Vidyartha’s staggering 210 to nil win over St. John’s is still talked about

“Referee abandons rugby match before a ball was kicked”. This was news in South Africa around August last year. The referee took the decision because the hosting club did not supply the required safety equipment and medical personnel for the match. The visiting team who had driven more than two hours to fulfill the fixture - backed the referee's decision. The official thinking was "No one wants to see rugby matches being called off and players missing out on their pleasure and enjoyment in the game. But if minimum medical support standards cannot be met for managing a potential catastrophic injury, then so be it.

Imagine this happening in Sri Lanka whatever the decision: would have been the referees fault whether he called off the game or not. The recent match between Vidyartha and St. John’s has been the talking point with a huge score that was never heard of: A staggering 210 points to nil. Having seen the match on video it was obvious that there was no attempt at all by St. John’s to make a match of it. The impression I had was that this was an attempt to mark their presence. Fulfilling the requirement and are in no way breaking a tournament rule such as giving a walkover and being relegated.

Having seen St John’s play on two occasions I cannot believe that this dismal performance was not a planned one. If so the question is by whom. It was apparent that they knew what they were doing as they played with a full team up to the end of the first half. Possibly they knew well that if they played a full half and the match is abandoned their opponents will be awarded the match. The many make believe tackles and imaginary runs following the opponents who scored at will surely was not their best planned performance. The next phase of the plan as I saw it started after the second half when they played with 13 players. This went on till around the 60 minutes when there was only five on the field. It was a confused referee who may have been wondering what next as I do not see anything of this nature in the laws or regulations to handle a situation such as this. The requirement is not to ask why the referee did not stop the game and to justify the reasons that will blame the referee. That is very childish as it is ignoring the bigger picture.

Action at the Royal Vs St.Peter’s match played recently.

As the game was barely twenty minutes old the score was 67 points to nil. What I see here is precedence for somebody else to keep walking out if you know that you are losing. The match will be abandoned with no result as the game has not been completed at least the first half. This can also lead to a situation where a team can deny victory to another by getting a match abandoned. Therefore there is a need to look at the bigger picture and punish those responsible which may even include relegation. The way decisions have been taken, it is the winning team that is punished and the referee is blamed while the main issue remains unchecked.

Elsewhere the abandoned MILO Trophy semi final that was played on 14th July 2010 between Isipathana and St. Peter’s College continues in the District Court of Colombo. This match was abandoned in the first half and the school section decided to continue the match on another day starting from the point where the match was stopped. Twenty members of the Isipathana rugby team challenged this decision and obtained an interim order. The court has now confirmed the order and has fixed the date for further inquiry on October 7. The reason given is that the game was not stopped due to the fault of the players but due to the unruly behavior of the spectators. It was further stated that the organizers should take steps to prevent this type of situation in the future.

Of course the players did not do anything to stop the match and from that point they should not be penalized. The order also states that it does not bar the playing of the semi-final if it is started as a fresh match. It is over a year and most schoolboys of the teams will not be there as they have passed their school life. If the semi-final is played, who will be there for the final?

The case and the decision may be thought of as academic interest as far as playing the semi-final and completing the Milo trophy. Both this issue need much closer scrutiny and has to be addressed as the effect is not only on school rugby but in the game as a whole. There is a need for the governing body and the schools to sit and discuss to tie up any loose ends before the next season commences. These issues are not “schools only” but encompasses the whole game.

Vimal Perera is a former Rugby Referee, coach and Accredited Referees Evaluator IRB

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