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Watch: The freakish Super Rugby try that's left fans questioning the laws

By Sam Smith
Pita Gus Sowakula. (Photo by Michael Bradley/Getty Images)

It might be too early to already be talking about a ‘try of the season’ contender with just four games of Super Rugby Pacific out of the way but big Chiefs number 8 Pita Gus Sowakula certainly scored a doozy against the Highlanders on Saturday night.


Scintillating tries have always been the name of the game in matches between the Chiefs and the Highlanders.

Who can forget Tim Nanai-Williams’ five-pointer scored under the roof in Dunedin in 2013 after an epic passage of play that saw both sides muster multiple linebreaks in a 4-minute period that eventually ended with the Chiefs centre dashing 70 metres down the field for the score.

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More recently, Jona Nareki put on a showcase in the Highlanders’ comeback win at the start of the 2020 Super Rugby Aotearoa season to kick-start the Chiefs’ disastrous campaign.

While Pita Gus Sowakula didn’t have to clock up many metres to earn his meat pie against the Highlanders and score the Chiefs’ second try of the game on Saturday afternoon, the athletic feat on display was arguably more impressive.

From a 5-metre attacking scrum close to the left-hand touchline, Sowakula broke off and headed to the blindside where he was met by just one solitary defender: All Blacks halfback Aaron Smith. Instead of using his considerable frame to try blast through Smith, Sowakula simply leapt over the incoming tackle and dived over the line to score untouched.

It was an impressive feat, but one which had many fans questioning the legality of the manoeuvre on social media.


Similar attempts to jump over tackles have been penalised in the past with referees often citing the laws regarding dangerous play as a justification.

England wing Jonny May scored a similar try against Italy last year, hurdling over Luca Sperandio to dot the ball down in the corner.

Initially, former-referee-turned-pundit Nigel Owens suggested on Twitter that the try should have been disallowed if May intended to avoid the tackle by hurdling over the defender.

Owens later clarified his comments, suggesting that the refereeing team had evidently decided the manoeuvre from May wasn’t dangerous, but he did confirm that “what you can’t do is jump into or jump over a tackle or would-be tackler, the same as you can’t dive or jump over a ruck to score a try.”


As there is no specific law about jumping over tacklers in the law book, it’s up to individual referees to make a call and Paul Williams, the man in the middle on Saturday afternoon,  evidently was comfortable that no dangerous play had been committed by Sowakula.

The Chiefs went on to win the match 26-16.


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