FOLLOWING post-match press conference comments from Huddersfield Giants boss Ian Watson on the consistency of the six again calls during Saints’ narrow Challenge Cup victory on Friday, the St Helens Star asked Kristian Woolf for his thoughts on how the restart rule is working.

KRISTIAN Woolf believes the referees have been left to deal with too many rule changes in a short period of time leading to inconsistencies in the way the six again restart rule has been applied.

And the Saints coach has called for his side to be refereed at the same standard as other teams after surveying data on the speed of the play the balls from the opening rounds of the season.

After the end of the first Covid lockdown rugby league brought in the six again rule for ruck infringements and suspended scrums – measures that were intended to speed the game up.

This year a change to the ball stealing rule has created a grey area for players and officials and a further ruse to slow down the ruck.

St Helens Star:

Woolf said: “I am in favour of the six again rule and thought it was a real positive change last year when it was implemented properly, but for some reason that is not happening now.

“I blame the fact that we have added in a number of other rule changes and I don’t think the referees can handle that many changes and that is creating an inconsistency at the ruck.

“The numbers point to the fact we are being refereed to a different standard.”

Figures show Saints have almost half the number of fast play-the-balls than their match day opponents, nearly double the number of slow ones and yet they lead the competition with the number of six again restarts conceded.

Those stats bear no logic for a team boasting Super League’s best ball carriers, like Alex Walmsley, who have been denied the fruits of their efforts.

Woolf explained: “We are not getting rewarded for the carriers we have. You can’t say we have the worst play the ball in the competition, basically double everyone else, with the ball carriers we have.

“I don’t think we are being refereed to the same standard.

St Helens Star:

“What we are getting, and I have looked at stuff over the last seven games now, is every game we are getting double the slow play the balls, half the fast play the balls, but somehow we are getting double the set restarts given against us.

“We lead the competition in ‘six agains’ against us and we are not an ill-disciplined side.”

Huddersfield worked hard to slow down the ruck on Friday night and nullify any gains from Walmsley’s big carries.

Woolf added: “Every time Alex Walmsley carries the ball it is almost a ‘six again’ because he breaks a tackle, gets to his front and then Huddersfield blokes flop in late.

“There was a play the ball on their line where we had them stripped to pieces and Sione Mata’utia almost scores and that was an eight-second play the ball and we don’t get any reward for that whatsoever.”

St Helens Star:

After Saints had battled their way in front to take a 10-6 lead they suddenly found themselves under the cosh in their own half, courtesy of three ‘six agains’ that eventually saw the line crack less than a minute before the interval.

“You look at some of the tackles in the game that are ridiculously slow and then you get a set like that in which the opposition get an opportunity to score with three sixes again in a row.

“Two were given for hand on the ball. If you have a look through the game the number of tackles where hand is on the ball and teams have tried to get in a position to try and ball steal and the refs don’t know how to handle it as much.

“It becomes a messy ruck and we have created a grey area of inconsistency where sometimes you get penalised for hand on the ball, but the very large majority of the times there’s no penalty and players are allowed to stand up and hold on to the ball.

“That used to be a penalty every time, but it is now just common practice,” he said.