Let’s face it, nobody wants to watch 80 minutes of rugby and see a scoreline of 9-3 at the end. We want the chip and chase, the back-door reverse pass, the moment of genius that unlocks a defensive system, the training ground set-piece move that cuts open a backline. We don’t want a game of kicking tennis, waiting for someone to slip up, so we can take 3 points and head home, with our 4 point win.
The principal of the 4-try bonus point rule is to encourage running, attacking rugby, and in a lot of circumstances, it does just that. With a team on 3 tries already, often they will go for the jugular and kick to the corner, looking for that bonus point 4th try. Recently though, the question has been raised, is that enough to encourage attacking rugby?
There are increasing calls to demote the value of a penalty to 2 points, or increase the value of a try to 6 points. South Africa will trial a new, 9-point try, law variation this year in their Varsity Cup Competition.
This rule will see that a try is still worth 5 points, but if the movement begins between the half-way line and the opponent’s 22 – and possession is maintained from start to finish – the attacking team will receive two bonus points. If a team scores a try that originated from inside their own half and possession is, again, maintained from start to finish, they will be awarded 4 bonus points. Essentially, encouraging teams to attack from their own half, looking for those extra 4 points.
A little complicated, maybe?
How will this affect the 7-point losing bonus? Will teams begin to tactically leak penalties because they are only worth 2 points? Will this see the demise of world-class kickers, the Jonny Wilkinson’s, Dan Carter’s, Leigh Halfpenny’s and Ronan O’Gara’s of this world, because their skill is only worth 2 points?
While nobody likes to see a game won purely on penalties, last gasp drop-goals and penalty deciders are an integral part of the game we love. Place-kickers are invaluable to any team, and it would be an almighty shame to lose this aspect of the game by reducing the value of a penalty, when it is a skill not easily mastered, that should be rewarded, and respected.
How do we encourage the running, attacking game we crave, without reducing the influence of other aspects on the game?
Simple. Introduce a 3-try bonus point rule, with a second bonus point for 6 tries, maybe even a third for 9 tries? The format of the game need not be altered at all. No laws need be changed, no complicated variations. Just a simple incentive to encourage more tries.
Those teams who put up cricket scores would be rewarded for their 10 try spree, with 3 extra points in the league table. Those who, gallantly, fight to end, only to be beaten 43-37, scoring 6 tries along the way, could still leave with a losing bonus point, and be rewarded 2 points for their 6 try display.
Goal-kickers will still be match winners, but tries will win the league.