Fall 2018 Season Openers Weekend Review

This past weekend I think I saw most of us out there in some shape or form, so here is some feedback from around the State, the good, the bad and the ugly.

1: Referees are starting to really step up and look the part. Referees are also showing a marked interest in really wanting to get better. Keep it going gang, if we keep this momentum it won’t be long before we are the premiere Rugby Referee Society around the country.
2: Some great work was done this weekend by many of our CMO (Coaches of Match Officials). The most common factor pulling referees down is FITNESS. Its a big one really because if you can’t stay with the game, your arrival at the breakdown will be off, your entry and positioning to those breakdown will be off, this facilitates many other negative parts to the game, slow ball, off sides bla bla bla.
Remember, these players train a minimum of 4hrs per week for their game on Saturday. How much do you put in?
3: If you issued red cards, please go ahead an input that report in WTR (Whostheref). You will see next to your game will be a place you can input score, MR (match report) and you will see a little ‘+’ sign. Click it and it will ring up the red/yellow card report. You do not have to submit yellows, but it is super cool if you do. Reds is a MUST.
4: Remember, always look the part from the time you step out your vehicle till the time you get back in + please be at your venues at least 1hr before kick-off. Again, you know the teams are. We would all like it if your pregame did not interfere with the teams pre-game rituals (warm ups, jerseys, Captain/Coach chat etc). Try get your pre-game chat in before teams even get started with their warm-ups.
And as always HAVE FUN ūüôā
*** A congratulations to Bouké Ankone who blew a D1A game over the weekend. These games are usually reserved for B-panel or National Panel Referees. The referee fee is $150 for a game assigned at this level through USA Rugby. So agian, well done Bouké.
– Andre Bruwer, President of Ohio Rugby Referees Society

Breakdown: Poaching versus Hands-In


“At the breakdown, the first defender is on his feet, supporting his own body weight, and trying to jackal the ball from the tackled player. Then a ruck is formed. Is the first defender allowed to continue to poach the ball?

Is the defender infringing for hands in the ruck?

Or should the attacking player be penalized for not releasing the ball?

Andre’s Answer:

So let me start by saying, “great question”. You are 100% correct with your assessment¬†of the situation. The first arriving player, may legally attempt to gain possession¬†of the ball if 1) the ruck has not formed yet and 2) they did so by releasing the ball carrier and coming through the gate. NOW the ruck forms and you as the referee call “ruck formed, hands away.” If they have gained possession¬†of the ball they may continue to play it, however if they are still digging for the ball they must give up their efforts and get their hands out of there.¬†

This is super difficult to catch and it only comes with much practice. To catch this, it’s all about your positioning: you want to be back at a slight angle so you can see what is going on in the ruck. Too many of us are standing either next to the ruck or at the last man’s foot. Ask yourself, from where you are positioned, can you see hands in? All this happens really quick! Once the ruck is clearly¬†won and the ball is clearly in possession¬†of one team¬†or the other, you can now move your positioning in anticipation of the next phase of play. You don’t need to stay on top of the ruck any longer – now you want to watch for the offside¬†line.
Side notes on the ruck:
This is arguably the most controversial¬†part of the game (that, and apparently¬†we have made the high tackle the next…).
1) You want to be AT the break down. It happens fast so you really do need to be in shape so that you are right there when the tackle occurs.
2) Know the laws. A one man “ruck” only occurs at a tackle. You want to see a “clear” release. I always say, “show me your hands, I want to see your palms”. I know we all have our different strategies¬†here, but the bottom line is if its not “clear”, then that’s when the whistle¬†comes. Put the onus on the tackler to make sure the release is “clear”. Watch for side entry. When you call “ruck formed, hands away,” keep an eye on the action. Watch for players diving over the ruck and flooding the area for the approaching players from the other team. Watch for players going off their feet at the ruck in order to seal the ball (shoulders below the hips is a good tell). Rugby is a game played on your feet. If you are not on your feet, leave the ball alone. Again, be vigilant. If a player goes off his/her feet but quickly corrects it, you need to quickly evaluate if it negatively¬†effected play. If not, play on.
Again, I know there is a lot that happens fast at the ruck. Your goal is to facilitate¬†quick, clean ball. Meaning: be there, don’t allow bodies to pile up. Keep the defense back BEHIND the last mans foot, not ON the last mans foot. Call “Ruck formed, hands away” clearly. If you set your standards high, early, and communicate them so players and captains (and coaches) know your standards and see you enforcing them, the game will clean itself up and be a lot more pleasant¬†to officiate.¬†
Again, thanks for the questions, we all learn together. ūüôā
 РAndre Bruwer, Ohio Rugby Referees Society President and CMO

Hair Pulling

This has become a red-hot topic lately.

