Goff on Rugby

Written by Alex Goff    Thursday, 12 July 2012 01:01    PDF Print Write e-mail
GoffonRugby: What Kind of Club are You? - P
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So I spent an evening the other day solving all of American rugby’s problems. You know that sort of conversation – we should do this, we should do that. Here’s how we fix the Super League. Here’s how we fix the politics.

Written by Alex Goff    Sunday, 24 June 2012 18:01    PDF Print Write e-mail
GoffonRugby: Referee Ruins Great Night of Rugby
Columns - Goff on Rugby

Every now and then I start to get somewhat frustrated with the international refereeing in USA games.

I see borderline calls go, consistently, against the USA. I see players yellow carded for accidental knock-ons, and conversions that missed get called good. I see yellow cards given for infractions ignored on the other side.

GoffonRugby is a column on rugby in America written by Alex GoffI start to complain about it, but the complaints eventually fizzle. Coaches and players tell me other factors contributed to the result. I am asked to let it be. I realize that maybe the borderline calls are small things in a greater cosmos.

But not this time. This time is different. The performance of referee Jerome Garces of France when he officiated Saturday’s game between the USA and Italy was bad enough for me to say something.

Of course Garces came into the game expecting to officiate in a fair and reasonable manner – how could he think otherwise? But in the end his decisions ruined the game, held before a record crowd of over 17,000 that deserved better, and his decisions created what I can only assume is an unintentional effect – that of guaranteeing the USA would lose.

Let’s put aside the annoying little things. Killing the ball in the rucks – an activity new laws and guidelines were supposed to stop – is annoying, but isn’t the issue.

Certainly Garces policed ball-killing not at all and had a fluid idea of what the offside line or the gate really are. But that’s like complaining that your flowers are dusty when your house has just fallen down.

Here, instead, are six decisions that mattered in the game:

1. Italy scored in the first few minutes on an lineout overthrow. The muffed lineout was the USA’s fault. But consider that just as Todd Clever attempted to grab that loose ball he, was grabbed himself. While the eventual try-scorer took the ball and scored, Clever was slammed to the ground. Should the try have been disallowed for this? Actually, I don’t think so, but the fact that an Italian player tackled a USA player without the ball, and finished that tackle all the way, and was not penalized, is important.

2. Italy repeatedly kicked the ball away after a penalty was called against them. This is an extra ten meters at minimum, and something I have seen yellow card given for before. The USA team complained, to no avail.

3. At the beginning of the second half, Paul Emerick was taken out in the air on a kickoff. The USA was penalized instead for obstruction by Andrew Suniula, when he was kind of in the way of a Italian tackler – a move that happens all the time. Dangerous play not punished, borderline play penalized.

4. A few minutes later, Suniula is red carded for a late hit on Italy flyhalf Riccardo Bocchino. This tackle was late, and deserved a penalty. It might, might have deserved a yellow card, if you wanted to be harsh. Bocchino helped things along by collapsing to the ground like a soccer player – complete with the little whimper. Once the penalty was given, Bocchino happily bounced back up.

This was not a red card offense. It wasn’t even close. It’s a type of penalty given every week in rugby around the world, and never gets a red. The issuance of the red card, when the score was 20-10 and the result still in doubt (given the fact Italy has proved unable to score a try unless it was gift-wrapped for them), seemed to guarantee that the USA would be put away quickly.

5. Despite this red card, and despite a brutal battle in the rucks that left Scott LaValla bleeding as if he’d been cut across the forehead by a scimitar, the Eagles stayed close. At 67 minutes it was still 20-10.

In this scenario, Paul Emerick raced in to tackle center Luca Morisi. Morisi passed just before Emerick, who was in full flight, hit him. It’s a clean hit. Emerick’s right arm wraps around Morisi. It’s not high, a wrap (barely), and just after the pass. It’s the type of tackle allowed in world rugby all the time. Referee Garces gives it a red.

This leads to one of the best lines I have ever heard form a beleaguered captain. Todd Clever: “Only a red?”

A brilliant comment from Clever to indicate he thinks things are over the top.

The result is the USA is down two men, and Bocchino kicks a penalty.

6. On a restart Colin Hawley is clearly taken out while in the air. No penalty, despite the dangerous nature of the play.

Yes, this guy. Mike Bobis photo.The determination with which the USA fought on to keep that game under control should make every American rugby fan proud. Those 13 left on the field did everything they could to win, but eventually had to cave to the inevitable as Italy scored a late try. And that loss, really, should be put at the feet of the USA team, which made three crucial errors in the first half to give Italy 17 points.

But in refereeing a friendly match, that was supposed to highlight this great game in the USA, and was played before a record crowd, referee Jerome Garces decided to take control away from the players and to officiate by dictatorial fiat. The red carding two American players who did not deserve it destroyed the game, and (unintentionally, I am sure) ensured that Italy would win.

Garces ignored several obvious penalties against Italy that were as serious as those he dismembered the USA for, and ignored Italy’s negative play.

Something should be done by the IRB about a referee that does this. It was a horrible shame to see such a game destroyed by one man. Everyone else in that stadium had paid good money, or worked enormously hard, to be there. Referee Jerome Garces was supposed to help make it all worthwhile. Instead, he took what could have been a thrilling finish, wrapped it in red wrapping paper, and threw it away.

Written by Alex Goff    Friday, 01 June 2012 06:11    PDF Print Write e-mail
GoffonRugby: Who Wins the CRC
Columns - Goff on Rugby

Is this where we say "we're all winners!"

