The benefits of improved accuracy in the application of the ELV’s were clearly evident during the opening round of the 2009 Vodacom Super 14 last weekend.
SA Rugby’s head of Referees, Andre Watson, believes this is creating a more even contest, opening up space and creating more try scoring chances.
The SA Rugby website reports that the try count in the opening round of this year’s competition was significantly higher than in the previous two seasons.
In the past weekend’s seven matches, 45 tries were scored, at an average of 6,4 per game. This number is almost twice as high as in previous seasons with the 2008 opening round producing 26 tries at an average of 3,7 per game and the 2007 opening round producing 24 five-pointers at an average of 3,4.
Even the past weekend’s low-scoring matches had good, and balanced, try-counts – the Sharks and the Vodacom Stormers each getting two tries in the Sharks’ 20-15 win on Saturday and the Crusaders scoring 3 tries to 2 in a 19-13 win over the Chiefs, also on Saturday.
“On the evidence of the first round matches it is very clear that the refs are more accurate in the application of the ELV’s,” said Watson. “This is having a positive spin-off for the game, with lots of tries, but also closer contests.
“The referees are allowing a contest at the break down which either results in a team getting quick ball or there being a turn over. The refs are not calling the rucks too quickly and only when they are formed as per law, which is speeding up play and creating space for teams to play with”.
Watson added that the SANZAR discussions around the free-kick, which encourage referees to favour the short-arm option instead of a full penalty were bearing fruit to the benefit of the teams.
“However, unlike last year, refs were not reluctant to award a full penalty, or use the sin-bin, if there were repeat infringements and we saw several examples of this at the weekend. This was also a key part of the debate over the free kick and penalty,” Watson said.
The highest try-count of the weekend was in the Brumbies’ 33-31 win over the Highlanders in Dunedin where the home side outscored the visitors by 5 tries to 4 but succumbed to a late drop goal.
Three matches produced seven tries apiece – the Blues got four to three in their 25-19 away win over the Force, the Auto & General Lions got the same tally in their thrilling 34-28 win over the Vodacom Cheetahs as did the Waratahs in their 26-22 win over the Hurricanes in Wellington. The Vodacom Bulls’ 33-20 win produced six tries (Bulls 4-2).
Despite the increase in the overall try tally the margins of victory are down on the previous two seasons. The weekend’s biggest winning margin was the Bulls’ 13 point win over the Reds whilst in the six other fixtures the margin of victory was six points or less with the lowest being two points in the Highlanders vs Brumbies clash.
In the previous two seasons there were several one-sided contests, such as the Crusaders 40-point drubbing of the Brumbies (43-3) and the Blues 32-14 win over the Chiefs (18 points) in 2008, and the Cheetahs’ 18 point win over the Stormers (27-9) in 2007.Tweet