ESPN SCRUM

/ Monday Maul

Monday Maul
That's all folks ...
Martin Williamson
June 2, 2014
Northampton pile over with the last play of the season and Dylan Hartley thinks they have scored ... and he was proved right some time later © Getty Images
Enlarge

Fitting finale
It was apt that a season dominated by frustration with the increasing use of the TMO finished with a wait of several minutes before the man upstairs gave Northampton the Premiership crown. To be fair, in this instance the referee could not have made the call, and the TMO got the decision right and could be forgiven for taking his time. It also provided excruciating drama inside the packed Twickenham with, depending on replay angles being shown on the big screens, both sets of fans in turn deciding the evidence, or lack of, backed their claims. But that overshadowed two earlier controversial rulings on forward passes, and the authorities need to address this urgently in the close season if games are not to become even more stop-start. The three officials have to make calls on the field other than the killer moments, such as the last try on Saturday. Mistakes will be made, but then again many believe mistakes are made even with the benefit of replays.

About turn …
Bernard Laporte on Wilkinson - "I had hated him, feared him, detested him, before I came to adore him. How can one resist the charm of such a man?" Presumably the sudden change of heart from the former national coach of France came in 2011 … coincidentally, the same time he took over as coach of Toulon.

A dejected Brad Barritt , Saracens v Northampton Saints, Aviva Premiership final, Twickenham, May 31, 2014
So near and yet ... © Getty Images
Enlarge

Pointless scrums
For all the bold talk at the start of the season about restoring the importance of scrums by insisting on proper feeds, within weeks referees seem to have collectively decided they either did not like the new instructions or that it was a rule which was not important. Some of the put-ins at the weekend were so crooked they almost passed the front row and went straight to the locks. Several of them were with the referees crouched down next to the offending scrum halves. Without wishing to come over all Brian Moore, scrums are a cornerstone of the game and if conducted as they are meant to be, hooking one of the sport's real arts. If the authorities are serious about straight put-ins, then they have to demand referees enforce them. If they are not, tell us all and be done with it.

Expensive failure?
The one remaining domestic issue will be settled on Wednesday when Bristol entertain London Welsh in the second leg of the Championship play-off. To the surprise of many - ESPNscrum included - Bristol were thumped in the first leg and have to overturn a 19-point deficit and the loss of their inspirational captain Ryan Jones. They have a partisan sell-out crowd to back them - they were far more in evidence than home fans at the Kassam Stadium as well - but Bristol coach Andy Robinson will be a worried man. The club has spent heavily in the expectation they will gain promotion and if they miss out heads will roll. And if they do, next season will be no cakewalk either and will almost certainly be a shoot-out with relegated Worcester Warriors, another side prepared to splash out to bounce straight back.

Bowing out
While most papers on Sunday took time out to pay tribute to Jonny Wilkinson after a typically impressive final appearance which helped Toulon to their second trophy in a week, others took leave of the game in different ways. Steve Borthwick, a real stalwart, bowed out with defeat in a final for the second successive week, and although Brian O'Driscoll hung up his boots with victory in Leinster's RaboDirect Pro12 final his own involvement ended in injury after eight minutes. Still, he looked delighted in the post-match celebrations. Perhaps the hardest way to leave was suffered by those who never got on the pitch at all. So spare a thought for South Africa's Danie Rossouw, a man who has won almost everything from the World Cup down. He sat on the bench during Toulon's win and was not even given a final moment or two once his side were safe.

The other football
One of the least edifying sights of the Top 14 final was that of the Castres players chasing down the referee waving imaginary cards to try to convince/cajole him into sin-binning an opponent. Coming on the back of Brian Habana's pathetic 'dive' in the Heineken Cup final, there is a worrying trend for rugby's professionals to look to their footballing counterparts for lessons on how to behave. The chirping at referees has grown worse this season, for sure. Perhaps it is the endless sniping at them by critics, perhaps it is TV, perhaps it is the increasing tendency for coaches to come over all Premier League and seek to blame referees as a default excuse for defeat . But whatever it is, rugby needs to get behind officials and adopt a zero tolerance approach to dubious behaviour for 2014-15.

