Further thoughts on my first game under the ELVs last week...
As previously mentioned, the ref handed out an A4 sheet of paper before the game containing a summary of the new laws which almost no one read. From a personal perspective I took the view that there was little point working out what the new laws were seeing as the laws I played by last season were those last in force in 1994.
As to the game itself, as far as I could make out the new laws had no major impact. The facts show that we lost by 2 tries to 1 (although we won't get into why we didn't score 2), compared with 4 tries to 2 in the corresponding fixture last season - but, as ever, bare statistics don't tell the whole story.
The extra five metres at the scrum proved useless to us as inevitably we were in reverse gear at this phase and, despite their control at the scrum, the opposition didn't really ever get to exploit the apparent extra space - so the jury's still out on that one. And, although we did benefit from one kick straight into touch from the oppo's 22, the new law preventing the pass back into the 22 didn't seem to have much of an impact either - although it's impossible to say whether a punt straight down the middle was part of a tactical masterplan or just the usual case of a hopelessly inept and wayward attempt to kick for touch.
So, no major impact but - and I can't quite put my finger on why - the game did feel different somehow...there was just something just not quite right.
There was only one lineout drive for instance (immediately collapsed) which meant that the neither side established any control from this phase and that possession was flung out all too readily. That suited us - our lineout usually being a shambles - and defence from the lineout was therefore easy as we knew that the catch and drive wasn't an option for the opposition.
There was also total confusion at the breakdown where the referee found something different to penalise on almost every occasion. I know they've been told to clamp down but as a result the game rarely had any continuity (although given my state of exhaustion this might have been a good thing). I'd hate to think, however, what might have happened had he had the cop-out option of a free kick to award - the game would almost certainly have descended into an orgy of tap-and-go after each and every breakdown.
At the elite level it's widely reported that the quality of games in the English Premiership has fallen from the highs of last season with fewer try-scoring opportunities being created and more tactical kicking resulting in lower scoring games and less excitement which, some say, is reflected in lower attendances across the board.
It's too early to make such sweeping judgements in my view and I can't really comment having not seen a Premiership game live but, from a grassroots level, I'd say the signs aren't good - the game is looser and has a more hectic and chaotic feel to it, no doubt, but as to any improvement in standards or simplicity of understanding, I'd say the ELVs were a long way off achieving what they set out to.