Video and Analysis from Paddy Mac (aka Patrick McNally, National 7’s Manager)
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Trends in 7’s with match analysis from HongKong 7’s
Please keep in my mind that these clips represent Sevens played at the highest level of skill and speed. Referees at this level do not have the time to go through checklists and ponder the possibilities, but rather focus on “pictures” in their mind, and then apply them to situations they experience out on the pitch. Coaches and players at this level are always pushing the envelope, trying to find that extra edge that will bring them victory. It is our job to see that they remain within the law, while allowing them the freedom to innovate and stretch those boundaries..
The first RTS summary will be from the latest Tokyo 7s (March 21-22, 2014).
TACKLE NO RUCK
The first 5 clips reflect a recent trend that involves the tackler immediately getting to his feet, and going directly for the ball. Since most international Sevens teams do not commit a second defender to the breakdown, there is usually no ruck formed. It can look odd on the pitch, so by reviewing video clips, referees can recognize what is within the law, and get the mental picture they need on the pitch. To avoid being penalized, the tackler must get up immediately and go directly for the ball. If said tackler gets to the ball before a ruck forms, they are still within the law.
1. 0:00 Australia v Argentina – Australia #2 (tackler) gets to his feet immediately and poaches the ball. There is no ruck (Australia commits no one else to the breakdown).
2. 0:11 England v Argentina – Argentina #8 (tackler) gets to his feet immediately and poaches the ball. Again, no ruck has formed – play on.
3. 0:26 Australia v Spain – Spain #10 (tackler) gets to his feet immediately and attempts to poach the ball. In this case, the referee has determined that a ruck has formed (Gold #8 and Red #12) before Red #10 got to the ball, therefore hands in the ruck.
4. 0:40 South Africa v Kenya – South Africa # 5 (tackler) gets to his feet immediately and attempts to poach the ball. However, Red #2 and Green #10 have formed a ruck over the ball first.
5. 0:52 Australia v South Africa – In this case South Africa #3 remains on his feet (not a tackler), and is a tackler assist and must enter through the gate.
COLLAPSING THE RUCK
The next 5 clips show the trend of attacking teams collapsing the ruck, which is illegal – Law 16.3 (c). In these clips the arriving defending player comes through the gate and remains on his feet while attempting to grab the ball. The arriving attacking player then leaves his feet and pulls or rolls said defending player to the ground, thereby collapsing the ruck. This created controversy with some of the Sevens coaches who see it as a conventional, legal tactic that is widespread in fifteens, so why not Sevens? At this time, the Sevens coaches conceded that referees should penalize attacking players that pull or roll defending players by the head or neck, as this is clearly dangerous/foul play. However, until the iRB rewrites the law, or releases a definitive law clarification, we will allow Sevens players to roll defenders away from the ball at the ruck, as long as it is not by the head or neck. Referees should penalize attacking players that pull defenders directly down on top of the ball (killing the ball).
6. 1:08 France v Fiji – France #4 pulls Fiji #1 down at the ruck, by the neck. Dangerous play
7. 1:23 Fiji v Spain – Spain #11 pulls Fiji #10 by the neck down on top of the ball (not making it available). Collapsing the ruck
8. 1:36 Samoa v Kenya – Kenya #3 pulls Samoa #8 down on top of the ball (not making it available). Collapsing the ruck
9. 1:50 England v Portugal – Portugal #6 pulls England #8 down on top of the ball (not making it available). Collapsing the ruck
10. 2:03 Wales v Scotland – Scotland #4 pulls Wales #8 down on top of the ball (not making it available). Collapsing the ruck
PLAY IMMEDIATELY/DIRECTLY FOR THE BALL
The next 2 clips show players that put their hands on the ground past the ball, and then sweep their hands back to scoop up the ball. Defending players must go directly for the ball (play the ball immediately) or they are liable to penalty.
11. 2:21 Argentina v USA – USA #5 puts his hands on the ground past the ball, then attempts to sweep back and pick up the ball. Penalty kick (secondary signal – both hands pushing down)
12. 2:35 Fiji v USA – Fiji #4 puts his hands on the ground past the ball, then attempts to sweep back and pick up the ball. Penalty kick
The next 2 clips show arriving players at the tackle sealing off the ball and denying a contest for the ball. The current philosophy on the Sevens circuit is by always penalizing sealing off (whether or not the defense is contesting possession); it removes all doubt (when can I get away with it?) and prevents it from reoccurring in the game and tournament much quicker.
13. 2:48 England v Portugal – Portugal #6 arrives at the tackle and lies on top of the breakdown (not supporting his own weight and therefore off of his feet). Penalty kick
14. 2:58 Portugal v USA – USA #1 enters the breakdown angled down (airplanes landing) and on his hands and denies a fair contest for the ball. Penalty kick
The next 4 clips cover side entry at the maul. There had been a trend among the referees to focus too narrowly on the formation of the maul (announce it!) and the forward momentum of the maul. These clips were meant to reinforce the practice that referees need to also keep a wider perspective and monitor where arriving players are joining the maul, through the gate and not in from the side.
15. 3:07 Wales v Fiji – Fiji #5 side entry
16. 3:22 USA v Uruguay – USA #2 side entry
17. 3:36 USA v Uruguay – USA (far side from the camera) side entry
18. 3:53 Spain v Portugal – Portugal #9 side entry
The next 2 clips introduce a new tactic to counter mauls in Sevens, whereby the attacking team does not commit a second player. Remember, the definition of a maul is at least three players, all on their feet; the ball carrier and one player from each team. If the attacking team does not commit a second player (said player must be caught in or bound to the maul, simple contact is not enough), then it is open play.
19. 4:07 Argentina v USA – Argentina players decide not to join the maul and the ball remains in open play. The ball is held up and becomes unplayable, scrum awarded.
20. 4:31 Canada v Argentina – In this instance, Argentina thinks about not joining the maul. However, Argentina #10 does bind to the group, and although he quickly breaks off, this does not end the maul. A maul only ends when (1) the maul goes to ground and becomes unplayable, (2), the ball makes it to the ground, (3) ball carrier breaks away, or (4) the referee blows his whistle for an infringement. Once a third player binds on to the ball carrier and an opponent (all on their feet), not matter how briefly; by law it is now a maul.
The purpose of these Referee Technical Sessions is to keep up with the latest trends and better serve our Sevens players and coaches. It is not enough to penalize something on the pitch because it looks strange, or you have not seen it before. It must contravene law or be dangerous to the safety of the players. Always be a student of the game and keep the little gray cells working.