View Full Version : Digging
Players on both teams were unhappy with my management at the breakdown (ruck/tackle) this weekend. It was a scrappy game in wet and windy conditions with a lot of slow ball.
Basically, I was giving quite a few penalties for hands in the ruck. As a general rule I will not allow hands while there is a contest for the ball in progress. Only when possession has been won (with the ball in the vicinity of the back foot) will I allow it to be played. Any blatant "digging" got pinged. The fact that both sets of players were moaning suggests that I may have been overzealous.
Any advice on rights and wrongs and how I can manage this better would be appreciated.
At any point would a card have been appropriate, especially if it was the same offence being comitted again and again.
If I get the same offence twice in a short period of time- quick chat with both captains- along the lines of "dont let this kill the game, you have been warned, talk to your teams".
If it happens again quickly, YC. Problems then tend to go away most of the time.
You are right to prevent hands the ruck when the ball has not been won, though you may want to look at how near the back foot and and how available the ball is - a little digging when the ball is a little trapped is Ok...
You may want to look at why the ball was getting stuck in the ruck in the first place.
Were players going to ground, forming a pile up? This is quite common at lower skill levels, and the result is a mess on the ground that helps no one, least of all you. If you get more than tackled player amd say 2 tacklers on the ground - eg you have 4 or more bodies on the floor you may be better to blow up quickly and award a scrum to the side going forward - unless the ball is clearly visible and will be rapidly available.
Is the tackled player holding on? This offence is increasing following the greater latitude allowed to other players to get and retain hands on. You need to be at the breakdown as it happens to judge this, and I would suggest you penalise it immediately rather than wait for an advantage to develop. At this level it almost certainly won't and you will get huge aggaravation if you allow too much scrapping time on the floor.
Is the tackler rolling away? Again you need to be there to judge, and again, at this level, I would suggest a quick blow and penalise it, before some one takes the Law into their own hands, or should that be feet?
But whichever, don't allow a scrabble for possession on the floor, keep it short, and if the ball isn't coming out in fairly short order blow up for one of the reasons above.
Sportsref - it's a tricky one.
The solution, get the tackler away or ping him for slowing it down. Why is the ball not available ? it's either a defender in the way or attacking poor play. If the former be harsh and get rid of them. If the later, I rarely see someone dig for the ball unless they have 'won' it in the ruck to start with. SH's generally won't put their hands if opponents can legally stand on them. At lower levels, slow rucks are a normal occurance so some form of digging will happen. I think you need to look at what you are calling a 'contest'. If you have a tackled player horizontally across the pitch with the ball placed a foot behind him and players on top or around him, it is unlikely the defenders are going to win that ball legally. They can slow it down yes, but if its slow ball already, you maybe should let him get it out. If not blow for a scum. Are you calling 'hands out' or 'ruck' ? 'Ruck' these days is easier.
Most important thing though is be consistent and fair to both sides. Fair might mean the side with better backs and smaller forwards need longer to get the ball back though. You have to weigh these things up.
Last thing though is you should try not to give the side who have done nothing a penalty for a technical offence. That does upset people.
Yes, this was an U16 game and skill/ experience levels were not high. In senior games, I find that the team not in possession will more often not commit players at the tackle, particularly if gate is narrow. Players will line up defensively, there are fewer rucks and tackle zone is less congested. Experienced players tend to protect the gain line rather than risk a penalty, choosing turnover opportunities more carefully. In this respect, I think higher level games are easier to control. Thank you for the excellent comments. I am probably at fault in at least two respects. Firstly, in allowing rucks to continue for too long when situation is "messy". I will try to curtail sooner with scrum. Secondly, I may be penalizing poor attacking play a little unfairly. I am doing U17's this weekend and will experiment by allowing more latitude with hands in ruck. I guarantee this will result in me coping it from the "experts" gobbing off from the touchline but hopefully I can assist a better game than last week. Thanks again.
I recommend that you stick with your lack of tolerance regarding hands in the ruck but the advice to call a scrum early is excellent. As you are doing junior matches it is a very good idea to get them used to providing fast, clean ball and staying on their feet. There is a risk that you will be sucked in too close to a ruck situation if there is a lot going on which will reduce your field of vision.
If you do not already include it in your briefing make sure that both captains are aware that you want the players on their feet at breakdown time or you may have to restart on safety grounds. In junior games the coaches will usually be hovering so they should get the message as well.
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