24 October 2011

Rugby World Cup 2011 thoughts

I think it was a fantastically exciting Rugby World Cup and the All Blacks were worthy winners in the end.  The second half of the final was real edge-of-the-seat stuff, even for a neutral.  The hangovers in all parts of New Zealand today must have been monumental. 

Although Craig Joubert is a fine referee, I didn't think he had a good first half in the final.  Front row dynamics are difficult and sometimes it's wrong to give a penalty - when it isn't clear who (if anyone) has committed an offence.  He also seemed to be pressured by the crowd, playing poor advantages to France and then calling advantage over, but in contrast awarding decisions quickly to New Zealand.  He appeared much more even-handed after half time.  In fact I hardly noticed him in the second half, which is a good sign that he was doing an excellent job. 

There was lots to talk about at every round: there were some fantastic matches, and unexpected results including Ireland's defeat of Australia which pretty much guaranteed that there would be a Northern Hemisphere v Southern Hemisphere final.  The way that some of the smaller countries are progressing is great for the game, and Georgia, for such a tiny country, were magnificent.  The inclusion of Sevens in the Olympics in 2016 is already making countries like Russia and China take Rugby much more seriously, so we could see some powerful newcomers in the later rounds of future World Cups.

Sadly the UK audience were denied the chance to see or hear the opening ceremony because the ITV producers couldn't allow Steve Ryder and his experts to be quiet for a few minutes.  I thought it rude to the organisers to ignore the NZ culture that was featured.  I thought it was a real shame that IBM didn't come up with a few more varied ads for the later stages of the competition.  We've all seen the old dears on the mobility scooters, the barber and the pizza takeaway about 48 times.  Enough is enough.  Audi seemed to change their ads as the weeks went on, which was much more interesting for the audience, but they could have done more too.

We didn't like music played in the stadia during injury stoppages.  I'm sure that Rugby crowds in New Zealand aren't so moronic that they need Sweet Caroline or something else from Neil Diamond's greatest hits to be played when the medics are treating a potentially serious injury.

Didn't the new all-indoor Otago Stadium in Dunedin look fantastic?

England were very disappointing, and really seem to have lost their way discipline-wise.  Wales lost shape after Rhys Priestland was injured, and although Warburton's red card looked crucial at the time, more important was the failure to kick from the tee. They lost three matches by a total of five points, and missed out on 40 points in penalties and conversions.  They also missed six attempted drop goals.

All sides seemed to have problems with place kicks; maybe there is more to be discovered about the aerodynamics of the new ball, particularly when painted up for the test matches, wet, and used in real play for half a game or more.
I thought the persistent booing of Quade Cooper was an absolute disgrace - nothing to do with Rugby, and a surprise that the Rugby-mad crowds in New Zealand would treat one of the world's great talents in such a disgusting way.  In contrast, I bet McCaw won't be booed for his knee to the eye of Morgan Parra during the final.

Picture from Official RWC2011 site
Every referee seemed to have difficulties at times, but sometimes the criticism was unfair.  Francois Pienaar slammed Wayne Barnes on ITV saying that Contepomi was offside in the Scot v Arg match when Parkes missed a poor drop goal attempt.  The Official RWC2011 match video has a view from behind the posts at the critical moment (about 5 minutes 50 seconds into the recording), and you can see that Contepomi was at the back of the ruck and onside when the ball was already being passed to Parkes. 

He also claimed Alain Rolland was wrong to give a red card to Warburton, but even Welsh referees applaud him for not chickening out, and applying the right sanction for the tackle. 

But all in all, congratulations to New Zealand on hosting a tremendous World Cup.  England will have to do extremely well to match this in 2015.

17 October 2011

Dangerous tackles in Rugby

Last season (2010-11) I wrote down details in my refereeing notebook of 44 Rugby matches where I'd officated.  This excludes tournaments and sevens, and I may not have recorded every card, but the score is 21 cards awarded, of which four were for reckless tackles involving lifting the tackled player's feet above his head.

None of these involved a clear slam, or a drop onto the ground as seen in the Sam Warburton sending-off in the RWC 2011 semi-final.  Instead the tacklers (multiple tacklers in two cases out of four) kept hold when bringing the player down.  The cards were for the danger caused by lifting the feet above the head.

I'm refereeing at levels 9 - 11 (with the occasional 8s and 12s) but it's just as possible for players at this level to be seriously injured by a tip tackle as for an international player.  I think Alain Rolland did exactly what he'd been instructed to do, unfortunately for Wales, who I would love to have seen against the All Blacks in the final.

All cards for the season:

Match 3: Dangerous tackle
Match 8: 2 x continuing handbags well after whistle, 1 x fighting, 1 x dive on try scorer
Match 15: 1 x Repeated offside at ruck and maul, 1 x repeated illegal bind (loose head)
Match 17: 2 x raking
Match 19: trip - clear but in otherwise well-tempered match, it didn't look worth a Red card
Match 25: poor attempt at a punch
Match 27: affray
Match 28: not retiring at penalty
Match 29: dangerous tackle
Match 30: high tackle in red zone preventing possible try
Match 31: 1 x repeated offending inc. high tackle, 1 x raking
Match 32: 1 x dangerous tackle + 1 x offside/fighting (Red), 1 x fighting + 1 x referee abuse (Red)
Match 34: striking with elbow instead of hand-off
Match 38: dangerous tackle

11 October 2011

Apple and Chilli jelly

Great joy - followed Samantha Weinberg's recipe in The Times (£) of Thursday 29th September.  I used almost double the quantities given, to produce 17 pots (various sizes, 100-120 grams) of a delightful Apple and Chilli Jelly.

It might have had more of a kick if we'd been able to grow red chillis like those of a couple of years ago, or buy any really hot small red chillis in local shops. Sadly, we harvested hardly any this year - the second year running that we've had an almost complete failure. The cooking apples came from next door's tree, by arrangement.

This is the first time that I've made jam, marmalade or jelly other than when 'helping' a parent or grandparent (many years ago), so I had to learn by trying it out.  Experiences:
  1. Muslin cloth (£3 from the local ironmonger) tied to a large bowl with string is much less expensive a straining method than a jelly bag with the kit to hold it; the whole caboodle would have cost a stupid £18 in all. Or if you are able, make a stand for a jelly bag out of metal coat hangers that came back with your dry cleaning. 
  2. The measures seem to be about a pound of sugar to a pint of liquid, if that's the size of your measuring jug
  3. The strained liquid looks pale white, having picked up hardly any colour from the chillis. Don't panic. When you add the sugar and start raising to the boil, it darkens. Once it's reached the boil, you can skim off a layer of scum and then what's left will darken more as it approaches the setting point
  4. You don't have to be too gentle when boiling the liquid to set. Make sure it's boiling rather than simmering, and keep an eye on it - you don't want toffee. 
  5. The test described in the article to find the setting point does work - if you're not too gentle.  Stirring doesn't seem to do any harm and as it's nearing readiness, stirring will cause the liquid to bubble up.  That could be your signal to start testing.