Monday Morning Rugby Debate – Referees – by Ben Cross

Three games this weekend were hugely impacted by yellow cards. Sale v Exeter on Friday night saw Henry Thomas sin-binned after 55 minutes with Sale leading 20-10. Exeter went on to win the match 23-30. On Saturday night Munster v Edinburgh saw a double sin-binning on 54 and 58 minutes leaving Edinburgh down to 13 men before finally losing the match 34-17, a late consolation perhaps flattering the visitors. Harlequins v Newcastle again saw a side down to 13 with yellow cards brandished on 48 and 54 minutes. Is it perhaps time to introduce the report system a la Rugby League in Rugby Union for certain offences? Chris Pilgrim for example was sin-binned for not using his arms in a tackle. From a betting perspective it can either go against you or for you. Exeter handicap backers on Friday night would have been thrilled to see the result but would also have to realise that they had got away with one. You can understand the frustrations of Directors of Rugby when, clearly, cards have such a bearing on the outcome of matches.

Don’t even get me started on Sam Warburton’s red card.

Referees also have an impact on the length of time that the ball is in play.  Scrum time is often what puts the interested observer off watching a game of Rugby Union.  The laws are complicated and despite the introduction of crouch, touch, pause, engage, scrums are still prone to collapse with either a reset, a penalty or a free kick for delaying the put in.  The length of time the ball is in play is crucial to points betting and also to the number of penalties sides give away at the scrum.  High penalty counts against a side break up any kind of forward momentum and also allow the opposition to keep the scoreboard ticking over.  The best referees are the ones who you wouldn’t necessarily be able to name after a match, have made no contentious decisions, and used cards as a last resort.

Keeping a good database of a referee’s penalties awarded and cards brandished is crucial when looking to get involved in matches on over/under and handicap betting.  In the words of Benjamin Franklin,”By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”  Odds compilers will have extensive databases at their disposal covering all manner of information so any small advantage we can find must be taken.

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