Scrum farce at Otley

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The Independent Online
BY DALE AUSTEN

The former England captain, Nigel Melville, has called for a change in the laws after his first full appearance for two seasons ended in farce on Saturday.

Melville, 34, who resigned his post as Otley's paid director of rugby two weeks ago in order to resume his playing career witnessed the spectacle of Third Division arch rivals, Harrogate and Otley, being banned from scrummaging because of the new directive issued at last month's International Board meeting.

The referee, Tom Ashworth, ordered non-contested scrums -where shoving is outlawed and the side putting in the ball is guaranteed possession -after the Harrogate prop, David Hall, went off at half-time with a suspected broken thumb. Harrogate had no specialist prop on the bench - Jason Field having cried off with tonsillitis - so they brought on the second row Peter Taylor.

Melville, who masterminded Otley's 33-14 home win, said: "It was crazy - that ruling makes a mockery of the game. In New Zealand referees ask captains before games if they have a front-row replacement and if they say no there is no game. We should do the same."

The Harrogate coach, Peter Clegg, agreed: "It does make for a farce. I think it is a ridiculous law and teams will flout it. Teams should have to carry a specialist prop on the bench, but as it was I was able to go into the game knowing I would be all right in the event of one getting injured."

With scrummaging outlawed in the second half, Otley replaced the prop Chris Baldwin with a flanker, Mike Winterbottom, then the No 8 Andy Hargreaves with a scrum-half, Mark Waddington, before being finally forced to bring on their specialist prop, Andrew Reid, when the centre Jon Flint limped off in the 64th minute.

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