Sunday, March 13, 2011

Rugby shows its maturity

Halfway through the second half of the rugby match in Cardiff yesterday, Wales were fortunate that an illegal try they had scored was allowed to stand.

Ireland had kicked the ball out of play, it bounced into the crowd and Wales, seizing another ball from a ball boy, threw it in quickly before a lineout had formed and Mike Phillips charged down the left flank to score. According to the rules, the try should not have counted: you can only take a quick throw-in with the ball that was kicked out. The assistant referee, who was asked by the referee if it was the same ball, boobed.

It was a mistake, a bad mistake and one that possibly cost Ireland the match. Consider, then, the sensible and balanced reaction afterwards of the Ireland coach, Declan Kidney:
"We lost by six points, it was a seven-point decision, but look at what's happened in Japan. That's life isn't it."
Compare that with the hysteria, the sense of injustice and, above all, the anger of football managers when a decision goes against their side.

If Alex Ferguson or Arsene Wenger had been in Kidney's position, they would have gone ballistic, questioning the referee's parentage, competence and eyesight and probably refusing to speak to the media if anyone dared to suggest that the result was in any way caused by the failings of their players or the coach's strategy rather than a gaffe by a man with a whistle.

The Wales coach, Warren Gatland, in his turn acknowledged that his side had been lucky, a touch of graciousness that you never hear in football.

That's not to say that Ireland have taken the decision on the chin. Brian O'Driscoll, the captain, and other players have said that the try cost them and that the referee should be embarrassed by the mistake - although O'Driscoll tempered his comments by saying "everyone's human and mistakes happen all the time" - but by the time they get together tomorrow to prepare for the next match, it will be forgotten.

After all, Ireland really lost the match because they failed to score the points that their possession in Wales's half demanded, because Jonathan Sexton missed a kick in front of the posts immediately after Phillips's try and because Paddy Wallace cut inside rather than making what would have been a certain scoring pass outside him in the last minute. Those errors will be what they concentrate on, not the referee's howler.

It's why I like rugby more than football. The players and fans have passion but they also have respect. A rugby referee may be taunted during the match, but when the final whistle goes all grievances are forgotten. Everyone makes errors and players make more of them than officials.

The spirit of the game is more important than the result. It is a shame football has forgotten that.


Angus Donald said...

Damn right. Well said, Patrick!

Different Shades said...

I couldn't agree more, Paddy. The thing I dislike most about British football (and there's a lot) is the odiously hypocritical (and hyper-critical) attitude to officials.

The worst aspect of this is that while there is no apparent tolerance of mistakes virtually nobody (apart from Wenger, to a limited degree) argues seriously in favour of the use of technology.

There's an easy way to ensure a higher percentage of correct decisions but no-one really wants to take it. Of course none of the worst offenders (of course Ferguson, Wenger, Neil Warnock) will ever admit it, but they actually like the status quo.

It means that they have someone convenient to blame at all times as defeats can never be the responsibility of players they've selected, and in fact, they don't really want uniformly competetent officiating. Errors are fine as long as they favour their side, and their players will, of course, spend much of their time on the field trying to induce such errors.

Paddy said...

Indeed, Shades. I just don't know who would ever want to be a football referee. Where's the pleasure?