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Trigger-finger refs stamp out cynicism

 Red CardGreater vigilance by referees at the breakdown and less tolerance of cynical play has led to a sharp rise in yellow cards during this season’s Aviva Premiership.

That is the opinion of RFU referees boss Ed Morrison, whose men have increased their card count by a whopping 47 per cent in an effort to stamp out cheating.

With five rounds of regular season action remaining, as well as the play-offs, last season’s tally of 101 yellows in 135 games has already been comfortably exceeded.

If the current trend of just a card per game continues and end-of-season pressure kicks in, this season’s figure could potentially top the 150 mark.

Top Test whistler Wayne Barnes leads the way with 19 yellows and one red during his 10 games in charge, whilst JP Doyle, Greg Garner, Luke Pearce, Andrew Small and David Rose have also shown an appetite for sending cheating players to the sin-bin.

Yellow and red card statistics for the preceding three seasons remained static, but Morrison welcomes the increase, suggesting it provides compelling evidence that referees are being far more consistent over how they are applying the laws.

“The statistics could be construed as surprising, however we have tried to be stricter in terms of cynical play and more consistent in our use of yellow cards, which is probably why the numbers have increased,” Morrison told The Rugby Paper.

“The introduction of yellow cards initially caused us a problem and the reality is there probably weren’t enough of them being shown in the past. But we’ve spent a lot of time on it as a group this season talking about our ‘three triggers.’

“Those triggers are cynical play, persistent infringement and team persistent infringements and we’ve communicated that to all the clubs, because we’ve got to reward teams that try and play positively and we’ve got to be fair to the game.

“If someone comes over and cynically kills the ball, it denies the attacking team an opportunity to score a try and deprives spectators of entertainment, so we’ve got a moral obligation to deal with the perpetrators in the deserved fashion.”

With the stakes set to get even higher as the season approaches its climax, Morrison handed out a warning to those who may consider cheating. He added: “Each year the intensity of the game increases and there’s a lot of pressure on people to win, so you’re likely to see more cynical play.

“But if people want to indulge they’ll pay the price and it will be interesting to see whether the trend of more yellow cards continues.”

PREMIERSHIP CARD COUNT

Season                    G             Y           R

2009-10                135         101         6

2010-11                135         105         4

2011-12                135         101         6

2012-13                102         110         7

PREM CARD COUNT BY REFEREE 2012-13

Referee                             G             Y              R

Wayne Barnes                 10           19             1

Sean Davey                       5              8              0

JP Doyle                           15            14             1

Martin Fox                           6              8              0

Greg Garner                     10             10            0

Nigel Owens                      1              0             0

Luke Pearce                       9             12           0

Dave Pearson                    6             3              0

Mathieu Raynal                   1             0              0

Llyr ApGeraint-Roberts      6            5              0

David Rose                          7             9              1

Andrew Small                    14           14            0

Tim Wigglesworth             12            8              4

G= Games Y= Yellow R= Red

Statistics provided by Stuart Farmer Media Services

NEALE HARVEY

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