Peter Sterling: It's time coaches embraced the scrum

If you’re looking to incite an argument when it comes to rugby league, you need go no further than mention the scrum.<br><br>If you’re looking for a heated one, then have the discussion with those who remember when they were actually a contest. <br><br>Today, scrums allow 12 forwards to lean against each other for a rest while the ball is rolled down the side to be invariably won by the feeding team.<br><br>There are many who believe that they should be done away with completely, in preference to what they see as a cynical representation of what they once were.<br><br>To a degree, this view is one through rose-coloured glasses. Even in the “good old days” scrums were still a chaotic mish-mash that created waves of controversy. So much so that the differential penalty was introduced to stop games being decided on the back of dubious and highly contentious decisions.<br><br>In trying to figure out the place of the scrum in the modern game, I find that I have mixed feelings.<br><br>Firstly, I’m a traditionalist and - with them being part of our game since 1908 - I find it difficult for them to disappear. I believe that in recent times we have been guilty of discarding too much tradition from our game.<br><br>More importantly, we need to look at what the alternatives would be.<br><br>I don’t see that going back in time will have changed the fact that they were always a mess. Yes more of a contest, but still never a particularly satisfactory one.<br><br>I’m also not a fan of just handing the ball over to the opposition, which goes against the grain and seems an even softer option. On the rare occasions we see a handover today, it is deemed a cardinal sin because rugby league has always been about denying the opposition possession.<br><br>Maybe then the best approach is to embrace the rare opportunity it provides for sparkling, open football... something I don’t think enough coaches and teams have looked to take full advantage of.<br><br>A scrum is the only time that forwards are placed out of the way - allowing 20 metres between potential evasive, speedy and deceptive backlines. <br><br>It is the perfect time to show some adventure, and it is because of this that I find it so frustrating to see a big forward moved to five-eighth to be used for a one-out straight charge.<br><br>So far this year we have had 10 tries scored directly from scrum wins. We should have had more, because in them we can see just how creative teams can be.<br><br>The West Tigers continue to lead the way, underlining the exciting and entertaining way they approach their football.<br><br>It took them just three minutes of the new season to demonstrate this with a short-side play to put Lote Tuqiri in against Manly.<br><br>Benji Marshall fed the ball but backed up to allow Robbie Farah to pick up so he could push wide to create numbers. This saw Farah throw across his number six to Chris Lawrence, now outside defender Jamie Lyon and giving space for Tuqiri to cross in the corner.<br><br><b><a href="http://www.nrl.com/telstrapremiership/gameanalyservideo/tabid/10910/default.aspx?seasonid=240&amp;roundid=837&amp;fixtureid=50020100108&amp;videoquality=1&amp;type=linebreak&amp;period=1&amp;time=213" target="_blank">CLICK HERE to see Tuqiri's try unfold.</a></b><br><br>They were at it again last Friday night against Canterbury producing one of the most audacious plays you could ever see.<br><br>Believing that the Tigers must be drained after a huge defensive effort in the opening 20 minutes, the last thing the ‘Dogs were expecting was a kick on the first tackle.<br><br>Again, Farah picked up at the back of the scrum and headed blind-side on a similar line to Marshall with Lawrence and Tuqiri dropping underneath. This brought the defence up so that Farah could kick in behind Steve Turner and put Benji in a foot race.<br><br>They didn’t score, with a bad bounce not helping the cause, but got the ball back from a Turner knock-on.<br><br>It was beautiful to watch.