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The Phantom Horseman

The great scrum infringement "clampdown" of (I think) the late 1970s

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Does anyone remember this? I think it was late 1970s but may have been very early 1980s. A new instruction for referees to clamp down on scrum infingements was brought in.

I can't remember the exact details, but it was something like if you committed three scrum infringements, the offending player was sent off. Not sin binned - that hadn't been introduced yet - but outright sent from the field.

There was a flurry of these events; there may have been a few scrum halves dismissed for "feeding", but what I remember is the number of high-profile hookers, many of whom had spotless disciplinary records, suddenly being sent off for "feet up"/striking too early, often to the absolute bemusement of the crowd (and the players themselves).

Matters weren't solved if the hooker was substituted after two offences, as his replacement was dismissed if he committed one further offence.

From memory after a short period with this significant number of dismissals, the project was quietly shelved. But maybe it lasted a whole season, I'm not sure. Anyone else got any memories of this not very glorious period?

Edited by The Phantom Horseman

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I think it was 1981/82 but I don’t remember the ‘three strikes’ rule. It became a total farce and in one match both hookers were dismissed and their replacements, not being regular hookers, also committed offences and were themselves sent off.

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1 hour ago, The Phantom Horseman said:

Does anyone remember this? I think it was late 1970s but may have been very early 1980s. A new instruction for referees to clamp down on scrum infingements was brought in.

I can't remember the exact details, but it was something like if you committed three scrum infringements, the offending player was sent off. Not sin binned - that hadn't been introduced yet - but outright sent from the field.

There was a flurry of these events; there may have been a few scrum halves dismissed for "feeding", but what I remember is the number of high-profile hookers, many of whom had spotless disciplinary records, suddenly being sent off for "feet up"/striking too early, often to the absolute bemusement of the crowd (and the players themselves).

Matters weren't solved if the hooker was substituted after two offences, as his replacement was dismissed if he committed one further offence.

From memory after a short period with this significant number of dismissals, the project was quietly shelved. But maybe it lasted a whole season, I'm not sure. Anyone else got any memories of this not very glorious period?

A similar rule was also brought in concerning three instances of not releasing a tackled player near the goal-line.

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I remember the scrum clampdown.  I am sure it was around the late 1970’s early 1980’s as  I recall watching the Cas hooker Bob Spurr and his opponent in a couple games trudging towards the side line after a string of scrum offences.

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1 hour ago, Adelaide Tiger said:

I remember the scrum clampdown.  I am sure it was around the late 1970’s early 1980’s as  I recall watching the Cas hooker Bob Spurr and his opponent in a couple games trudging towards the side line after a string of scrum offences.

Yep - Bob Spurr a good example of a hooker who was rarely sanctioned by referees other than for technical offences but got his marching orders during the clampdown. Seem to remember Ray Handscombe may have been another.

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16 hours ago, The Phantom Horseman said:

Yep - Bob Spurr a good example of a hooker who was rarely sanctioned by referees other than for technical offences but got his marching orders during the clampdown. Seem to remember Ray Handscombe may have been another.

Remember watching Bob Spurr from when he started playing for Cas.  Even on a dry track he always looked as though he had been dragged through an hedge backwards .... twice!

So imagine my shock and surprise when on my first day at work as a 16 year old at Wakefield MDC when I walked down the corridor and Bob walked towards me with a black eye and dressed in a  three piece suit and tie.  He worked in the Finance Department as an accountant.

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It was in the early 80's and lasted about six weeks before it became farcical. Whether it would have succeeded if the RFL had kept their nerve, against a torrent of complaints from clubs and coaches, is open to conjecture. The interpretation of who was the guilty party at any one time was as arbitrary as the scrums were, only to be eliminated by the removal of contested scrummaging.


Sport, amongst other things, is a dream-world offering escape from harsh reality and the disturbing prospect of change.

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On 11/04/2020 at 14:08, Blind side johnny said:

 The interpretation of who was the guilty party at any one time was as arbitrary as the scrums were, only to be eliminated by the removal of contested scrummaging.

Yep, there are a lot of sepia-tinted memories of the "golden age" of contested scrums, but for many years before the amendments they were an absolute mess and you may as well have tossed a coin to see who gained possession.

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6 hours ago, The Phantom Horseman said:

Yep, there are a lot of sepia-tinted memories of the "golden age" of contested scrums, but for many years before the amendments they were an absolute mess and you may as well have tossed a coin to see who gained possession.

It isn't contested scrums that really need to be reintroduced these day, it's just that it has gone too far the other way with the modern scrums being a complete waste of time and just look facrical with the scrum-half just passing the ball to the loose-forward.

If only the hooker of the team putting the ball in was allowed to strike (withj ball having at least been put in infront of the prop forward) and the scrum-half was also the only person allowed to pick it up at the base of the scrum then at least the scrums would look more worth the effort and the forwards would also not just breakaway as soon as the ball is put in.

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19 hours ago, RL does what Sky says said:

It isn't contested scrums that really need to be reintroduced these day, it's just that it has gone too far the other way with the modern scrums being a complete waste of time and just look facrical with the scrum-half just passing the ball to the loose-forward.

If only the hooker of the team putting the ball in was allowed to strike (withj ball having at least been put in infront of the prop forward) and the scrum-half was also the only person allowed to pick it up at the base of the scrum then at least the scrums would look more worth the effort and the forwards would also not just breakaway as soon as the ball is put in.

I'm sorry but I don't see this resulting in anything different from the current situation.


Sport, amongst other things, is a dream-world offering escape from harsh reality and the disturbing prospect of change.

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1 hour ago, Tyrone Shoelaces said:

It was a bit like getting sent off and an 8 match ban for tripping. Now it appears to be a sin binning offence.

Yes, the rule was actually changed a few years ago but many fans at matches that I go to still seem to be unaware of this.

Now, what about voluntary tackles?


Sport, amongst other things, is a dream-world offering escape from harsh reality and the disturbing prospect of change.

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53 minutes ago, Blind side johnny said:

Yes, the rule was actually changed a few years ago but many fans at matches that I go to still seem to be unaware of this.

Now, what about voluntary tackles?

I've been watching since 1966, I've only seen one given at a match I was actually at in all that time. It was a bit harsh really, our winger had to turn and chase a loose ball that had been kicked along the ground behind him. He dropped on it in front of three on rushing opponents. Then he was only a bit slow to get to his feet and get flattened, I can't say as I blame  him to be honest.

I can't remember  where it was now apart from it was in Yorkshire, so no real surprises that it was given.

Nothing like the one that wasn't given at the end of that final years ago. Now that was a voluntary tackle in my book.

Edited by Tyrone Shoelaces

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