Ruck and Maul: Cardiff left with the blues as tie-breaker shoots itself in the foot

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The Independent Online

Much agitation over the best way to decide a drawn match following the Cardiff Blues' shoot-out knock-out by Leicester in the Heineken Cup. Poor Martyn Williams, the flanker who was more of a hooker with his miss at the Millennium Stadium. So, what to do? Other tournaments have had a countback of tries in previous matches but is that fair if, say, Leicester have put a dozen past dodgy Italian opposition in the pool? Play on for a "golden score"? That could take all night, and it might heap just the same misery on a hapless player or referee who stuffed up at the crucial moment. Remove one player from each team at set intervals as they do in some sevens competitions? If 13-a-side was to prove uproariously entertaining, the anti-rugby league fraternity would get a bit twitchy. Hmm, how about another kind of shoot-out? The World Under-19 Championship has long employed five drop-kicks from the 22, and Ireland and England endured this method in 2003 after drawing their fifth-sixth place play-off in France. Up stepped Topsy Ojo, an England senior cap-to-be and no one's idea of a carthorse, for a kick which went closer to the corner flag than the posts, and Ireland won 4-3. "It was very harsh," recalled Tosh Askew, then the U-19s' coach. "We and the Irish thought it should have been left as a tie but the organisers wanted to have the rankings for the following year."

Crane lifts Tigers at last

The rub with the shoot-out (including the Premiership version, which varies the angle and distance of successive kicks) is that a draw after extra-time is so rare that there is little point in non-kickers practising. The onus is on the multi-talented squad member such as Jordan Crane, the Leicester No 8 who won the day in Cardiff. He was a trialist goalkeeper with West Bromwich Albion at 14, then a goal-kicker for Colston's in schools rugby when he shared the tee with Ryan Davis and Shane Geraghty, future Premiership fly-halves. He was good enough to kick five conversions in a match against Llandovery. Strange, perhaps, that Leicester kept Crane back as their eighth man in the shoot-out. If he had never got to have a go they would surely have been kicking themselves.

No substitute for old values

No news yet from the European Rugby Cup disciplinary department in the case of Harlequins' blood substitution of Tom Williams during their Heineken Cup quarter-final defeat by Leinster. The match was four weeks ago and the ERC's disciplinary officer, Roger O'Connor, began his "investigation" on 17 April. We understand all the evidence from coaches, players, officials and medical personnel is in, and it is up to O'Connor now whether a panel needs to sit in judgement. The season overall has seen players increasingly screaming at touch judges to spot offences, exuberant celebrations, conspicuously questionable substitutions and a silly shoot-out. Didier Drogba may have raised the crossbar in crazy behaviour but rugby cannot rest easy.

hughgodwin@yahoo.co.uk

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