In Which Suddenly I Know Anything About Rugby, Belgium


A Reuters article filed under “Oddly Enough” makes me aware that a Belgian rugby club is appealing to have a weekend match annulled, on the grounds that the referee arrived more than an hour late. I’m surprised by all that because I had just assumed rugby was organized enough that it didn’t have problems with referees not being around.

I understand that in the early days of a major sport you can have embarrassing lapses of organization. Baseball’s first attempt at a major league, in May of 1871, flopped when the Cleveland Nine and the Fort Wayne Nine both thought they were the home team and so were hundreds of miles apart. The lapse in planning is obvious, once you’ve seen the accident, but beforehand who could guess that both teams would need names? And after the NFL was first organized in a Hupmobile dealership in Canton, Ohio, in 1920, the Akron Pros won the first championship because the runner-up Decatur Staleys just couldn’t make themselves believe there was such a thing as a “Hupmobile”. Their skepticism was justified, although the Hupmobile dealer asked some pointed questions about the so-called “Staley”. The NBA is still trying to work out its pre-season challenge between the upper and lower divisions, owing to a failure of many venues to build two-level basketball courts.

Anyway, the referee didn’t turn up for the match between the Soignies (pronounced “quinoa” incorrectly) and the Kituro (ditto), and as far as I can tell from Reuters he still hasn’t been accounted for. I hope he’s all right and the problem is just that he was busy playing something on his iPad or maybe he went to the wrong city and thinks everybody else bailed on him. But they found a substitute referee, who got there more than an hour after the game was to start. I don’t think that’s doing badly. If you called on me to substitute-referee a Belgian rugby game I’d need more time than that to get fully ready. Oh, now I hope they don’t think I was the original referee; I’m pretty sure they would have said something to me before the game if I was supposed to oversee it, but you never know. I might have lost the invitation and they might have figured I’d say something if I couldn’t do it.

The game finally got under way, although Stephan Carnol, the club secretary for Soignies complained, with only 17 players instead of the normal squad of 22, which makes me wonder what those five were up to that they couldn’t hang around until a referee got there. I have no idea how long Belgian rugby matches take but I’d imagine it runs longer than an hour, so they probably didn’t have to get somewhere all that quickly. Maybe they were refereeing other games later in the evening, except then why couldn’t one of them referee the game he was at? Sure, any call he made would immediately escalate into a quarrel about his fairness, but that just adds a level of excitement because you know both his team and the opponent feel passionately about bludgeoning him.

Soignies went on to lose by 356 to 3, as Kituro ran in 56 tries, which sounds like a pretty lopsided score if you have no idea that a score in rugby is called a try, apparently. I’m supposing it is because it would be dastardly of Reuters to go telling people that Kituro “ran in 56 tries” if that doesn’t actually mean anything. Also a try is good for five points, which they say directly, which means that Kituro didn’t just run in 56 tries but also picked up 76 points from somewhere, possibly fallen behind the couch cushions. I have no explanation for Soignies’s three points; maybe they reflect poise or good comportment? Maybe they picked up a couple points playing soccer in a side match. Despite the loss, Reuters reports, Soignies is still third in the league, and a point ahead of Kituro in the standings.

The former worst rugby blowout was in 1984, in the French league, when Lavardac beat Vergt by a score of 350 to 0, with 66 tries that got run in. But back then a try was four points, so Lavardac also brought in 86 points from maybe a basketball game that wasn’t using them anymore. Vergt wasn’t competing, though, in protest of some player suspensions, which makes me wonder why Lavardac had all those non-try-based points. There must be something to it I’m not following.

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Author: Joseph Nebus

I was born 198 years to the day after Johnny Appleseed. The differences between us do not end there.

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