Loose Pass

Date published: May 12 2015

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This week we will mostly be concerning ourselves with Thomas the Try-Scoring Tank Engine, Ben Ryan's rallying call and Premiership Rugby.

The most entertaining league in the world?

With the Premiership regular season battle set to build to a dramatic climax, English club rugby chiefs were clearly in a bullish mood last week.

A press release boasting of increasing attendances and bumper TV ratings also included reference to the fact that the Premiership is now averaging more than five tries a game, more than any other professional league in the world.

They also point to the fact that 42% games are 'close' – the teams are separated by seven points or less – while we are informed that the 'majority of matches…are undecided until the final 10 minutes'.

They did not include their workings but we'll take them at their word.

The most interesting point is a major competition clearly going on the record to say that more tries is good for them, the fans and the game in general – especially in a part of the world where certain aspects of the media have often criticised Super Rugby for the 'try-fests' it often throws up.

This is the first time the Premiership has broken the five tries per game average since the 1999-2000 season – funny how we have not heard about the importance of tries in the seasons since then.

Waldrom builds up a head of steam

You are not supposed to play favourites as a rugby writer but it is impossible not to be a fan of Exeter.

The Chiefs have made many friends on their rise up the English rugby ranks thanks to their refusal not to cow tail to the sport's established names and their determination to shake up the Premiership landscape.

Match day at Sandy Park remains one of the highlights of the calendar and is sure to be a jewel in the Rugby World Cup crown later this year.

The Chiefs look poised to take the latest step in their development into a major force with a first appearance in the Premiership play-offs now within their grasp – thanks largely to one of the sport's unlikely heroes, Thomas Waldrom.

The Kiwi-born number eight has crossed for an incredible 16 tries this season and with one round of the regular season remaining is just one score short of the record for a single season held by former Richmond wing Dom Chapman.

In an era where explosive pace and power are more often than not the trump cards, the old school-looking Waldrom, his rumbling running style, enviable work rate, humility and 'Thomas the Tank' try celebration are a delight.

His name is surprisingly missing from the shortlist for the Premiership Player of the Season and his try-scoring efforts failed to earn him a place among the Try of the Season contenders.

A return to the England ranks also looks unlikely with Saracens' Billy Vunipola and Gloucester's Ben Morgan set to block his path, but make no mistake, Waldrom is a winner.

While my role does not allow me to champion the Chiefs this weekend, I make no apologies about my desire to see Waldrom make history when his side tackle Sale Sharks.

Ryan rallying call does the trick

Fiji, South Africa and New Zealand booked their places at the 2016 Olympics with their performances at the penultimate event of this season's Sevens World Series in Glasgow securing their spots in the top four that guarantees passage to Rio.

In beating title rivals South Africa and New Zealand on their way to the Glasgow crown, Fiji climbed to the top of the Sevens Series standings but their most impressive play arguably came from their coach Ben Ryan.

The former England Sevens coach read the riot act to his players at half-time in their final against New Zealand having seen his side threaten to undo the hard work that had earned them a place in the title decider.

"That is a shadow of the team that has played for the last two days,” bellowed Ryan.

"It is an embarrassment. You need to sort your stuff out in this next ten minutes and decide where our fate lies."

In the aftermath of his side's victory Ryan could not recall what he had said to inspire his players to turn the game around but it didn't matter – the TV cameras and social media had captured the moment perfectly.

So often when a camera is thrust into such intense situations we are met with the almost obligatory obscene language and immediate apology from the commentator.

How refreshing to hear Ryan rally his troops with some harsh reality but without the profanity.

Take a bow Barnes and co

It was not only Leicester who turned it on at the Ricoh Arena last weekend in despatching Wasp but also the officials.

We are often quick to criticise referees and their assistants for their handling of key moments and a little too slow perhaps to offer praise where it is due.

But not on this occasion. Referee Wayne Barnes and Television Match Official Sean Davey played a blinder when confronted with a moment of madness from Leicester's Seremaia Bai.

The Fijian centre fired himself torpedo-like into the head of Wasps' Nathan Hughes in an ill-advised attempt to clear out at a ruck and was swiftly shown a yellow card by Barnes who was perhaps a little too close to the action to witness the full horror of the challenge.

Thankfully Davey was able to draw his attention to the severity of the incident and urged him to watch the replays on the big screen.

Within moments Barnes had brandished a red card and Bai's game and most likely his season, was over. Rugby union is far from perfect but how other sports must envy the successful use of technology and the TMO referral system that benefits players, officials, fans and the game itself.

Loose Pass is compiled by former scrum.com editor Graham Jenkins

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