Odd goings on at Luctonians a few weeks ago. The home side was leading Rotherham 10-5 into the final play, but Rotherham scored a try. The conversion sparked off all the fun. The assistant referees ruled it good, the referee agreed, and blew the final whistle. Then there was a rethink, and the score was recorded as 10-10, with Roth a bit disgruntled.
However, following a ‘dialogue’ between National League Rugby and the RFU, the goal is confirmed good – not because it necessarily went over, but because at the time when the final whistle was blown, that was how matters stood. Lucs 10-12 Roth. Final score.
The whole episode sparked off a memory. Sedgley at Vale of Lune in the Lancashire Cup, 1990s? I could remember the player involved, and the referee, and I could definitely remember the result. We lost! It took me some time to find the actual game in my records.
It was indeed at Vale of Lune, and it was the semi-final of the Lancashire Trophy (not the Cup) in 1996. Winning this second-tier competition would have been huge for Sedgley, at that time in our history.
Sedgley were leading 15-13 when the referee blew the final (almost final) whistle. No doubt about it, a long blast, very near where I was standing on the halfway line. Sedgley players and supporters jumped with delight. We were in the final.
But wait! There was a minor scuffle going on in back play, Mark Hamilton and two of the Vale lads, on Sedgley’s 22 line. A bit of push and shove. Nothing more. Somehow, the final whistle got unblown, a penalty was awarded against Hammy, and Vale won 16-15. The referee denied absolutely that he had ever blown the final whistle, and said that the long shrill blast was because of the fight, which was going on 40 metres away behind his back.
It is perhaps best not to name the referee. He was becoming a leading light in the Manchester & District Society, which I had recently joined, and he gave me some friendly and helpful advice on one occasion. He certainly became a very good referee, and his voice (if not his face) is now well known as one of the TMOs in Premiership and International matches.
This was the time of Sedgley’s rise through the leagues. The previous (1994/95) season we had acquired the services of Bob Kimmins from Orrell, permitted by the ending of the regulations on professionalism. That year we had won the North West 1 league under Paul Egan’s captaincy. Now, Kimmins himself was captain, and we were promoted again, coming second in North 2. Our victories included a 26-12 result against Doncaster and, coincidentally, the same score against Vale of Lune.
At that time, leagues were 13 clubs, with only one fixture against each. The following season, we came top of North 1 and reached National League status for the first time. We also beat Vale of Lune in the Lancashire Trophy final, 30-23 at Fylde.
I cannot imagine I am alone in getting bored and frustrated by all these deliberate knock-on penalties, and the yellow cards. To be a deliberate knock-on, the act has first and foremost to be a knock-on. (Amazing, Holmes!) If the ball goes vertically down, that is not a knock-on. Then, the referee has to decide whether it is deliberate, or not. Is it a genuine attempt to catch the ball? Which boils down to instinct, intuition, and a feel for the game.
It is generally held that a one-handed contact is, de facto, not an attempt to catch, and that is rubbish! Any decent rugby player can catch one handed with a soft, relaxed hand. The other criterion, palm up fine, or palm down not fine, I can agree with.
It is just 20 years since I hung up my whistle, and I have not read the Laws in detail since, but they used to say, regarding the forward pass, that a pass shall not be adjudged forward unless it is clearly so. Perhaps something similar should apply to deliberate knock-ons.
Only penalise if it is both clearly a knock-on, and clearly deliberate. Or why not decriminalise it altogether? There is certainly a precedent for this – putting the ball into the scrum!