Even the referee may not see what is happening to the hidden ball but raises his hand to signal a try over a pile of exhausted bodies
A season ago, few rugby spectators would have cracked their brains to figure out what is being called a “rolling maul” where the team that grabs the ball from a line-out close to the try-line scores nine out of ten times, thanks to a juggernaut-like thrust.
Today the mode of play has become the most contentious eyesore for many fans at crowd-pulling schoolboy rugby matches.
Teams that cannot indulge in it are put off by the very mention of its branding while outfits that thrive on it relish its results even though it can be the clumsiest of all try-scoring exhibits.
But Sanath Martis the coach of the Royal College team that has mastered the rolling maul more than any other team in the fray, claims it is nothing but professional jealousy on the part of rival teams and their supporters to question the forwards’ craft.
“This is what I call a driving maul and it is well within the rules of the international law. Most school teams are well aware that we (Royal) are a threat to them and this is our main weapon which they are looking to prevent”, said Martis, the most successful local coach in the schools’ arena who has even dwarfed the foreign coaches enlisted by other schools.
Martis contends that some coaches in a bid to counter the rolling maul are teaching their players to refrain from engaging (making body contact) which he said is having a negative impact on their own progress.
“Instead of meeting the problem head-on, they take the easy way out. We also know how to counter such negativity on the field”, said Martis.
Veteran rugby referee Dharmapalage Nimal (better known as D Nimal) contends that the rolling maul is not as confusing as it appears that has led to numerous after-match arguments on the sidelines with some fans even going into a verbal overflow.
“If a maul has been formed, teams have to engage it and that is what rugby is all about. Why should a team step aside and not engage it from a line-out throw-in. If teams want they could attack the maul from a side and it won’t be an off-side or even tackle the maul from under”, said Nimal who has blown rugby in Sri Lanka for 23 years while also graduating as an International Rugby Board (IRB) official and refereed an Asian Sevens Cup final.
Nimal said a team can lose a rolling maul if it stops within two seconds or the ball sent back to the last man (in the maul) and the defending team is obstructed.
Before their match last week, Royal and St. Peter’s College sought clarification from referees’ expert Dilroy Fernando on the usage of the rolling maul and interestingly their contest turned out to be the most exciting show witnessed this season so far although the Peterites were caught off-guard on two occasions.
But as the rolling maul has now become the most scrutinized piece of play, some observers have figured out that the best way to nullify it is to ensure formidable teams like Royal are kept at bay from line-out ball inside the dreaded 22 metres.