Restoring pride
The reputation of the Barbarians has been tarnished in the last few years. Some very average performances, suggestions some of those turning out for them are more interested in the social aspect of the side than the rugby, and their role in a packed schedule caused some to start asking if they had become an anachronism. Dean Ryan, who coached their side on Sunday, said one of his main aims was to restore that image, and full credit to him and his charges for doing just that in an entertaining game. That around 38,000 turned out at the end of a long season, against an England D XV, and the day after another major match at Twickenham shows the Barbarians still have a place in the public's affection. They just have to make sure those honoured by being picked to play for them get the on-field/off-field balance right. As Ryan did.

Jonny Wilkinson prepares for one of the last kicks of his remarkable career © Getty Images
Enlarge
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd
Managing Editor, ESPN EMEA Digital Media

Live Sports

Communication error please reload the page.

  • Latest
  • Most Viewed
  • News
  • Features
  • Rugby

    George North knocked out during Saints win

    Northampton star George North was knocked unconscious after scoring two tries during the Saints' 52-30 Aviva Premiership victory over London Wasps on Friday

  • Football

    Russia goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev hit by flare

    Russia's match at Montenegro was temporarily suspended shortly after kick-off when Russian goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev appeared to be struck by a flare fired from the stands

  • Golf

    Fleetwood in Masters contention as Sullivan misses out

    George Coetzee and Tommy Fleetwood remained in contention to secure a place in the Masters as Andy Sullivan, Alexander Levy, Marcel Siem and Ross Fisher all missed out in Morocco

  • Tennis

    Murray cruises into Miami Open third round

    Andy Murray made a solid start in his quest for a third Miami Open title as he dispatched Donald Young to reach the third round in Florida

  • Football

    Kevin De Bruyne would consider Chelsea return

    Kevin De Bruyne would consider a move back to Chelsea despite barely featuring in his time at Stamford Bridge, sources told ESPN

  • Formula One

    Tough at the top

    Who has driven in the most GPs before taking pole position?

  • Formula 1

    F1 cost cutting: Not putting money where the mouth is

    Mudslinging and an agreement on something that will never happen, it's all in a day's work for a Formula One boss, as Maurice Hamilton explains...

  • Rugby

    Unsavoury sledging did not end with Potgieter

    Fallout continues from the NSW-Brumbies derby, with one Tahs forward - not Potgieter - surprised by other unsavoury comments during the game, Greg Growden reports

  • Rugby

    Super Rugby preview, team news, line-ups: Round 7

    Greg Growden previews Super Rugby round 7. We've also got key stats, team news and all the line-ups to inform your ESPN Footytips Super Rugby picks

  • Formula 1

    Storm clouds gather in Malaysia

    Will Mercedes dominate again? Can anybody catch up with the help of a rainstorm? And will the Red Bull/Renault relationship tear itself apart? All those questions and more will be answered at this weekend's Malaysian Grand Prix

  • News
  • Features
  • Inside Boxing

    'I've sparred with Klitschko and Fury - now I want Joshua'

    Unbeaten heavyweight Dillian Whyte, 28, (14-0, 11 KOs) tells ESPN where his rivalry with Anthony Joshua stems from and outlines the plan for his career this year after returning from a doping ban in November

  • UFC

    Top 10 best UFC fighters of all time

    Some of the best fighters to ever glove up have plied their trade in the Octagon - now ESPN list the 10 best who have fought under the UFC banner

  • Ask Steven

    Home front

    Who was the first Briton to win the British Grand Prix?

  • Ask Steven

    Pointless drivers

    Where does Anthony Davidson's record of 24 Grands Prix without a point rank him?

  • Ask Steven

    Home favourites

    How many F1 drivers have had one win, but done it at their home Grand Prix?

Sponsored Links

Make Huge Income from your Home
Download your Free Guide And Learn How To Increase Your Monthly Income