I’m in the mood for a rant with the nonsense that’s going on in our parliament today.

I’ve been feeling a bit disillusioned with some who follow the game of rugby union. A game where good play is applauded no matter who is on the end of it.

One of my biggest bug bears is the attitude towards teams who are successful, this mostly happens on social media but it’s creeping into the stands too.

For years we’ve had the mantra that Saracens play boring rugby and now it’s the turn of Exeter Chiefs. A few basic facts, rugby union is a game played by 15 men/women, within that 15 are Forwards and Backs. The aim of the game is to score tries at 5 points and with bonus points for scoring 4 or more in a game they’re the most valuable points in a match.

There are several ways to score those 5 points, with 15 in opposition, space on the pitch is often hard to find, this can be where the forwards come in to play. They’ll bring opposition players into rucks and mauls with one aim being to create space for their ‘running’ backs. At times the person storming up the pitch will be one of the ever more mobile forwards too.

However when we look at the overall Top Try Scorers in Premiership Rugby it’s Backs we see – Tom Varndell – 92, Mark Cueto – 90 and Christian Wade – 82. The list for those season is similarly populated with Backs – Charlie Sharples – 9, Jonny May – 9, Alex Lewington – 7, Josh Bassett – 6, Nathan Earle – 6, Joe Marchant – 6 along with a fair few other Backs on 6 and Matt Kvesic and Harry Thacker, both Forwards, with them.

As far as the teams go this season the list is as follows –

  1. Exeter Chiefs – 50
  2. Saracens – 44
  3. Harlequins – 33
  4. Gloucester – 36
  5. Sale Sharks – 25
  6. Wasps – 31
  7. Leicester – 31
  8. Bath – 28
  9. Northampton 33

The 2 teams at the top of the table are ahead of the rest on both tries scored and points, by some distance. There is no stat, without going through try scorers names for every match, to see which part of the team scored the 50 tries on the board for Chiefs or the 44 scored by Saracens.

But, one thing for sure is that of the 311 tries scored by the 9 teams above many of them will have been scored by a member of the forward pack as their team mates roll en masse over the line. None of those points scored are ever listed as boring points, they are very often winning points. A rolling maul is something that’s worked on for hours on end in training, it’s a skill of this game. I suspect those that shout boring never do so when it’s their team dotting the ball down.

In fact I was incredibly disappointed at the game between Saracens Women and Harlequins at the weekend, when a Quins fan next to me literally moaned at every single thing the home team did, including the way they scored their ‘Forwards’ try. In spite of the fact his team had just scored in pretty much the same way. Luckily I was able to move away to avoid exchanging a few words.

I also watch rugby league, a game with fewer on the pitch, the dark arts of a forward pack aren’t part of the game, you’ll see running rugby galore as virtually to a man, players are capable of making use of the extra space. Time to stop the calls of ‘boring’ albeit online or at a match, introduce yourself to the great game that is rugby league if you don’t like strong forwards play. Winning is NEVER Boring!

4 Comments »

  1. Having spent spent 17 years playing as a lose head at a reasonable standard, I have never considered a rolling maul try boring, or a hard worked, double-figure phase, pick and go score dull. One of the great aspects of the game is the variety – the flowing play, fast passing, super-agile breaks based plays are a counterpoint to the gritty, hard-yards based grind up the middle. I love watching Exeter playing gutsy, hard rugby as I like watching Saracens cutting a team to ribbons with their disciplined, well drilled style (as long as it’s not Exeter!). I don’t remember the teams who beat Exeter (rare as it thankfully is) talking about boring play as the celebrate…

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  2. To respond to Marcus as I reached the age of 40 and my best days were behind me having payed in back 5 of the forward pack virtually all my career (yes i am also completely clueless about what went on with you very low numbers apart from international class props yelling at me to keep their arses stable, they were the ones with the caps not me) The most satisfying rugby try ever scored was a rolling maul from the halfway line in a second team game between two team you have never heard of and started withthe word Old. I think we were “Old Pistogainians” Our backs were being dismembered by a newly appointed vet (early mid 30s probably played 12 in their first team usually and was trying out at 10 and was too good for all on show except maybe me 10 years earlier and several yards quicker.) Even the standard Bramley Road tactic of hit him so late once he will think you were marginally early for next week had failed so to stay in the game I suggested to our Captain that the only chance we had was to get the ball and keep the ball. I distinctly remember our 2 young flankers (playing left and right but in todays parlance what we would call total 7s looking into the huddle thinking this is madness. we are gong to get our arms ripped off and reinserted where the sun does not shine.) We rolled our maul conservatively for well over 200 yards that day with a mixture of good old fashioned disciplined mauling, dragging their increasingly frustrated back row offside and nullifying afore mentioned Barry John hologram to the extent that after out third rolling maul try he mockingly suggested to me that he may as well go and get his deckchair. All 30 players agreed afterwards that it was an absolute triumph of the game of rugby as our bludgeon battled against their rapier. the match fortuitously had a much higher grade referee than could normally have been expected to an admin error by the referees society and the ref also commented he had never had so much fun on a rugby field in his life. Not one punch, not one dirty trick went unpunished and a group of boys became a team of men. final Score us thirty something them thirty something but nobody really cared. Their Barry John type held court on the trickery of the arts of 10 and one old wag knew me from many years previous spilled the beans to their pack leader “He used to play for Saracens. Even in those days he knew exactly what to do just couldnt do it” led to one of the best 3 hour post match booze ups in the history of this long and wonderful game. Coarse rugby as it is sometmes called is still the bedrock of the modern game. Do i like it when Saracens are occasionally outmuscled up front (particularly when Kruis, Itoje and the two brothers are not playing.) of course not. Do I admire the opposition for spotting our weakness and exploiting it fully. Yes of Course i do. Saracens and England til I die but the game of Rugby is bigger than me, bigger than Saracens (just in our house) andbigger than England. We did all start playing this wonderful game for fun did we not?

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