Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Harpin Points 5 : Rugby launches, Bonus Points & TV coverage

Every Wednesday we'll be widening our focus beyond Leinster & Ireland rugby matches, offering views on broader rugby topics and themes


Of course I get the whole idea of needing to 'launch' a particular competition to help maximise its exposure, but I'm not altogether sure the way rugby chooses to do it is actually achieving that goal.

Getting the players, coaches and assorted press to all gather together on a midweek morning a couple of weeks before the tournament kicks off is all well and good for those involved, but does it really produce the necessary connection with the fans?

Could we do without a series of quotes from the captains & coaches that effectively boil down to some version of "we want our team to win all our matches"?   Or a series of photos involving every possible permutation of people together with the trophy?  "OK, first all coaches.  Now, all captains.  Now, all Irish captains, followed by Welsh, Scottish, Italian and South African.  Now, everyone with names longer that six letters.  Now everyone over 6 foot 3 who is also Sagittarius....."

Yeah, I know, I'm kind of getting a bit silly there, and yeah, I know the league has responsibilities to sponsors and such, but I just wonder if it might be a better idea to let each team host their own launch event and invite the fans along...that might get us a little more pumped about the season ahead?  You could hold them all at the same time with video links between them all.

Of course I'm just 'spitballing'...there are many different ways it could be done, I just think the event could be made a lot less 'junkety'.

"Sounds like he's just jealous he never gets invited to them"

Honestly, I have no idea what you're talking about...  🤣🤣🤣


The Rugby Championship kicked off last weekend, and as I suggested in last week's Harpin Points feature, the results were pretty much what we all expected.  Sure, both Wallabies and Pumas led on the scoreboard for a while, but not for a second did I think either match would end that way.

However, perhaps I have thrown the competition enough shade over the past while, and it's high time I harped on something I like about example would be the way they determine their try bonus points.

Warning - this point is going to be very nerdy and full of maths and stuff, but this is exactly the kind of topic this feature was designed for so I'll go through it anyway.

First I need to distinguish between the two competing methods of earning a bonus point in rugby competitions.  The one we're used to here in Ireland is one I call the 'Quantity Bonus Point' (or QBP) which means you have to score a certain number of tries, namely four, to earn the bonus.

But in the French Top14 for many years now, and in recent years in the Rugby Championship and Super Rugby, they have employed what I call the 'Differential Bonus Point' (or DBP) which means you only get the bonus if you get three more tries than your opposition.

When I first learned of this distinction, I was sceptical.  "What difference does it make?"  is probably the clean version of what I said.  But then I saw it in action.

For the QBP, once you get your fourth try, the bonus point is in the bag.  We have seen many occasions where this has been achieved well before the halftime whistle.  But a problem with this system is that it creates the very real possibility that the team in the lead will take their foot off the pedal and possibly let the other side to get four tries themselves, even if it doesn't change the actual result.  Should your team get the full five points when you haven't played the full 80 minutes?

What the DBP means is that even if a team runs in three early tries, the bonus isn't wrapped up - in actual fact it can be taken away from them if they leak just one down the other end.  This means you really should go for four or more anyway like you would under QBP just to be sure.  For me, this system works better at producing competitive rugby right up to the final whistle.

Another thing it does is make match points allocation a whole lot easier to work out.  With QBP you can have splits of 5-0, 5-1, 5-2, 4-0, 4-1, 4-2, 3-3, 3-2 and 2-2 yet with DBP a team that loses or draws can't ever earn a try bonus, and for me, that is as it should be.

I'd up for the DBP to be used right across the game.  On a side note, the French also tweaked with the losing bonus point in that you have to be within 5 not 7 points to earn one, while I'd personally leave it at 7.


Here at Harpin Manor we focus almost exclusively on Leinster Rugby when the Pro14 and Champions Cup are being played, and with other commitments it has been very difficult for me in recent years to pay too much attention to the other three provinces.

But hopefully that will change this season, and I plan to use this Harpin Points feature to bring back our '80-word-reviews' for Connacht, Munster, Ulster as well as Bath, Wasps & Toulouse from Leinster's European pool.  In other words, I've set myself the task of watching a whole lotta rugby this season!!!  Fingers crossed I'll have the time.

