown AEST
            BLU 41 vs FOR 24 Report Stats
            HUR 29 vs CRU 23 Report Stats
            REB 16 vs CHF 15 Report Stats
            Sun, 03 MayTimes shown AEST
            CHT 25 vs STO 17 Report Stats
            BUL 35 vs LIO 33 Report Stats
            View All Fixtures
            Round 13
            Fri, 08 MayTimes shown AEST
            CRU 58 vs RED 17 Report Stats
            REB 42 vs BLU 22 Report Stats
            Sat, 09 MayTimes shown AEST
            HUR 32 vs SHA 24 Report Stats
            FOR 18 vs WAR 11 Report Stats
            LIO 28 vs HIG 23 Report Stats
            Sun, 10 MayTimes shown AEST
            STO 25 vs BRU 24 Report Stats
            View All Fixtures
            Round 14
            Fri, 15 MayTimes shown AEST
            BLU 23 vs BUL 18 Report Stats
            RED 46 vs REB 29 Stats
            Sat, 16 MayTimes shown AEST
            HUR 22 vs CHF 18 Report Stats
            WAR 33 vs SHA 18 Report Stats
            Sun, 17 MayTimes shown AEST
            LIO 20 vs BRU 30 Stats
            CHT 24 vs HIG 45 Stats
            View All Fixtures
            Round 15
            Fri, 22 MayTimes shown AEST
            CHF 34 vs BUL 20 Report Stats
            RED 14 vs SHA 21 Report Stats
            Sat, 23 MayTimes shown AEST
            BLU 5 vs HUR 29 Report Stats
            WAR 32 vs CRU 22 Report Stats
            FOR 3 vs HIG 23 Report Stats
            Sun, 24 MayTimes shown AEST
            CHT 17 vs LIO 40 Report Stats
            STO 31 vs REB 15 Report Stats
            View All Fixtures
            Round 16
            Fri, 29 MayTimes shown AEST
            CRU 35 vs HUR 18 Report Stats
            BRU 22 vs BUL 16 Report Stats
            Sat, 30 MayTimes shown AEST
            SHA 25 vs REB 21 Report Stats
            HIG 36 vs CHF 9 Report Stats
            FOR 10 vs RED 32 Report Stats
            Sun, 31 MayTimes shown AEST
            STO 42 vs CHT 12 Report Stats
            LIO 27 vs WAR 22 Report Stats
            View All Fixtures
            Round 17
            Fri, 05 JunTimes shown AEST
            HUR vs HIG 17:35McLean Park
            FOR vs BRU 21:00nib Stadium
            Sat, 06 JunTimes shown AEST
            REB vs BUL 15:30AAMI
            BLU vs CRU 17:35EP
            RED vs CHF 19:40SS
            CHT vs WAR 23:00FSS
            Sun, 07 JunTimes shown AEST
            STO vs LIO 01:05DHL Newlands
            View All Fixtures
            Round 18
            Fri, 12 JunTimes shown AEST
            BLU vs HIG 17:35EP
            REB vs FOR 19:40AAMI
            Sat, 13 JunTimes shown AEST
            BRU vs CRU 15:30GIO Stadium
            CHF vs HUR 17:35Yarrow Stadium
            WAR vs RED 19:40AS
            Sun, 14 JunTimes shown AEST
            BUL vs CHT 01:05Loftus Versfeld
            SHA vs STO 03:10Growthpoint Kings Park
            View All Fixtures
            Round 19
            Fri, 19 JunTimes shown AEST
            7 vs 7 09:00
            Sat, 20 JunTimes shown AEST
            7 vs 7 09:00
            View All Fixtures
            Round 20
            Fri, 26 JunTimes shown AEST
            7 vs 7 09:00
            Sat, 27 JunTimes shown AEST
            7 vs 7 09:00
            View All Fixtures
            Round 21
            Sat, 04 JulTimes shown AEST
            7 vs 7 09:00
            View All Fixtures
            Super Rugby 2015
            Overall standings
            Team P W L D +/- Pts
            Hurricanes 14 12 2 0 126 57
            Stormers 14 10 4 0 72 43
            Waratahs 14 9 5 0 45 42
            Highlanders 14 10 4 0 116 48
            Brumbies 14 8 6 0 108 42
            Lions 15 9 6 0 -22 40
            Chiefs 14 9 5 0 60 44
            Bulls 14 7 7 0 23 36
            View all
            Featured advertisers