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RNE Tiebreaker Snafu Highlights Need for Clarity

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RNE Tiebreaker Snafu Highlights Need for Clarity

Bentley knows they are in the playoffs, but do they host or not? Confusion in the Rugby Northeast tiebreaker has it all a question.

The Rugby Northeast playoff seeds have changed twice so far in the last couple of days, and could change again.

After Bentley defeated Providence College and Southern Connecticut won over St. Michael's to get all three at 7-1. Rugby Northeast does not use the bonus point system, and so the teams were just flat-out tied at 7-1.

So then the Rugby Northeast tiebreaker rules say this:

"If a team is eliminated when applying these tie-breaker rules, start back at the beginning using the appropriate tie-breaker rule for the remaining tied teams (2-way or 3-way or more).

W-L-T record vs. other tied teams
Total Net Points in games involving only the tied teams
Net Points vs. highest ranked common opponent
Net Points vs. next highest ranked common opponent and so on"


The teams were all tied with 7 wins.

All three had the same won-loss record versus each other - all were 1-1 against the other two.

So now we go to net points among the three tied teams. With that, Bentley is at +17, Southern Connecticut at -7, and Providence -10.

Here's where we get into disagreement. According to Rugby Northeast Commissioner Charles Cisco, the way to figure this out is to look at the three-way points difference and say "OK, Bentley wins, so Bentley is no longer in the equation. Bentley is conference champion, and we go back to the original two-way tiebreaker for SoConn and Providence."

If you do it that way, the #2 team is Providence College, which beat SoConn 29-13 on September 16.

However, that's not how many read the rules. Several, including Goff Rugby Report, looked at the rules and read it to mean that you use the three-way tiebreaker, get rid of the losing team (Providence), and then look at head-to-head between the top two remaining.

That way of looking at the tiebreaker has Providence College out, and SoConn finishing 1st based on their head-to-head win over Bentley on October 29.

So Cisco at Rugby Northeast stated that Bentley was the winner and Providence #2. Southern Connecticut appealed to USA Rugby's Competitions Committee, which looked at Rugby Northeast rules, and without a dissenting vote (one abstention) ruled that the second interpretation of the tiebreaker is what the RNE rules state. Cisco told Goff Rugby Report that his interpretation is what major pro sports competitions use, and added that "USA Rugby made a decision they had no right to make."

Here is where we at Goff Rugby Report have to step in with an opinion. And that opinion is this:

1. USA Rugby has every right to make this decision, because that's the National Governing Body's job. When there's a dispute in a local league, USA Rugby has to mediate. That's one of the things you pay your dues for.

2. The key word in the Rugby Northeast rules is "eliminated." As in: "If a team is eliminated when applying these tie-breaker rules, start back at the beginning using the appropriate tie-breaker rule for the remaining tied teams (2-way or 3-way or more)."

For most people, the term "eliminated" means that a team is removed from championship contention. Cisco's interpretation is that "eliminated" means that a team is seen to have won, and is removed from the tiebreaker. But no one uses the word eliminated that way. When you are eliminated from a contest or competition, you have lost. A team that is eliminated from playoff contention cannot play in the playoffs. A team isn't eliminated from going golfing because they won. That team has clinched.

So, it's all about how you write your rules. The Rugby Northeast rules are written in such a way that makes it plain that in a three-way tie, you apply the best possible tiebreaker, and use it to eliminate a team. That is, remove that team from consideration. Then you go back to your preferred level of tiebreaker (in this case, head-to-head) to determine who is 1st and who is 2nd.


3. We need to standardize tiebreakers. It would be much easier for everyone, especially us as Goff Rugby Report World Headquarters, if the same tiebreaker rules were used for everyone. But they are not. Sometimes it's total points difference, sometimes it's head-to-head, sometimes it's how many match reports your team has turned in. 


It's quite possible Providence will appeal. But the 1st round of the national playoffs kick off in four days. Yesterday, Bentley was hosting York in their game, and Providence was expected to travel to SUNY Cortland. Then, after the appeal, we've got Bentley going to Cortland and Southern Connecticut hosting York. Certainly York would like to know where they're going, and so would Bentley. It's got to be put to bed quickly.