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Watch: Lima Sopoaga punishes Perpignan for poor goal-line drop-out

By Sam Smith
Lima Sopoaga. (Photo by Romain Biard/Getty Images)

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One of the biggest changes to the game of rugby first trialled at the highest levels during 2021 was the introduction of the goal-line drop-out.

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The law change replaced 5-metre scrums for when attacking players are held up in-goal, and 22-metre dropouts for in-goal defensive touchdowns.

While it certainly forced a rethink for attacking sides when they were trying to churn the ball over the goal line from close range, lest it result in the ball being held up, it’s fair to say that the world probably still hasn’t fully adjusted to the law change. Certainly, we didn’t see as many short kicks from the goal line as we would from the 22-metre line, but teams by and large took a similar approach to the tactics when sending the ball back to their opposition from the drop-out.

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Behind the scenes with Italy v New Zealand.
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Behind the scenes with Italy v New Zealand.

As former All Black Lima Sopoaga showed for Lyon over the weekend, that’s a strategy that can be easily punished.

Shortly before halftime in the Round 16 Top 14 clash between Perpignan and Lyon at the Stade Aimé Giral in Perpignan, the home side were awarded a goal-line drop-out and fullback Patricio Fernandez stepped up to the mark.

Fernandez – who represented Lyon for one season prior to linking up with Perpignan – kicked the ball just beyond his team’s 10-metre line where Sopoaga collected the ball and surveyed his options before slotting a perfectly placed drop goal under minimal pressure from the still far-away Perpignan defence.

It was as easy a set-up as a flyhalf will get, and Sopoaga had no issues banging the ball over from 39 metres.

The successful kick took Lyon out to a 9-3 lead – the same margin that ultimately decided the match, with the visitors triumphing 28-23 and holding third spot on the overall ladder.

The drop goal marked Sopoaga’s second in three weeks for Lyon against Perpignan, with the two sides also squaring off in the Challenge Cup earlier this month, with Lyon also claiming a victory that weekend, 37-6.

That kick marked Sopoaga’s first drop goal since representing the Highlanders, where he recorded six over eight seasons with the Super Rugby side.

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While Sopoaga’s kick wasn’t the first of its kind since the new goal-line drop-out laws were introduced, it’s a timely reminder that thoughtless actions on the rugby field can easily be punished.

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