I can still remember the first the first time I saw Rugby on television. All I could think is… what in the hell is happening!! It looks like football but crazier. I am sure that I am not alone in feeling that way. However, I made the effort to learn the game and I have fallen head over heels in love with it. I hope to explain a little bit about it and hope you will grow to feel the same way. I will try and use American Football as a reference whenever possible to make it easier to digest.
As with most games, the objective of a Rugby match is to score more points than your opponents. There are several ways to score points.
This is the most basic form of scoring in Rugby. A try (try at goal) is worth 5 points and is very similar to a touchdown in American Football. Let’s compare the two:
In American Football, a player scores a touchdown whenever the ball crosses the first line of the end zone by a player with controlled possession. This is worth 6 points.
A try is scored when a player with clear possession enters the In Zone AND touches the ball to the ground. Unlike American Football, the ball MUST touch the ground in the In Zone. It is not enough to simply pass the line. This is an extremely important difference. Wherever the ball touches the ball in the In Zone determines where the conversion attempt takes place.
A conversion in Rugby allows a team to add 2 additional points after scoring a try. Again, this is very similar to American Football with some key distinctions.
Once a touchdown is scored, this permits the scoring team a chance at a conversion. A player can either place kick the ball from the center of the field through the uprights for 1 additional point. Alternatively, the team can opt to run/pass the ball into the end zone again for an additional 2 points.
There is only one type of conversion. Like American football, the scoring team gets the chance to kick the ball through the uprights. If successful, the team is awarded 2 additional points. However, the scoring team is not guaranteed a place kick from the center of the field. They must take the place kick in line with the location the ball touched the ball in the In Zone. It does not matter how close or far the kicker is to that point. It only matters that they are inline.
Ideally, teams try to touch the ball down as close to the uprights as they can. This creates an easy conversion for the kicker. The further the ball is from the uprights, the more difficult it is for the kicker. I tried to demonstrate this in the image above.
When the defending team commits an infringement against the rules, the attacking team is given the option of taking a penalty kick from the location where the infraction took place. This is most often a place kick; however, the attacking team can drop kick the ball as well. A successful attempt is worth 3 points. If the kick missed, one of two thing can occur. If the kick is missed and leaves the playing area then the defending team is awarded a drop kick from the 22 meter line. If the kick is missed and remains in the playing area the ball is in play.
A drop goal is scored when the ball is drop kicked through the crossbar. A successful attempt is worth 3 points. Unlike a penalty kick, the drop goal can be taken any time in play. If the kick is missed and stays in bound then play resumes. If the ball is kicked out of bounds the location of the ball ultimately determines how play is restarted. Restarting play will be the topic of another post.
As you can see, there are quite a few ways to score. I hope you enjoyed your first steps into demystifying the game of Rugby. I would encourage you to jump on Youtube and check out a match. In particular, I would suggest watching the All Blacks of New Zealand. Stay with me for future posts on learning the game of Rugby!