Is obstruction becoming an issue for rugby league again? It was certainly a hot topic in the game between Hull FC and Castleford Tigers at the KCOM Stadium last night.
Yes people will say that I’m a bitter Hull FC supporter, but were Castleford really put at a disadvantage by a coming together between Liam Watts and Joe Westerman? I would certainly venture to say, certainly not to the extent that a try for Jake Connor in the second half should be ruled out.
Leaving aside the Watts/Westerman incident, which plenty of people believe to have been created by Watts in the first place, Connor was seen to run clean through two Tigers defenders to score said try, which was subsequently, controversially chalked off by the video referee. Thus came after several Castleford players advised referee Chris Kendall to send the decision upstairs, at a time when it looked like he might just award the try, without reference to the video!
While I am not doubting the referees integrity, I am again left doubting the obstruction rule, for what many seem to think are understandable reasons. When looking at the full incident, did Jake Connor score because Westerman apparently took Watts out? No, clearly not. Did the Castleford defence have enough men in the vicinity to tackle Connor, to stop him scoring? Considering the England international had to squeeze his way between two defenders to get over the line, one can only reason that, yes they certainly had enough defenders there to deal with the threat, they simply failed to do so!
For many years there has been absolute despair at the obstruction rule, which after this incident only seems set to continue. I won’t deny that my team have, on several occasions, benefited from the seemingly ridiculous interpretations of this rule. But for me, this became almost farcical last night. Clearly Castleford had more than enough defenders in the area to stop Jake Connor from scoring!
So what is the solution to this problem? It clearly needs a change in the rule, one that actually favours the attacking team. We are trying to make the game faster, more exciting and reduce the amount of time we spend looking at the video screen. I believe a rule, along the lines of ‘An obstruction has to be made on a player who is in a position to make a tackle, with nobody else involved in the tackle’ would go some way to clearing this up! It might not be perfect, but let’s be honest, the current rule is about as far from perfect as it’s possible to get. This has been evidenced on many occasions, with players simply running at opposition players who don’t even have the ball to create a supposed obstruction, which subsequently denies a team what would otherwise be a perfectly legitimate try!
Last year in the Good Friday Hull Derby, I personally saw my team do exactly the same thing, as Adam Quinlan sliced through to score, only to have it scrubbed by the video referee for an obstruction on Jordan Lane. This completely ignored the defensive over-read by Albert Kelly. The fact that the video referee should have paid attention to is that Hull FC had enough defenders around to have stopped Quinlan scoring, and I dread to think how many more examples could be used.
The obstruction rule, as clearly demonstrated last night, is broken and it needs fixing urgently. I also believe that if players were pulled up, and penalties, or penalty tries, or eight-point tries were given when a defender runs deliberately at an attacking player to create an obstruction, that would soon put an end to this horrible practice that we have seen on so many occasions.