So in the law discussion today here is the scenario…
Red player with the ball beats the defender and is looking to make a run down field. The defender in a final attempt to stop the ball carrier from getting away reaches out with one hand and grabs. Unfortunately coming away with a handful of hair. The defender gives enough of a tug to change the motion and positive outcome of the ball carrier.
Now before I break this down for everyone, what was more disturbing than the actual incident, was when later a player seeking clarification, said that another referee they had spoken to said, “its open to interpretation.
Is it? Lets dig in deeper….
1: The first question is when did it occur? 
Why does this matter you ask, simple. In the first few minutes of a game you would expect referees to be issuing verbal warnings rather than throwing red cards. Remember we use progressive discipline in rugby, so if you start with a red, what do you give on the next call. Yes we set our standards high and we set them early, this does not mean we come out the gate throwing cards like confetti at a wedding.
So back to the question. Answer = 70 minutes into the game!
2: What level was the competition?
This matters because as the professionals we are, we are going to manage a little more rather than be punitive with lower level, developmental games.
Answer = Men’s D2
3a: So contact falls into two categories for us as referees. Was it ACCIDENTAL, meaning they intended to go in low and make a great hit, but due to some action, like the player slipping they made contact high? Also under accidental is, when through the result of a slip or some other accidental event the offending player immediately realized their error and removed/let go in a manner that left the ball carrier free to continue their course unobstructed from their original trajectory. As in, you grabbed him high, oops, you immediately let go and the ball carrier could continue to play/present the ball as they originally intended.
3b: RECKLESS on the other hand means, “player should have known better.” Nothing ever good comes from going high! A collar grab is high and is reckless/desperate¬†play.
So back to the situation….
D2 high level play
Reckless attempt to stop the ball carrier
No immediate release but instead a “tug” resulting in the ball carrier loosing fwd. momentum.
A hair pull in this situation is reckless play and as such ones hands are tied to the minimum of a yellow. 
(At the professional level this is ruled dangerous play and is a red card infringement.)
Argument of course is, but why not just a penalty? So ask yourself, 70min into the game, 2 point differential, high level teams, ball carrier beats the defender… were the actions of the defender accidental as he intended to go low and make a stop or was it a desperate¬†attempt to stop the ball carrier with no regard for the outcome other than to stop the ball carrier at all costs? Did he release immediately¬†or follow through with a tug?¬†
Ask yourself this, if it was your teammate about to make a break away run and the other team grabbed them by the hair, no matter accidental¬†or reckless, what are your emotions telling you? Is it just a “hey buddy please play nice back 10”? What do you think is going to happen at the next contact point?
Remember our webinar on Identifying and Managing Flash Points, if players feel the referee is not handling¬†infractions well enough they will take the law into their own hands. You can identify this in your own games. Are the players throwing hand bags, arguing back and forth, unnecessarily¬†pushing and shoving each other… why? What are you doing or not doing?
I would not throw the book at any one opting for the penalty only, but would urge you to take all aspects that surround a play into consideration. When in the game? Where on the field? What was the score? What was the level of the teams? What was the demeanor leading to that point? There is so much to being a great referee, it keeps us all on our toes and always evaluating every situation, every game we blow, look to grow each and every game:
Thank you for what you all do and continue to do to make us a great¬†society. ūüôā
– Andre Bruwer, Ohio Rugby Referees Society President and CMO

Pro Tip – WristRef ScoreKeeper for Apple Watch

If you use an apple watch, there’s an app you might fancy for your matches.


Check it out: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/wristref-scorekeeper/id991679553

For an in-depth review, see this blog: https://www.dutchreferee.com/apple-watch-referees/

(Note: We don’t receive any royalties or payments for referrals. We just know that some USA Rugby National Panel Referees use this system and we wanted to provide information about the resource.)


Ohio Rugby Referees Society Social Media Team

New Experiential L1 Referee Certification Class is a Success!

On March 24, Ohio Rugby Referees Society hosted the Spring 2018 Level 1 Referee Certification class in Mentor, Ohio. This event was unique as Billy Koval, our referee development officer, programmed the course in conjunction with the North Coast Rugby Festival. Mr. Christopher Farroni, Director of RugbyOhio, and Mr. Kurt Weaver, USA Rugby and National Panel Referee, were both in attendance which made for a great day of rugby referee development.

New and veteran referees had access to the stadium press box, providing an unmatched view of the full field and perspective.

Stadium Press Box delineation.

