Rugby officials are alarmed at the high number of red and yellow card offenses recorded in the league rugby tournament | (Pic by Chandana Wijesinghe)

The stakes in rugby seem to be so high in the Division 1 Inter-club rugby league tournament that the players appear to disregard the laws of the game. Rugby fans can make this assumption if they were told that the five weeks of competitive rugby have produced 36 yellow cards, 5 red cards and also seen the imposing of suspensions on five players. These statistics provided by the Sri Lanka Rugby Football Union (SLRFU) pops the question whether player discipline on the field has taken a backseat?

The referee has a gigantic task of controlling 30 hefty men at any given time of the game, if everything goes well. But the ‘script’ of a rugby match can change drastically if player movement on the field is controlled by their egos. SLRFU’s Executive Director Rohan Guneratne, a former Sri Lanka rugby player, told Nation that such a large number of red and yellow cards will definitely demoralize any team.

“This amount of cards issued by the referee is quite high and a matter to be of concern to administrators. Measures must be taken to stop foul play,” Guneratne said.

According to Guneratne there is only one incident where a referee officiating in a match has blown his whistle for a red card offence. However, the other four red cards have been issued after a sighting commissioner observed video footage of matches and called for a judicial inquiry.

S.W. Chang, a former rugby referee, and now the Technical Committee Chairman of the league tournament said that he observed that the referees were in full control of the games.

“The referees are above the equator and have shown good signs of maintaining standards. I think the players in general understand the rugby laws. If the player gets the better of the referee during a match, then hats off to him,” said Chang who added, “If rugby matches are sans any problems then such a tournament will be very boring”. The four players who received red cards after the sighting commissioner requested for a judicial inquiry are Lahiru Pavithra (CR&FC), Stephen Gregory (Navy SC), Damith Dissanayake (Kandy SC) and Mohammed Sheriff (Police SC). Police’s Sharo Fernando received two yellow cards which eventually amounted to a red card while a match was in progress.

Police SC had received the highest number of yellow cards (9) while Havelocks SC and Navy SC had received the least number of yellow cards (3).

The most common offence sighted by referees this season to issue a yellow card has been for stamping.