Allan Massie: TMO trial does nothing but slow the game down and erode referee’s confidence
THE English Premiership is engaged in an experiment which should not be allowed to go further. For some years now, we have had referees appealing to the Television Match Official when they are not sure if a try has been scored.
This is tiresome enough, often holding play up for an inordinately long time, as elite referees lack the nerve to make the decisions which their supposedly lesser brethren make at all other levels of the game week in week out. The present English experiment allows referees to ask the TMO to track back in time just in case he can spot an infringement at an earlier point in the phase which led to the try or no try.
There was a ridiculous example last week in the match between Sale and Leicester. A Sale player went over for what might have been a try. The referee, Wayne Barnes, asked the TMO to check whether a Sale player had knocked-on at the ruck immediately previously. Clearly Barnes didn’t think there had been a knock-on, because, if he had thought that, he would have blown the whistle. He just thought there might have been one. So we endured several replays of the incident. A Sale player had certainly lost possession as the ball came out of the ruck, but it looked to me as if it had gone backwards, and had indeed done so because a Leicester player had knocked it out of his opponent’s hands. The TMO, however, said: “knock-on, Leicester scrum”.
At half-time Will Greenwood said you could watch the incident 25 times and it still wouldn’t be a knock-on. So perhaps the TMO was wrong?
There was another consequence of the referral. The question “try or no try?” was never considered. If it had been, and the TMO judged that the Sale player had been held up over the line, the put-in at the five-metre scrum would have gone to Sale.
So they lost out both ways. Later, having been in the lead at half-time, they lost the match. Yet, but for the call to the TMO and his probably mistaken decision, the result might have been different.
The fact is that, no matter how much you use the technology, the decision in rugby comes down to one man: the referee on the field or the referee in front of a TV set. Both can make mistakes. Both can reach conclusions with which other people disagree. I reckon you might as well trust the man on the field. He is, after all, supposed to be one of the top men in his trade.
More of this another week. Meanwhile, it’s Heineken Cup time. Edinburgh and Glasgow both have very tough pools: Edinburgh up against Munster, Racing Metro and Saracens; Glasgow against Castres, Northampton and Ulster. I would guess that only the top team from either pool will qualify for the quarter-final. Second won’t be good enough.
The two pools from which the second team is likely to qualify are Pool 3 (Biarritz, Connacht, Harlequins and Zebre) and Pool 6 (Cardiff, Montpellier, Sale and Toulon). To qualify as one of the best runners-up, you usually need to be in a pool with two of the weaker clubs whom you can beat home and away, while being able to beat your third opponent at home, or at least take bonus points from them, home and away. There are, sadly, no really weak clubs in Edinburgh’s or Glasgow’s pool.
The English and French clubs want the number of clubs in the tournament to be cut from 24 to 20. If this is done, then there ought to be four pools of five clubs, with the top two qualifying for the quarter-finals. Alternatively, increase the number of participants to 32, in eight pools of four, with only the winners going through. Either of these arrangements would be fairer than the present one, and therefore preferable to it.
As to this weekend’s matches, victory is desirable for Glasgow, imperative for Edinburgh since they are playing at home. Michael Bradley has named what looks like his strongest XV. Saracens have been scoring very few tries, but they keep winning matches because either Owen Farrell or Charlie Hodgson kicks penalties. They get a lot of penalties because they play an intelligent kicking game aimed at keeping their opponents under pressure in their own half.
Unfortunately, Edinburgh have a tendency to concede a lot of penalties, many of them foolish. If they are not better disciplined than they usually are, they will probably lose – no matter that they can play a daring handling game and run in fine tries.
Glasgow, for their part, will do well if they come away from Franklin’s Gardens with a losing bonus point. That’s my opinion. It won’t be theirs. They will be going there to win and if their scrum performs as well as it did in Cardiff last week, and their defence holds firm, they may just manage to do so. One bonus there was Peter Horne’s emergence as a reliable goal-kicker. This also took some of the pressure off Ruaridh Jackson who accordingly had his best match for some time.
Search for a job
Search for a car
Search for a house
Weather for Edinburgh
Tuesday 21 May 2013
Temperature: 7 C to 17 C
Wind Speed: 13 mph
Wind direction: North west
Temperature: 3 C to 12 C
Wind Speed: 23 mph
Wind direction: West