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; <br><br><b><a href="http://www.nrl.com/telstrapremiership/gameanalyservideo/tabid/10910/default.aspx?seasonid=240&amp;roundid=842&amp;fixtureid=50020100601&amp;videoquality=1&amp;type=handlingerror&amp;period=1&amp;time=1317" target="_blank">CLICK HERE to see Farah's vision from the scrum.</a></b><br><br>(*An obvious tip to coaches – When Farah packs in at lock something is “on”).<br><br>Canterbury mirrored the Tigers' round one effort when they took on the Roosters in round three.<br><br>Lock David Stagg picked up the ball with Brett Kimmorley drifting to the blind and Jamal Idris the decoy. Kimmorley received a second-man ball to be able to draw and pass to Turner. After some interplay, it was Idris who finally scored.&nbsp; <br><br><b><a href="http://www.nrl.com/telstrapremiership/gameanalyservideo/tabid/10910/default.aspx?seasonid=240&amp;roundid=839&amp;fixtureid=50020100307&amp;videoquality=1&amp;type=linebreak&amp;period=1&amp;time=2607" target="_blank">CLICK HERE to see Kimmorley from the scrum.</a></b><br><br>One of the most inventive moves we’ve seen was from the Cowboys in round four against the Titans. What was particularly impressive was the use of prop Matt Scott in the backs and the ground covered by Ashley Graham.<br><br>From the scrum-base, Ray Thompson found Shannon Gallant as first-receiver with Johnathan Thurston looping behind. Scott looked likely to be used, but it was Thurston who appeared and straightened to score. Another option could have been Ashley Graham who’d run 40 metres to play his part.&nbsp; <br><br><b><a href="http://www.nrl.com/telstrapremiership/gameanalyservideo/tabid/10910/default.aspx?seasonid=240&amp;roundid=840&amp;fixtureid=50020100404&amp;videoquality=1&amp;type=linebreak&amp;period=2&amp;time=2133" target="_blank">CLICK HERE to see this set play unfold.</a></b><br><br>Whilst this play was reasonably intricate, other teams have kept it simple using just one decoy.<br><br>In round two, Manly’s Jamie Lyon passed behind Trent Hodkinson to open space for Ben Farrar and try-scorer Tony Williams.<br><br><b><a href="http://www.nrl.com/GameanalyserVideo/tabId/10910/Default.aspx?seasonID=240?seasonid=240&amp;roundid=838&amp;fixtureid=50020100206&amp;videoquality=1&amp;type=linebreak&amp;period=1&amp;time=1003" target="_blank">CLICK HERE to Manly's scrum play.</a></b><br><br>In round four, Souths actually hit flat runner Beau Champion for a try with full-back Rhys Wesser selling his presence out the back.<br><br><b><a href="http://www.nrl.com/telstrapremiership/gameanalyservideo/tabid/10910/default.aspx?seasonid=240&amp;roundid=840&amp;fixtureid=50020100408&amp;videoquality=1&amp;type=linebreak&amp;period=1&amp;time=206" target="_blank">CLICK HERE to see Champion's line-running from a scrum play.</a></b><br><br>On the same weekend, a dummy run by Junior Sa’u enabled the Knights' Jarrod Mullen to scoot around Panther Luke Lewis who’d been put back on his heels by the Sa’u run.<br><br><b><a href="http://www.nrl.com/telstrapremiership/gameanalyservideo/tabid/10910/default.aspx?seasonid=240&amp;roundid=840&amp;fixtureid=50020100407&amp;videoquality=1&amp;type=try&amp;period=2&amp;time=1832" target="_blank">CLICK HERE to see Mullen's speed to get around Lewis.</a></b><br><br>Finally, success has been as easy as positioning a great ball carrier against a single defender.<br><br>In round five, Parramatta’s Timana Tahu was given quick ball to leave the Raiders' Joel Thompson grasping at thin air. Luke Burt scored and Eels fans would love to see more of this kind of delivery.<br><br><b><a href="http://www.nrl.com/telstrapremiership/gameanalyservideo/tabid/10910/default.aspx?seasonid=240&amp;roundid=841&amp;fixtureid=50020100508&amp;videoquality=1&amp;type=try&amp;period=1&amp;time=1335" target="_blank">CLICK HERE to see how dangerous the Eels can be from a scrum.</a></b><br><br>The scrum debate will continue to rage with no obvious answer.<br><br>While it does, I hope that teams see them for what they are – a gilt-edged chance to add to the scoreboard. <br>