The weekly furoré over referees, with Bryce Lawrence in the crosshairs after Round 10, yet again illustrates a serious problem which administrators seem loath to address — match officials are having too much influence on the outcome of games.
The Superwrap team at Supperrugby write that Lawrence was in charge of the Sharks’ match against the Brumbies in Canberra and, how to put this in an undefamatory manner? appeared to be less than even-handed in the way in which he called the breakdown and ensuing “mucks” — the SuperWrap being of the opinion that rucks and mauls have now become the same thing!
The match had been on for some 20 minutes when a cellphone in the SuperSport Zone’s offices rattled and chirped on a desk. On the line (if you can say that of a mobile phone?!) was a person the Aussies would describe as a “rugby identity” asking: “Just wanted to check with you? Is this bloke Lawrence blowing one set of laws for the Brumbies and another for the Sharks?”
It was an interesting call because that’s exactly what the dedicated reporters in the midst of live-scoring the 62nd match of the season had been discussing.
Lawrence appeared to be allowing the Brumbies to get away with transgressions that he was not permitting the Sharks or, put another way, he was requiring actions and postures from the Sharks which he did not apply to the Brumbies.
It was noticeable that the Sharks were becoming frustrated and, as they say, the rest was history as Ryan Kankowski and Francois Steyn (although we struggled to see whether he was actually trying to play the ball trapped under 500 bodies) got themselves sin-binned; thus consigning their team to their first defeat of the season.
Of course it was stupid, and let’s face it the Sharks have had their fair share of luck when it comes to the whims of referees this season, but what was more worrying is that Lawrence seemed to allow himself to become irritated with the tourists rather than simply applying the law — which with the ELVs, the SuperWrap has to grumble, is no easy task to do.
Sadly the ELVs have given refs more prominence rather than less and it must surely concern rugby’s law-makers when they see a captain thus quoted: “The upsetting thing about us getting blown out of the game is that from Monday to Friday we had spoken about Bryce Lawrence, about the way he refs and how we had to leave him alone and show discipline,” said Johann Muller.
“That did not happen and that is very disappointing. We were pre-warned, but we did not react in the game.” Dear Lord, as the oldest member of the SuperWrap team might mutter, is this what the game has come to?
Teams have to prepare for what the referee might do because there are distinct and known tendencies among the panel of officials? Is this not all the proof needed that referees are having too great an influence on the outcome of matches?
Johann Muller will in all probability get into trouble for having questioned Lawrence but he is decent man who deserves better — just like Rodney So’oialo did when Paul Marks cost the Hurricanes their match against the Sharks.
The Sharks have not whinged but well they might have.
This is what Greg Growden, of the Sydney Morning Herald had to say in his column entitled “Monday Maul.” “The Sharks have good reason to complain about the refereeing of New Zealander Bryce Lawrence, as several of his rulings were extremely harsh. Lawrence at times seemed to be completely focused on picking up on Sharks misdemeanours…”
The Aussie television commentators also picked up a certain disparity so this is not just the wailing of a South African website. Will Bryce Lawrence’s performance be reviewed? Will he be ticked off if found to be out of line? Will we be told if were to be rapped over the knuckles?
The answer on all three counts is “No” and that, also, is very wrong.Tweet