Pertemps Bees 22 Newbury 22
The regulars at Sharmans Cross Road were left to contemplate a classic chicken or egg problem on Saturday as Pertemps Bees, Newbury and referee Dean Richards combined to produce an encounter high on excitement and controversy, yet life-sappingly low on quality.
They left wondering who had made what was an important match quite so poor. Either the officials ruined the flow or the players were incapable of generating any. Chicken or egg?
Set aside, for a moment, the fact that the hosts traded four points for two with the last action of the match - a finale that is usually enough to headline most given contests - Mr Richards' bizarre interpretation of the rucking laws was the decisive factor.
With Bees protecting a five-point lead late in the game, they put every ballcarrier down and contested wildly for possession on the ground - in their view, fairly - only to be penalised in bushels as the sophistic official accused them of entering the ruck without going through the 'gate', the term used for the hindmost foot in a breakdown.
Unfortunately for Phil Maynard and his team, Mr Richards had constructed a gate so narrow Twiggy would have struggled to slip through it sideways, leading one to wonder what chance a burly professional rugby player stood. It was a classic case of applying the law in letter, rather than spirit.
After seven minutes camped on the Bees' line, Newbury scored one of those awful punt-to-the-wing efforts to draw level. It was a fittingly unsatisfactory end to the hour-and-a-half that had gone before.
Maynard was enraged at Mr Richards' governance of proceedings. "You can't legislate for anything when you do not understand what the referee is asking of you," he said accusingly.
"Clearly he did not understand counter-rucking, which is a big part of our game, but it seemed to be one rule for one and one rule for another."
The issue of counterrucking is thorny, whatever level the game is played at. It basically involves defenders challenging for the ball when the carrier has been grounded.
There's nothing illegal about it, as long as the man is on his feet when he's doing it but, for some reason, some officials don't want a contest on the ground. Mr Richards didn't, to the cost of the contest on the scoreboard.
Maynard wants the situation tightening up, saying: "When you have got to feed your wife and your kids and pay your mortgage, it's laughable that this should be allowed to happen.
"When peoples' livelihoods depend on a referee, it should be better than that. It would be a crying shame if we were to finish in the bottom two because of the two points we have lost in this game."
Maynard will today bend the ear of Steve Leyshon, the Rugby Football Union's referee development officer, calling for the laws to be clarified. It won't be the first time, though.
Let's move on to the players' contributions. There were some fine individual efforts from the home side. Lock Duncan White and flankers Cae Trayhern and Tu Tamarua led the pack superbly and tighthead Emyr Lewis did not disgrace himself on his first Bees appearance for two years. In the backs, Tim Walsh showed once again what a fine footballer he is and inside centre Mike Davies will be pleased with his return to the team.
But, as a unit, they fired sporadically. When they did, the result was impressive - two tries in the first six minutes and a beautiful counterattack to give Nick Baxter league try No 148.
But, bizarrely, they allowed the visitors - yes, Newbury - to score two pushover tries, lost any sort of accuracy with their line-out and, by the end, got sucked into their guests' amorphous style.
Newbury's director of coaching, Ben Ryan, was in the national press on Saturday morning extolling the virtues of the loose and fast strategy he has built into his game plan. Too many Premiership teams, we were told, are over-structured and out of date.
Yet if the sort of 'junk rugby' Newbury played here is the future, then we might as well do without flankers, move to Yorkshire and call ourselves rugby league.
Why is it so wrong to ask props to scrummage, locks to maul and - crucially - back rows to fight for ruck ball? Perhaps because some referees don't seem to want to officiate it.