Wednesday, 6 May 2009

Fuss about nothing

There's been a huge amount of flak heading the way of the ERC this week after the Heineken Cup semi final between Leicester and Cardiff was decided by a penalty shoot out.

The words "unfair," "lottery," "humiliating" and "cruel" have been bandied about as commentators have jumped on the bandwagon to condemn this means of settling matches where teams cannot be separated after extra time.

The argument appears to be that it's unreasonable to expect a game to be decided by players having to perform a skill that is alien to many of them and that it's particularly unfair to expect forwards to convert a kick from 22 metres out in front of the posts.

Do me a favour! Anyone with a modicum of co-ordination should surely be able to make a decent fist (or foot) of taking a straightforward kick at goal. And we all know anyway that forwards all like to think they can kick a bit and love to have a sneaky practice in training.

All a shoot-out does is test whether players can handle a pressure situation and, ultimately, someone has to miss. There has been an enormous outpouring of sympathy for Cardiff's Martyn Williams who missed the crucial kick and, while I'm not entirely unsympathetic to his plight, he's a big boy who I'm sure will get over it. Who knows, he may even land himself a pizza ad as a result. If anything, it was disappointing that we didn't get to see Gethin Jenkins take on Julian White in a head-to- head Prop Idol kicking duel.

Of course, the whole argument is pretty much academic as how often have we seen major matches finish level at full time, let alone after extra time. OK, a couple of World Cup Finals have come close, admittedly, but the scoring system in rugby means that it's highly unlikely that we're going to see this happen on a regular basis.

And if we do, I say bring on the props!


Nursedude said...

At a certain point, you have to look at the health and safety of the players, some of whom played 100 minutes in this amazing game. Truth be told, Leicester were the better team, and they dominated play in overtime. It's too bad it came down to Martyn Williams-a great player-who missed his chance.

I don't think there is a solution that will please everybody...why not just salute two teams who played a helluva match and left their guts on the pitch in Cardiff.

Stephen said...

From the outset, one has to agree on two points: 1) Leicester were for 70 mins the better team and 2) both teams played a very good game.

I think that asking any of the forwards (or indeed any player) to start to kick place kicks to decide the game when it is not something that they regularly do and they have had a bruising 100 mins is a bit much. TF you mention that it is not unfair to ask someone to kick from in front of the posts. However, I wonder how many forwards could make the kick under normal conditions, much less after being beaten silly for almost 2 hours. After you get past the first 5, it really does become a crap shoot.

Shanklin had an interesting suggestion: decide based on the discipline of the teams if tied after extra time and tied on trys. This gives incentive for better play...

One2Fifteen said...

I love the way that everyone assumes that forwards, by the very fact that they are forwards, can not kick a ball.

Does anyone remember John Eales. I say it would be unfair for me to be pitted against him in a shootout from any range, and I'm a back who has done his fair share of kicking.

In football (soccer depending where you are!) teams will practice penalty shootouts in the run up to a match during which the need might arise.

Yes it may not be a common occurrence in rugby, but it wasn't sprung upon the players at the end of the game. The referee didn't turn around on a whim and decide to torture the players with a new idea.

The rules, right or wrong, were there for all to know prior to the first whistle. The fact that neither coaches felt it necessary to prepare for the eventuality is not the fault of the governing body.

Leg Break said...

I say throw away the ball.

And get rid of the backs.

Pack down a scrum on halfway and whover shunts the other side to the goal-line wins.

So simple.

Pablo said...

The problem with the penalty shootout in rugby is that it places an undue emphasis on just one of the many skills that a team must collectively posess in order to be successful - and a fairly marginal skill at that, as it is incumbent on every player to know how to pass, catch, tackle, etc., but even the very best teams usually have only two or three place kickers.

A better (and more entertaining!) solution would be, at the end of normal extra time, take five players off each team and play tens until somebody scores. By that stage, the players are so tired, the extra space would generate a score very quickly indeed. You could even go to a further extreme, and say that if there's no score after 10 minutes, take off three more players and play sevens... And then the match would at least be decided by playing rugby, not just place kicking.

This roughly replicates what the NHL used to do in the regular season prior to their introduction of a shoot-out - over time was 4-on-4, instead of the regualr 5-on-5, and the extra room available made a goal much more likely.

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