There’s a grey area around the penalty try, and it’s only going to get bigger, writes Jamie Wall.


How long until we see someone score a try they wish they hadn’t?

Specifically, when a team is under advantage for an offence that will lead to a penalty try, shouldn’t the ref just immediately award it regardless of whether the try is scored legitimately or not?

This isn’t about the ruling around why penalty tries are awarded. While usually pretty clear cut, they can also be controversial enough to be debated until the end of time. And, every, now and then, they can decide a match:

But let’s say Cornal Hendricks had somehow managed to hang on to the ball and score in the corner. The Boks were down by six, meaning a sideline conversion was potentially crucial to the outcome of the game. Of course, with a penalty try, the kick is automatically moved under the posts -–a shot that any under-12’s player would be embarrassed to miss.

Over the weekend, a couple of incidents showed a major black hole in officiating common sense.


In Brisbane, a Sharks lineout drive against the Reds saw them score despite the maul being pulled down and being under a penalty try advantage. Pat Lambie did kick the conversion from about 10m away in from touch, however.

Meanwhile, in Edinburgh, Scottish winger Tommy Seymour dived over in the corner despite copping a high shot from Welsh second five Scott Williams, which would have been a textbook penalty under the new laws. Again, despite the ball being grounded inches away from the sideline, Finn Russell had no problem with the conversion.

The Sharks ultimately went on to lose their match, blowing an eight-point lead and having to watch Lambie miss a penalty that would’ve seen them win. Scotland ended up comfortable victors, so Russell’s conversion was academic in the end.


So let’s treat this as a warning. Especially since the problem has such an easy solution that actually doesn’t need any tweaking of the rules at all. Right now, World Rugby’s definition on advantage is applied states The advantage must be clear and real. A mere opportunity to gain advantage is not enough. If the non-offending team does not gain an advantage, the referee blows the whistle and brings play back to the place of infringement.’

What could be more of an advantage than a try under the posts? Shouldn’t refs, just use a bit of common sense and overrule whatever happens next?

Either that or, given the new law interpretation on high tackles and how often players get collared in the act of scoring, the situation is going to become more and more commonplace.

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