Do they ever listen? Or will they learn?

Your team is winning 29-28 and there’s less than a minute to go. You get a penalty about 35m out. It’s about 50/50 whether your kicker will make it from this angle.

What decision would you make?

This is a real situation from just over a week ago. The pitch was unusually wide and the play was probably about 50m away from the coaching group. That choice to go for the lineout or kick for goal is one which has vexed players and coaches from World Cups through to youth league games like this one.

The decision was to go for posts. The kicker had decided that he would hit it as hard as he could, so the ball would go dead if he missed and the game would be over anyway.

Foolish boy! Because he wanted to kick it so hard, he mistimed it and the opposition fielded the ball and took advantage. So much so, that they raced up the pitch until they were halted about 5m from the line. A couple of desperate phases later, there was a penalty to the attack awarded under the posts.

The match then became a bit chaotic. The physios were on the pitch dealing with a couple of injuries. Both the teams were catching their breath.

Locals practice their goal kicking with a make-shift goalpost erected on mud flats on the outskirts of the capital Suva in Fiji

There was at least a minute to discuss the options. The coaches were on the field, in part to tend to the player, in part to bring on the kicking tee.

So, 28-29 down, with a kick in front of the posts, and a 97/3 chance of making the kick, what would your decision be?

I don’t think there’s much to be discussed here. With the team receiving very clear and animated instructions from their coaches, promptly ignored that advice and decided to run the ball.

I admire their ambition. I admire their desire to make a game of it. I just don’t understand why, with the game up, they didn’t just kick the points.

A happy ending? Well it was for the team who then defended for nine further phases before the ball was turned over and it was kicked dead.

I would have been very interested to be in the huddle for the losing team at the end of the game. I can only guess at the horror.

How much influence do we think we exert from the side line? I think most of us know, in our heart of hearts, that the players rarely listen to our instructions.

In this case, the losing team’s coaches had been shouting on instructions right from the start. All four of them! At the end, they were less than 10m from the key decisions, holding the tee as well. The players will probably learn a lesson. I doubt that the coaches will.

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