Do the big always win at rugby? If there is a degree of brains and subtlety in the game it will not always be that the small stand defeated by the big. It would at most times be the smart beating the stupid.
Big Talk, Big Mouth and Big Attitude can never win a game nor provide the thrills that the spectator wants. The lack of subtle understanding, the attitude to the game and being less passionate is what makes the club game boring and less interesting. This leads to the question as to what is happening to a sport that had most appeal and was virtually a fashion parade. There was no excitement in the happenings on the field nor was there anybody that was parading to arouse interest and catch attention.
This was the CR and CH match which in the past would have been a show of glitter. There was little excitement in the two club games I watched this week in comparison to the school matches that continue to draw a larger portion of the crowds. I never saw the champion look of Kandy as they missed what were easy conversions and virtually threw the ball to the other side in a line out.
Action at the Thomian- Pete game
The first scrum in the S. Thomas’ – St. Peter’s match was after eleven minutes of play. Thomas’ opted to play with their forwards and keep the ball close and tight resulting in thunder like noises as the titans clashed. Peter’s on the other hand, like in the second half of the Royal match, did not have the space to make it their game and play it their way. The length of the ground looked a little less than seventy and there was a strong blowing to contend with : Peter’s it seemed were taken aback as Thomas’ used the space of the ground and the wind they were used to . It did not matter who won to a rugby follower. The ardent and emotionally tied old boy and parent would have wanted their schools to win but the heat of the game was such that it was the flowing rugby that was most enjoyed.
If St. Peter’s had only given out the ball a couple of times when there was definitely an overlap the score line may have been different.
On the other hand if Thomas’ too had only given out the ball, to the second center (Willawara) and beyond the few times they played wide, it may have been a different result. Leading 31 points to 16 at the 15th minute of the second half if S. Thomas’ had kicked the ball to the corners and sent the Peterites to their jail it would have been different.
The many ifs and buts are not what matter but rather it was the rugby that was enjoyed by all those who had time to be at the grounds in Mount Lavinia. It was a lot of determination that brought about a draw as Peter’s struck in the 23rd, 32nd and 40th minute to level scores. The game, which had 68 stoppages including 8 scrum resets, is a tale by itself on how much the ball was in play.
Compare this to the club games and ask yourself why the indifference? It is the skilled players that move out of the schools. But are they passionate enough to make that difference. At school they have the feeling, the importance and the sense of belonging. Players of Kandy, CR, Havelocks CH and Police; Champion teams at different times, did have the same feeling when they reached heights of greatness. Why is it that they do not have the same feeling now? Possibly it is the mercenary attitude of some who wait to see what the next move is. They wait to get their money, the incentive and the bonus which they need to play. So why do more and more run the risk of injury and being away from matches? At school I believe this is different, though there are imports. Yet imports are not incentivized per match. You come to a school to look at your game and your future so you perform to keep to the expectations of those that brought you there.
If this trend continues it will not be long before one may find only the diehard club supporter who will be at matches. As we continue to give excuses the spectator comes, taking time off other events that compete. While he gets little from his choice, the whining and the blaming of officials continue.
It was also interesting to see tests being done by the school section to ensure that the game of rugby is kept clean. That it is clean of performance enhancing accusations which is commonly called taking drugs. There is a misapprehension that somebody is suspected of taking performance enhancers when a random sample is requested for further testing. A test and a request for a sample are not because a person is suspected but because he has been the choice of a random selection.
How it happens is that qualified officials, including doctors, attend to the routine matters. They get officials of each team to draw random numbers from the list of players. They are then taken in charge by qualified officials after the match and have to wait, in certain instances, for a considerable amount of time till they can give a sample for testing.
This is why the process is long and time consuming. Only subsequent testing by WADA approved institutions will tell you whether any sample is positive. A step in the right direction, because we hear of many things being said and so many accusations being leveled, some of which may be frivolous.
On the other hand if there has been any semblance of truth in these accusations such testing will deter anybody interested in venturing into short cuts for success.
Vimal Perera is a former Rugby Referee, coach and Accredited Referees Evaluator IRB