Planet Rugby

Mailbox: Penalties

06th May 2009 12:04


It was a classic: an ebb and flow game, with Leicester's spring tide suddenly overwhelmed by the tsunami of the Cardiff Blues comeback.

The teams were inseparable after 100 minutes of enthralling rugby. Someone had to lose. Someone had to make the mistake. But that it should be none other than Martyn Williams, doing none other than trying to land a pot at goal...

We felt it was deeply unsatisfying. As did many of the players and coaches and, it turns out, many of you.

We've had anger, frustration, and not a few suggestions as to how a penalty shoot-out could be avoided in the future. Here's a selection of your thoughts on the penalty shoot-out issue...

- What a load of rubbish we witnessed today. Whatever happened to giving everything until the day is won?! This penalty shoot out took something away from rugby today, that spirit of putting your body on the line until you take the spoils. It should be decided by sudden death extra time. As rugby players we should be playing rugby to decide things, not reducing flankers to taking pot shots at goal.

And if some marketing cretin comes up with entertainment as an excuse, I will quietly remind them that actual rugby is far more entertaining than penalties before tying them to a chair and making them listen to a perpetually looped tape of Reggie Dixon's Tango Treats.

Bryn Stephens, face down in the middle of a ruck, Wales.

- I ran a tournament in the Philippines (the Manila tens) for many years in which we introduced a 'run off' in the event of a draw.

Each team captain got to choose one member of the opposite team (usually one of the front row - for obvious reasons) and each of the thus selected players had to race each other the length of the field carrying a ball. Winner takes all.

Whilst perhaps not that far removed from penalty shootouts such a race is a great crowd pleaser and does not prolong the agony!

Bob Jest

- Even as a diehard Tigers fan, you have to feel for Cardiff today. Quite why the kicking abilities of Williams vs Crane should decide who should make the Heineken Cup Final is beyond me. But despite the arbitrary nature of the win, I feel Leicester deserved it today - after all, we scored two tries which brought tears to my eyes in the sublimity of their execution.

Still, fingernails bitten to the quick, half a bottle of gin drunk to quench the nerves, and no doubt a horde of heartbroken Blues fans makes me think this might not have been the fairest way to settle a fantastic semi-final.

Hannah Smith

- What a ridiculous end to a great match. Why choose a kicking competition? Only a few players are skilled and trained in goalkicking; to ask other professionals to take kicks to decide a game reduces them to the level of performing seals.

Why not get everyone to replicate hookers' skills by throwing at a target? Maybe as rugby is a running game all 30 players should line up and run the length of the field with 30 points awarded to the first home down to one for the last.

At least in football there is a contest between players who are on the team for their ability to kick a ball and a goalkeeper for his ability to save it.

To watch a Grand Slam winner and Lion humiliated by being asked to decide his and his team-mates season by taking part in a version of 'Its a Knockout' demeaned the game and the tournament.

I don't at the moment have an answer to how decide such a situation, but whatever the solution I would prefer not to see a repeat of this afterrnoon's fiasco.

Mick Finnegan

- A fantastic, absorbing match ruined.

I heard a great method from a non-rugby man:

Toss a coin, one team gets an attacking scrum on opposition's 22. Either they score from the movement or don't.

When the movement ends, the opposition gets an attacking scrum. If one team scores from the first scrum (no matter who has the feed), the opposition MUST score from the second scrum (no matter who has the feed).

The first to successfully score and defend, or defend then score, wins.

Simple, and much more like rugby.

Chris Brown

- Last season I refereed the Italian U19 final between Benetton Treviso and Capitolina Roma. At the end of the 70 mins the score was level at 14-14; the Italian rugby laws establish that junior players cannot play more than 70 mins in a day for safety reasons.

Therefore after the "normal" time we had to go for penalties.

There is though a big difference from what I saw in the Heineken semi-final: each team chooses 3 kickers for the first round of kicks, and they kick alternatively from the center of the 22m, then from the left 22m - 5m from touch and last from the right 22m - 5m from touch.

If the score is still level, we have another round of kicks but from the 10m line, same order and same kickers, if the teams wish.

If the score is still level we go on the halfway line, same order and same kickers, if the teams wish.

If the score is still level we start again from the 22m line, and so on.

The series of 3 kicks must be completed each time. Last year both teams got the central kicks, then Capitolina got the left one and treviso missed both left and right 22m kicks.

Regards, Stefano Marrama, Italian Super 10 referee

- Forget penalty shoot-outs. Why not have a golden try scenario where after extra time each team is awarded a scrum ten metres out from the goal-line and straight under the posts. The attacking team must use the possession to score a try within a one-minute timeframe or lose possession thereby turning the ball over and giving the defending team the opportunity to score from the ten metre scrum. One team goes first and play continues as in a shoot-out until one team fails to score.

This is simpler and fairer by involving all players in winning or losing the match.

Ray Bos, New Zealand

- If there really is a need to end it quickly (whether for the safety of exhausted players or for questions of broadcasting schedules), I think rugby could take inspiration from another sport than football, namely, ice hockey.

In the National Hockey League, playoff games that are tied at the end of regulation time go to sudden death overtime and keep playing extra periods without limit until someone scores.

However, during the regular season, when broadcasters are less willing to disrupt other programming, games that are tied at the end of regulation go to a short period of sudden death overtime, followed by penalty shots.

Forgetting about the shootout part, the point I want to make is that the overtime period is played with a reduced number of players, in order to open up the ice and increase the chances of scoring.

One can see a similar relationship in rugby, as rugby sevens tends to involve more scoring in a given period than does the XV man game, so one possibility to avoid the penalty shoot out would be to play extra time at seven a side: two 5 minute extra time halves, followed by a sudden death extra time if the score were still tied.

That way, the outcome of the match would be decided by running rugby, not by forwards' kicks at goal.

I noted that one good thing did come out of the Cardiff-Leicester shootout, and that is a demonstration of the enduring sense of fair play and good sportsmanship that exists in rugby, even in the professional era. The Leicester players' and coaches' humility in victory, and genuine sympathy for their Cardiff opponents is an excellent example of good sportsmanship.

Dominic Rossi, Canada

- My suggestion would be that if the teams are level full time, the sides be reduced to 10-a-side for the extra time periods. If they are still level after that, reduce to 7-a-side until the first points are scored.

The extra space by reducing the team numbers should produce scores within the extra time period.

That's my two bob's worth.

Regards, Peter Hardy

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