As for the chances for the other provinces this season, well it has to be said all three have made a lot of changes.  I'd have to pick Munster as the one most likely to push Leinster for top Irish honours, if for no other reason than they have a more settled coaching ticket, though player additions like Joey Carbery and Tadhg Beirne certainly won't hurt their chances either.

Up in Ulster, while I agreed with the sentiment BOD was expressing with his 'basket case' statement last season, not only was it a poor choice of words but even with the right ones, he wasn't the right person to be delivering them.  Still, everything seemed to go wrong for them right up to the final day when they rallied and got themselves into Europe.  Now, with a fresh outlook and a host of new faces like former Leinster stars Jordi Murphy and Marty Moore, it's hard to see them not remaining competitive well into both competitions.

As for Connacht, I really hope I'm wrong but I think this could be a 'bedding in' season for them and they might just need it.  Pat Lam did more than coach them...he engineered a culture into which all involved in the province from board to fans bought and the results, as we all know, were amazing.  It was a tough ask for Kieran Keane to maintain those levels and now with another new coach, plus the gaping hole left by Mul's departure, it might take them a while to put it all back together, and if so I hope they'll be given more time.


People get very passionate online about the way different TV companies present their rugby coverage.  ITV and TV3 tend to get the most amount of stick, although there's plenty of it to go round elsewhere.

Truth be told, I'm never really pushed.  Maybe it's because I've been at this harpin' game for so long that I'm reasonably confident of forming my own opinion regardless of what any of the assorted pundits are saying, or maybe it's because I'm a bit sceptical of online criticism in matters like this because a lot of it could be 'trolling' by competing networks.

One thing that does annoy about TV coverage however, is when a network does a deal with the league and then forces you to subscribe in order to watch.  IMO, they are not entitled to do this.  In paying for the rights to show the competition they have guaranteed the eyeballs of all the league's fans to be on them - it's up to them to turn this into ad revenue and charging the owners of said eyeballs as well is nothing short of extortion.

I'm lucky in that I switched to eirTV over a year ago so for the time being I will at least be able to watch the vast majority (if not all) Pro14 action, but with TV3 changing to Virgin Media at the end of the month, there's every possibility that I will lose out on some other type of rugby before long.


Finally many thanks for all who wished us happy birthday yesterday...I can't believe it has been ten years since I kicked off the site.  When I did, I never expected it to get anywhere, and while I haven't exactly knocked myself out in expanding over that time, had you told me things like sponsorship and a regular seat in the press box at Leinster matches were possibilities I would have laughed heartily at you, probably pointing in a mocking fashion as I did.

If I had to pick out highlights over the years, apart from the match writeups that were well received like the one for last year's Grand Slam, I suppose my favourite reaction to a post was that for the 'Dorce Outside' lyrics I sheepishly put on the page in January 2011.  That's the nearest I ever got to 'going viral' and I heard from a few different sources that the printout was actually passed around the Leinster dressing room to much laughter, for which you can tell I'm chuffed by the fact that I'm mentioning it here!

Of all the feedback I have had over the years it's not the very positive nor the very negative I remember's something I have been told many times by people I meet who discover I'm the guy behind this paraphrase it goes something like this..."Ah, so you're Harpin On Rugby!!! Yeah I read that a lot, fair play to you!!! Don't always agree with you, mind...."  The thing is, that second part doesn't make me feel bad at all, because if I thought that everyone agreed with me it'd be a cult I'd start, not a blog!!!!  😜

For this coming season, the our weekly format is pretty much going to stay the same...Guest posts on Tuesday, these Harpin Points on Wednesday, Rugby on TV on Thursday, Preview on Friday, #HarpinLive tweets during matches over the weekend, 'Online comments' on Sunday, writeup on Monday, then back to the start again, with of course the Front Five feature every morning throughout.

Naturally I couldn't have kept going for this long without the support of  my family, sponsors, guest posters and of course most of all, you the readers.  Many many thanks to you all and as a lot of you have said in the past couple of days, here's to the next ten years!!!

That's all for this week's Harpin Points.  With no Leinster Rugby this weekend, I might kick back a little in a 'calm before the storm' kind of way, but you can be sure by next Wednesday I'll be rarin' to go for the new campaign.  In the meantime, be sure and enjoy your rugby wherever you are.  JLP


Taken by JLP from RDS press box on Nov 16, 2019