THE following quote was written two years ago, on June 29, 2009 during the Lions tour to South Africa:
“The man that has cost the Lions dear, in not one, but both Test games, is Bryce Lawrence, of New Zealand. We are not here talking about whether a pass was forward. His serious errors are incapable of rationalisation, save by the misapplication of the tenet that a referee is the sole arbiter of fact and law. That stipulation is intended to allow referees to be wrong, not stupid.”
At the time he had been a linesman in one Test and a referee in the other.
In 2010 after refereeing the England-France game, supporters suggested he never be allowed to officiate again. After the game between the Crusaders and the Sharks in the quarter-final Super 15 knock-out match, the same could be said about his performance.
The most bizarre decision in rugby history has to be the penalty he gave against the Sharks for dangerous play before he had even called “touch!” during the scrum preparation. What was it for? Belligerent glaring, perhaps? Growling?
And this is the man who has been appointed as the referee for the Super 15 final. One cannot help but think that whoever made the appointment might have screwed up the man’s initial, and that instead of “B” it should have been “M” (for Mark Lawrence). It certainly was not based on his ability.
The end to the Super 15 could not have come at a better time. This has been a strange competition in which not all teams have played each other.
Some of the teams were given points for games that they had no chance of winning, while others lost out on fifth bonus points against weak teams they did not get to play. And then we had the referee appointments.
Instead of selling themselves to the TV gods for a few pieces of silver, the Sanzar bosses should cut the competition back to 12 teams – the four best teams from each “conference” – and let each team play all of the others on a home and away basis, with neutral referees who are actually good at their job. They could still have semi-finals and a final at the end of it all if they haven’t managed to balance the books, although with more matches played they should be more than happy.
That way we would be spared a somewhat dubious bonus points system, and hopefully, Bizarre Bryce to boot.
Who knows, the dwindling attendance figures might even change for the better.
Paddy Carolan, Port Alfred