Another exciting day of Rugby, and although the results were much more predictable than Saturday's, there are still some big implications for the rest of the tournament.
Match 6: Samoa v USA (25-16)
Samoa showed that they're going to be a competitor in this group. Their direct and effective play will challenge both Japan and Scotland. One highlight was a great right-to-left move at an attacking scrum that put Tim Nanai-Williams over in the corner, on the end of a grubber kick by Tusi Pisi.
Match 7: Wales v Uruguay (54-9)
Wales won easily but at a big cost in terms of apparent injuries: Corey Allen is out of the squad with a torn hamstring, after scoring a hat-trick of tries. Liam Williams, Samson Lee, Dan Lydiate, Aaron Jarvis and Paul James all had to leave the field.
Well-managed match, which didn't become a penalty-fest in spite of the differences in skill levels between the sides. Uruguay kept going until the end, great courage and spirit.
Match 8: New Zealand v Argentina (26-16)
The crowd's booing of Richie McCaw aside, there was little to disappoint in this great clash between Southern Hemisphere sides. Off the field - well, the service at the bars could have been a little better organised; how long can it take to take the tops off four plastic bottles of Heineken and exchange the result for a £20 note? Someone told me afterwards that Murphy's stout was also available, but no other beers.
Argentina played themselves to a standstill after leading for much of the game. All Blacks' attack was very organised and patient. They won't care that they didn't score a bonus point - all they need to do is win their matches, and no-one else in the group is likely to threaten that aim.
Wembley was brilliant, and the crowd was a record for a RWC pool match, almost 90,000. England2015 and Transport for London were very well organised to help us get away in good time. My own experience was this: we reached the back of the queue, 250 metres from the station at 18:55, and were on the (right) train at 19:17, at Waterloo and enjoying a beer (not Heineken) at 19:45.
As a grass-roots referee, I want to see a safe and fair contest at the set piece. The scrum gets lots of attention, but the line-out is also a place of skullduggery.
Some teams consistently win their own lines through good throws, great timing and well executed drills. Others feel the need to add some insurance that takes away all possibility of a contest. It's sometimes said that the side that can't win its own line-outs can't
win the match, so this can affect the outcome of important games.
Here’s how it can happen:
a line-out is awarded to Red, at the mark made by the Assistant Referee
the referee marks the 5m line: either the line of touch, or where the players should stand, or both
the line-out players arrive and take up their positions; the Red hooker arrives, is handed the ball and a towel, dries the ball, listens to the call, confirms the call, discards the towel, and prepares to throw
often the AR moves to a different viewpoint, and the referee moves to the back of the line-out
Red hooker throws, ball won by Red
What's wrong with that? Blue didn't bother to compete, so why worry?
Simply, the hooker has been allowed to throw along a line (even if straight - who's checking?) that made it impossible for Blue to compete.
Watch the hooker's feet after he receives the ball and first stands in the middle - each action includes a subtle shuffle, a boot-width, towards his own side. When he throws, it’s straight along his own players. There’s no contest: if Blue close the gap, that's a FK; if they cross the line of touch, offside (PK)
Normally line-out or scrum to Blue; however, if the referee judges the Red team to be standing on the line of touch (after all, their hooker is throwing along it!), FK for closing the gap.
There’s no fairness here: potential PK to Red versus Blue scrum (if offence is detected).
Solution - fix the line
Law 19.8(n) is specific – “Metre Gap: Each line of players must be half a metre on their side of the line of touch”. Nowhere does the Law allow the referee to say "Black, the line is yours" but this often happens. Assistant Referees seem to have difficulty communicating the right place for the hooker to stand - often because the mark is ignored or conceded to one side or the other
This ploy spoils the game. 16 of every 30 players are forwards, and they should be allowed to compete as the Laws intend.