2012 Summer Sevens season – Paddy Mac Updates – July part 2

Posted by SCRRS Website Committee on July 5th, 2012

Back to the shores of Lake Michigan, enjoying a grilled Brat, and watching some fine Sevens rugby. 105 teams returned to Veterans Park to play Sevens and honor “Pappa Joe” Kloiber, the father of Lakefront 7s. Some of the topics that came up:


Used correctly, advantage is a handy tool for referees that can open up a match by reducing the number of stoppages, while still identifying infractions and maintaining standards. When the non-offending team is in possession of the ball, Sevens referees are usually quick to award advantage and then see where play leads. Rather than automatically awarding advantage, referees may want to consider NOT using advantage in certain situations.

  1. Foul play – Unless a try is imminent (and you can always come back after a try and issue a card if required), blow it up immediately. Set a standard and make a statement about what is acceptable and what is not in a rugby match. Playing advantage can lessen the impact of the foul play and lead to an illusion of tacit acceptance. Blow the pea out of your whistle and get the match back on track.
  2. Repeated infringements – Not as straightforward to determine as foul play, but recognition that the referee is awarding advantage for the same infraction, over and over again. A Sevens referee’s responsibility is identifying problems on the pitch AND finding ways to stop bad behavior. For instance, if one team continues to illegally slow the ball down at the tackle, and the non-offending team eventually wins ball and gains advantage by maintaining possession, the offending team has no real incentive to quit slowing the ball down. In order to stop destructive play, and one or two advantages don’t get the desired response, a quick whistle and 10-meter march could do the trick. When advantage doesn’t work, be prepared to step it up a notch.


Seen mostly as a defensive ploy in Sevens, to tie up the ball and force a turnover by scrum. Referees need to stay on top of the situation and set clear expectations. Loudly announcing, “Maul!” will let everyone know what is at stake (possession). Teams that are making forward progress can maintain possession in the maul, and referees should be clear when forward progress has stopped (twice), and it’s time “to use it or lose it”. However, if the defending team has tied up the ball and there is no forward progress, ball needs to be back in play quicker. If the attacking team decides to take the ball to ground, by ending the maul and recycling play, ball should be available immediately. If the ball doesn’t make it to the ground (part of the definition of a ruck) in a timely manner, a collapsed maul has occurred and a turnover scrum should be awarded. Don’t forget that defensive teams can still be guilty of pulling down the maul when it doesn’t go the way they want. Clear, concise communication is key here to minimize player frustration.


Everyone enjoys a fast-paced Sevens match with lots of action and few stoppages. Referees can facilitate the free flow by awarding quick throw-ins and by allowing quick penalty taps that get the ball back in play faster. Few things are more painful for the players and the referee than having to bring the ball back to the “proper” penalty mark. How can players and referees avoid this painful resetting of play and get on with it? Referees can be more demonstrative in identifying the mark both verbally (it’s over there, there!), and non-verbally (pointing emphatically at the mark). Referees are often playing advantage and have moved from the point of infraction. Players naturally move towards the referee when awarded a penalty and when necessary, referees must redirect them to the “proper” mark to get the ball back in play. Players need to take the tap correctly (ball kicked out of hand), and realize they can take the tap behind the mark (on a line), which gives them more opportunities to restart play. Quicker restarts mean more playing time, less down time.

Our thanks to Vic Drover and the Kloibers for another great Sevens tournament, all the volunteers that pitch in and make a tournament this size run, and the Wisconsin and Midwest referees who did a solid job on the pitch. We’re off to the venerable Cape Fear 7s this weekend to watch some great Sevens and enjoy the hospitality.

Paddy Mac

Patrick McNally
National Sevens Referee Manager
USA Rugby

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