You know I won't do that.

I hope.

GoffonRugbyOK, after all the previews, talk, profiles, articles about bands, articles about friends, articles about launch parties … it’s here.

The USA 7s Collegiate Rugby Championship will kick off Saturday morning in front of thousands of fans at PPL Park in Philadelphia, and on NBC. The tournament itself has been debated hotly, as some would argue it doesn’t represent the best group of college 7s teams in the nation.

Most likely true – some very strong 7s teams have not been invited simply because they can’t be guaranteed to bring fans to the event – USA 7s (which owns RUGBYMag) is a business, after all. But consider also that USA Rugby’s fledgling national championship last fall didn’t have all the best teams, too.

The big connection for all of these is Life University. Life won USA Rugby’s championship. The Running Eagles then went on to win the Las Vegas Invitational Qualifier. The school, little-known in sports circles outside of rugby, has a huge chance to get known by competing in the CRC, and will do so to the best of their ability. They have an outstanding program, exciting, talented players, and a well-spoken, intelligent coaching staff.

Can they win it all? You bet they can. They have speed (Darrian Woodson), kicking skills (Joe Cowley), shiftiness (Colton Cariaga), defense (Paul Bester), and power (Cameron Dolan). A terrific combination.

We figure Penn State to be improved over last year and a tough team, but Life should win Pool A.

But is it time to crown Life champions right now? Certainly not. They are beatable.

In Pool B you probably have the most competitive pool, top to bottom. Every team in the group is quite strong, and the two best, Dartmouth and Delaware, are really, really good. Delaware has players like Chris Mullen, Pat Mullarkey, Pat Goldring, and Jimmy Kowalski. They can run, they can play good team defense, and they can hit. This is a superb chance for the country to see what Delaware rugby is all about.

But I like Dartmouth for this pool. I think they learned how to win last year – eking out a couple of victories early. They have complete buy-in by the players. With Paul Jarvis and Nate Brakeley in the forwards Dartmouth is a possession machine. In the backs, Derek Fish and Madison Hughes form a ghost-like combination. You think you have them, then you don’t. They’ve also got a couple of secret weapons, as they did last year. Head Coach Alex Magleby, who is as tactically astute as any coach in the game, is also happy to recruit from other sports. Pat Flynn was a varsity lacrosse player for Dartmouth. David Turnbull was, until recently, an outfielder for their baseball team.

Do you know what they will do? No. But that’s part of the attraction.

In Pool C, Arizona really, really wants this. The Wildcats felt they had a great shot to win it last year, and faltered at just the wrong moment. Peter Tiberio returns to the team after training with the Olympic program (commenters who complain that somehow Tiberio is a pro ringer might do well to look at all the other Olympians who return to their colleges to compete in varsity athletics). He’s not the only player on the squad. We really like Cody Naber and playmaker Kyle Thompson. And Brett Thompson is a force ready to really explode.

Look also at their coaching staff. Dave Sitton, Emil Signes and Chris Kron is a trio that has this team covered emotionally, technically, and tactically.

The other teams in this pool – NC State, Texas, Oklahoma – have great ability, but Arizona seems to have just a little bit more.

And in Pool D, remember that Army made the final last year. The Notre Dame Fighting Irish, who have some Eagle coaching and crossover talent of their own, have been in town all week. Navy, led by Seamus Seifring and Jack McAuliffe, could run the table if things run right for them. But … well there’s Cal. Cal this year is not the all-conquering powerhouse we have come to expect. They are very young, and with them not playing a championship season, they flew a little off the radar screen. But here’s the thing, forget about Seamus Kelly and Danny Barrett, blah blah blah, we’ve heard it before how good they are. The supporting cast, if you want to call it that, is very strong.

Jake Anderson, a big, powerful young fullback in 15s, could be the breakout player of this tournament. Alex Aronson is a smart reader of the game, and Brad Harrington is a wall of power up front. Combine with this the fact that this IS Cal’s championship. They have been thinking CRC since mid-April. They have been training CRC since mid-April.

A year ago, the team seemed cooked after a long season that culminated in a D1-A championship. This year, if you get to go into their locker room or see them before the tournament, you will see a team that is hungry. Very hungry.

So that leaves us with this in the quarterfinals
Life v. Delaware
Dartmouth v. somebody (probably Penn State but maybe Wisconsin or Temple)
Arizona v. somebody (we think it might be Navy, but could be Army or Notre Dame)
Cal v. somebody (can’t pick from NC State, Texas or the Sooners).

If our picks hold on, it looks then like Life v. Arizona (!) and Cal v. Dartmouth (!).

NBC will love that. In the end I think I like Dartmouth for this again, but it really could be any of these.

Dark Horse has to be Delaware, with Navy a close second.

Challenge winner? Either Army or Navy will be relegated to the Challenger bracket, and which team is, then I pick them.

Or Notre Dame.

Hmm … this was harder than I thought.

Written by Alex Goff    Sunday, 27 May 2012 23:59    PDF Print Write e-mail
GoffonRugby: Rugby is About Inclusion
Columns - Goff on Rugby

Have you ever noticed that playing regulations seem to always be geared toward NOT letting players play?

Written by Alex Goff    Sunday, 27 May 2012 23:59    PDF Print Write e-mail
GoffonRugby: Rugby is About Inclusion
Columns - Goff on Rugby

Have you ever noticed that playing regulations seem to always be geared toward NOT letting players play?


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