December 18, 2008
A young Essex rugby player has won plaudits from his club and a referee for an act of sportsmanship after refusing to accept he had scored a try.
Ben Jones, a 19-year-old centre, was playing for Colchester Colts against Sudbury in the Eastern Counties Colts Cup last weekend when he dived for the goalline and referee Alexis Manley signalled a try. "The referee was behind me and may have been unsighted but he and the rest of my team were certain I'd scored," said Ben. "In fact I was a few inches short, and being dragged backwards by the Sudbury player tackling me. It wasn't a try and I didn't see the point in claiming it. The score was 0-0 at the time and Sudbury had defended so well up to then, they didn't deserve to concede a try and I had a feeling we'd win in the end."
Colchester did indeed win handsomely but Ben's act of sportsmanship prompted Manley, an experienced referee with the London Society, to write to Ross Cowie, chair of Colchester's youth committee, requesting he bring it to the attention of the club's main committee. "I have been refereeing for more than 10 years and I have never come across such honesty before, it was a pleasure to experience it," said Manley. "It was great sporting conduct. I thought he had scored a try and awarded it, only for him to stand up and tell me that it was short of the line.
"It is important for our game that such acts are appropriately acknowledged and shared. From a refereeing point of view I was amazed at his honesty."
Barry White, manager of Colchester's Colts, said: "Our team eventually won 48-12, but I think Ben would have done this anyway. The club are proud of what he did and we think this is a great example of rugby's sportsmanship and fair play." Coach Nic Lloyd said: "This was an excellent example of sportsmanship from Ben and appreciated by the referee."
Colchester won the Eastern Counties Colts Cup last season and reached the last eight nationally. They hope to do even better in this year's National Colts Cup, and are at home to London Irish in the fourth round (the last 32) next month.
Ben, who is on his gap year with plans to visit Australia and New Zealand in 2009, only took up rugby three years ago, having been a schoolboy footballer with Colchester United. He says there is a big difference in sportsmanship between the sports. "I was a goalkeeper in football and if someone banged into me they'd be lying on the ground for ages. I used to love football but I hate it now as it's so much about the individual and not anyone else in the team. All the cheating there is at all levels, I can't stand it.
"Telling the referee I hadn't scored is the sort of thing I'd normally do, although I suppose I've never heard one of our players or any of the opposition do it. I got passed the ball from our fly half in a switch move, broke the first tackle and dived for the line. The referee blew his whistle for the try and all the Sudbury players said �are you sure?' I got up and said �it wasn't a try'. My coach said that if it had been the national cup final he'd have killed me and he was only half-joking and I wonder if it would be the same. But I wouldn't have been happy with myself if I'd accepted it."