Why I did what I did – OFSAA Boys AAA/AAAA Final

I have been asked by a number of people what happened in the OFSAA final and why I blew up breakdowns that looked as if Stouffville had won the ball. They probably had but they did not do it in a legal way.
 
As a referee I try to manage a game not officiate it with the iron will of a law book. Rather my mantra: is to provide a platform for athletes to be able to show off their talents to their best potential - if they so choose.
 
The final was a very frustrating game for me as a referee as per the outline below I tried all management tips I have learnt over nearly 18 years of high level officiating.
 
The key issues in this game were the habits of one team that are totally illegal in the game of rugby and quite clearly a taught behaviour. The tactic is what I call ‘Hinging” when the arriving player binds onto the tackled player with head an shoulders below hips in an attempt to ensure ball security. This however contravenes about six laws and principles in the game.
 
Here is my management process:
 
1 - I spoke to player/s individually to keep their feet and leave the tackled player on the ground alone, also there were numerous incidents of illegal entry I tried to manage out and only dealt with the material offences. 
 
2 - I spoke to the captains to take responsibility for the illegal incidents. During down time so that they could work with me to help reduce penalties
 
3 - I temporary suspended #7 from Uxbridge for playing the ball off his feet and in a cynical offence close to his goal line to prevent opposition ability to use the ball 
 
4 - At the 20th minute I called the captains out after too many PK's and told them that I was being brought into the game too much and they MUST take responsibility and talk to their players - which they did prior to Uxbridge lineout - I checked to see if players understood the message and they said they had - verbal contract - should = change of behaviour. Referees call this taking the monkey off your back and transferring the responsibility to captains.
 
5 - less than 3 minutes later #2 from Stouffville sealed the ball off and was temporarily suspended under team repeat infringement - the #2 was a player I had already spoke to on at least 3 occasions to work with me and he was delivering the message for me. 
 
6 - I again reiterated to captains their responsibilities to reduce PK and increased an already high level of communication to try to reduce my involvement in the 2nd half. (as a referee I do not want to be that involved in a game from a sanction point of view) 
 
7 - Not long after #2 Stouffville returned to the field from suspension and told to play correct he entered illegally to a ruck situation and played the ball with hands. This was his 2nd yellow thus = red
 
8 - I then went to the final management tool which is well taught around the world of refereeing - if they do not want to take responsibility (listen / adapt) then every ruck blow it up and tell them if they are not going to play properly in ruck then they will be unplayable until they show they can do it properly. 
 
The hinging technique is very much illegal and here is the law references to validate that claim. Also I will be putting a series of videos in the near future on RO Website to deal with this situation and others where players are just going to the ball to stop a contest at the breakdown - which is exactly what this type of technique does do - it stops the contest and that is against the Charter of the game
 
Here are the law references that make this practice illegal. I have underlined key wordings in law that will illustrate the illegality.
 
14.2 PLAYERS ON THEIR FEET
(a) Falling over the player on the ground with the ball. A player must not intentionally fall on or over a player with the ball who is lying on the ground.
Sanction: Penalty kick
15.5 THE TACKLED PLAYER
(a) A tackled player must not lie on, over, or near the ball to prevent opponents from gaining possession of it, and must try to make the ball available immediately so that play can continue.
Sanction: Penalty kick
 15.6 OTHER PLAYERS
(a) After a tackle, all other players must be on their feet when they play the ball. Players are on their feet if no other part of their body is supported by the ground or players on the ground.
Sanction: Penalty kick
(h) After a tackle, any player lying on the ground must not prevent an opponent from getting possession of the ball.
Sanction: Penalty kick
 15.7 FORBIDDEN PRACTICES
(b) No player may prevent the tackled player from releasing the ball and getting up or moving away from it.
Sanction: Penalty kick           
(e) Danger may arise if a tackled player fails to release the ball or move away from it immediately, or if that player is prevented from so doing. If either of these happens the referee awards a penalty kick immediately.
Sanction: Penalty kick
15.8 DOUBT ABOUT FAILURE TO COMPLY
If the ball becomes unplayable at a tackle and there is doubt about which player did not conform to Law, the referee orders a scrum immediately with the throw-in by the team that was moving forward prior to the stoppage or, if no team was moving forward, by the attacking team.
16.2 JOINING A RUCK
(a) All players forming, joining or taking part in a ruck must have their heads and shoulders no lower than their hips.
Sanction: Free Kick
10.2 UNFAIR PLAY
(a) Intentionally Offending. A player must not intentionally infringe any Law of the Game, or play unfairly. The player who intentionally offends must be either admonished, or cautioned that a send off will result if the offence or a similar offence is committed, or sent off.  Sanction: Penalty kick
10.3 REPEATED INFRINGEMENTS
(a) Repeatedly offending. A player must not repeatedly infringe any Law. Repeated infringement is a matter of fact. The question of whether or not the player intended to infringe is irrelevant.
Sanction: Penalty kick A player penalised for repeated infringements must be cautioned and temporarily suspended.
(b) Repeated infringements by the team. When different players of the same team repeatedly commit the same offence, the referee must decide whether or not this amounts to repeated infringement. If it does, the referee gives a general warning to the team and if they then repeat the offence, the referee cautions and temporarily suspends the guilty player(s). If a player of that same team then repeats the offence the referee sends off the guilty player(s). Sanction: Penalty kick A penalty try must be awarded if the offence prevents a try that would probably otherwise have been scored.
 10.5 SANCTIONS
(b) A player who has been cautioned and temporarily suspended who then commits a second cautionable offence within the Foul Play Law must be sent-off.
 
The action of hinging as per all the above laws is illegal. The way that Stouffville were completing the action the players were not supporting their own body weight, they had their head and shoulders lower than hips. They prevented the tackled player from completing their responsibility of immediately moving away. They contravene forming of a ruck because they have two hands and forearms on the tackled player so they cannot under law form a ruck. 
 
As a referee and Technical Director of RO this type of play is not what should be practiced - going to the ball does not create contest of quick ball - they would have been a lot better to go past the ball or as per many of the higher level players stand in a good body position as per SAFE RUGBY and eyes up. At one stage Uxbridge was counter rucking the player who hinged and they dragged the tackled player along the ground - dangerous and illegal.
 
More concerning still was the issue of captains and players not taking responsibility or adapting - they continued to do what I deemed illegal by the referee even after all of the management steps I engaged in. I told them clearly and they brought in with a verbal contract that if I saw the action I would blow it up unplayable - to reduce PK's and get their buy in to their responsibilities as players. They left me with very little choice. The concern also lies here with the top schools / thus players in HS rugby in province not being able to make decisions on the field for themselves. This creates robots and not decision makers - which is a key skill in rugby which we lack and it is exposed when we play other regions and countries. 
 
I hope this explains why I did what I did. I am happy to discuss further either face to face or over the phone. 
 
IRB Laws – www.irblaws.com
 
Yours in the Development of Our Game

Andrew