The¬†“newbies class” spent some time in the classroom learning the basics of officiating but were then ushered out to the field, bumping noses with “real” referees. The class walked along the touchline with instructors, evaluating the game situations, necessary positioning, and quick referee decisions. Some of the class even helped the referees in the center by serving as assistant referee/touch judges, providing a hands-on learning experience beyond compare.

Kurt Weaver working with L1 class participants at as they worked the Touch Lines.

The mid-day match was the headliner for referee development. Andre Bruwer, Coach of Match Officials and Ohio Rugby Referees Society President, called the game as the Center Referee, with Kevin McNamara and Rene√© Whittenberger as Assistant Referees. The team of three used a radio set which also fed to a speaker in the stadium press box, giving the observing L1 class full perspective on the match. Kurt Weaver and the L1 instructors narrated, discussed scenarios, answered questions, and explained the referees’ choices throughout the match.

Even experienced referees were treated to instruction and development. Reneé wore a radio for specific feedback and coaching in real time from Kurt Weaver and Andre Bruwer. Tim Levitsky and Kevin McNamara were also coached and their game videos reviewed by the Experts, throughout their field performances.

We also happened to see Mr. Weaver handing out swag gear like it was candy. Yes, ORRS has some kitmas to giveaway, courtesy of USA Rugby. You never know when Rugby Santa will have something for you!



We’re hoping to make this Experiential Level 1 Referee Certification Class an annual event. We like the way it worked out, we’re looking for feedback from participants, and we can’t wait to see the results.

Stay tuned for that and more next-level things from your Ohio Rugby Referees Society. Big things are happening!


Your ORRS Social Media Team

Ohio Rugby Referees Society 2018 AGM

Thank you to everyone who was able to log in last night to the ORRS emergency AGM and to those who were able to send proxy votes through. The position of chair went unopposed so I (Andre Bruwer) was officially elected to step up and try to fill the shoes of Mr. Billy Koval. So firstly, thank you to everyone for their support…now let the work begin.

Short term goals are:
  • To develop a new, better, more efficient website.
  • To put together a clothing line for the ORRS that we can have a one stop shop and a “uniform” of sorts.
  • I want to see us moving towards one scheduling software system rather than the two we currently run on.
  • There is much else to be done, but those are the big 3 for now.
Also on the call was the request for clarification on the HS new “time change” to 35 minute halves. I am currently in discussion with Mr. Farroni who is the new director for RugbyOhio. I will have an answer for everyone before the weekend’s games.
There was also a request for everyone to be kept in the loop, not just on goings on around the state as far as referees go, but also incidents that pop up that would help us all blow a better game.
Other officer positions you all need to be aware of:
Ohio Referee Manger = Mr. Dave Foster (rugby1lt@yahoo.com)

Ohio Referee Development Officer = Mr. Billy Koval (bkoval@evergreenbonds.com)

If ANY referee, no matter your level (C3,C2,C1…and Zack lol), wants to develop their skills and get better at what they do out there on the pitch, please email Billy. Last year we did a good job with the CMO program getting referees the support they requested and some are now on the verge of promotion. BUT we still can do better and Billy has been tasked with taking this program to the next level.
Please spread the word, there is an L1 referee class in Mentor on¬†March 24th. You have to register through USA Rugby. We are looking to do something dynamic with this class and instead of a boring¬†9am-4pm¬†classroom session, the training is going to take place along side the North Coast Rugby Festival and is going to have the inclusion of a National Panel referee plus some of our own CMOs will be on hand for meet and greet. If we pull this off, it will be one of the greatest, most practical L1 courses yet…. so again spread the word to new guys/girls looking to become referees, the time is NOW!
Looking ahead, the 2019 AGM will be in February and will be coupled with the Midwest Referee Society’s AGM as it is Ohio’s turn to host. We will make this a big event with guest speakers, development opportunities, and some swag gear…. stay tuned, it is not to be missed! ūüôā
In closing we have an officer position open…… we NEED a treasurer. If anyone has experience and is willing to take over the books from Juice, who has had a job change and needs to put in all his efforts in that arena right now, PLEASE shoot me an email. We need your help.
Finally, for those referees officiating highschool games, please remember:
1: Collect a signed roster from both teams coaches BEFORE the start of the game.
2: Ensure technical zones are established and medical professionals on on site BEFORE kickoff.
3: Report scores, infractions, etc. post game to ensure prompt payment.
4: Make sure you have submitted your W9s to Lee Pulver, RugbyOhio in order to get  paid.
Thanks for reading and see you out there on the pitch!
‚Äď Andre Bruwer, Ohio Rugby Referees Society President and CMO