What’s going on at the breakdown?
It’s been about a year now since Scarfman, our colleague here at Green & Gold Rugby, produced his All Blacks at the Breakdown video exposing some of the tricks the All Blacks got away with in the first match of the 2010 Tri Nations between the All Blacks and Springboks.
That video proved to be a worldwide hit and evoked plenty of comment from All Black supporters who claimed we were biased in our approach as all teams were guilty of the same breaches, and from the rest who lined up to decry the All Blacks and the referees who let them get away with their disregard for the Laws of the Game.
When I first watched the video I was quite surprised at how much illegal play was being missed by the referees at the breakdown. I went back and looked at some other games and could see plenty of examples of similar play from most teams. While the All Black fans claimed you could produce a similar video and show the Springboks and the Wallabies committing just as many breaches, I’ve never seen anyone come up with such a video.
You can revisit the original video from Scarfman here but I thought it might be interesting to have a look at the corresponding match this year and see if the referees are policing the breakdown any better than they were.
To do that I reviewed all 151 breakdowns from last weekend’s game — 80 where the ball was taken in by the All Blacks and 71 where the ball was taken in by the Springboks — to identify incidents at the breakdown that should have been penalised, whether they were or not.
Of course this is a subjective process so not everyone will agree with every decision I made in my review. While I’m not a referee and I’m obviously a Wallaby fan, if you’ve read some of my other articles I hope you’ll credit me with being fair. The purpose of this exercise is not to target any particular team or any particular player.
In my review I found 57 penalisable offences at the breakdown by both teams compared to the 11 breakdown penalties awarded by Alain Rolland (who also refereed the corresponding game last year that Scarfman analysed). There were plenty of other incidents that were also could have warranted penalties but I decided not to include them as they had little impact or the indiscretions were quite minor.
As a rugby fan I wouldn’t want to see 57 penalties at the breakdown in any match as it would ruin the game, but there’s no doubt in my mind that the referees are missing far too much. I know they’ve got plenty to keep an eye on and there’s no way I could, or would want to be, a referee. Any player who’s had me as a referee in training runs will attest that I’m hopeless and let most things go. As you’ll see in the video I’ve prepared, some of the offences are blatant and occur right in front of the referee and/or the assistant referees.
Before I move on to the video, here’s a summary of the offences I found when the All Blacks had possession:
|Penalties Actually Awarded Against Team Infringing||3 (11%)||2 (33%)||5 (15%)|
Of the 28 offences committed by the All Blacks when they had possession, 19 (68%) were a result of a player coming from the side and not entering through the gate, although not one of those was actually penalised. Richie McCaw was responsible for 12 of the 28 offences (43%) but was penalised for only 1 of those offences. Ali Williams was the closest with 5 offences (18%).
A summary of the offences I found when the Springboks had possession follows:
|Penalties Actually Awarded Against Team Infringing||4 (24%)||2 (33%)||6 (26%)|
Of the 17 offences committed by the Springboks when they had possession, 12 (71%) were a result of a player coming from the side and not entering through the gate, although only 1 of those was actually penalised.
From those statistics it’s clear that Alain Rolland was refereeing in favour of the team that had possession and it’s clear that neither team was concerned about being penalised for coming from the side to ensure they retain the ball or to stop defending players from slowing down their rucks.
In this particular game it was the All Blacks who got away with more infringements and Richie McCaw was the chief beneficiary.
My conclusion is that not much has changed since Scarfman produced his video a year ago.
I hope we’re going to see more emphasis placed on eliminating some of these breakdown infringements in the future, particularly in the looming World Cup. But I wouldn’t bank on it.
UPDATE: NEXT WEEK I’LL PRODUCE THE SAME ANALYSIS FOR THE ALL BLACKS V WALLABIES MATCH