Ask Kamo
Former All Black Ian Jones answers your Super 15 questions

Ask Kamo: It's true: We're seeing fewer tries as defences are getting better

Arizona Taumalolo of the Chiefs looks for a way through the Brumbies pack during a Super 15 match at Bay Park, Mount Maunganui. Photo / Joel Ford
Arizona Taumalolo of the Chiefs looks for a way through the Brumbies pack during a Super 15 match at Bay Park, Mount Maunganui. Photo / Joel Ford

Why is there a lack of tries this season, especially in the New Zealand conference? It appears teams are playing for penalties in the opposition half and, boy, aren't the refs giving them. Back play is woeful and it's getting hard to watch! Cheers, Brian

Firstly Brian, your observations that there have been fewer tries scored this year are spot on. As a comparison, after four rounds last year 112 tries had been scored compared to 104 this year. Why is that? Clearly we can say the defences are getting better, giving fewer opportunities to score. But more importantly when we take a look at the points differential of the teams, we see a spread of -43 to +32 this year, compared to a far greater spread of -72 to +58 (this was after round 5, in 2011).

This means we can see all 15 teams are getting better and we are not getting the score blow outs we have seen in the past. It makes for a stronger competition.

With reference to the penalties taken, an explanation of this is that the kicking percentages are far greater this year with the kickers having an accuracy of 74 per cent in 2012 compared to 71 per cent in 2011 so you are actually seeing more kicks going through the uprights.

Have the rules around rolling mauls changed? In my day you needed at least one shoulder (as the ball carrier) on another player. The South African teams have made an artform of creating a rolling maul with the ball carrier connected by only one hand holding on. Surely the refs should be penalising them. Bunta

Thanks for your question, Bunta, and you raise a good point. There have been no changes around the rules governing the rolling maul - although I am not too sure how far "your day" goes back.

The current law states all players involved must be caught in or bound to the maul. It goes on to say a player must be caught or bound to the maul and not just alongside it. Placing a hand on another player in the maul does not constitute binding. Therefore the South African players you are referring too, who are attached to the maul with only one hand are not technically bound and the maul is over.

Refs may not be penalising this as they feel it is not directly affecting play, but if they are made aware of it pre-match, they should respond to the challenge during the game. Let's hope your questions raise more awareness from our local boys.

Greetings Kamo,
A number of years back a panel with Paddy O'Brien looked at revising the balance of penalties and free-kicks. Nothing of note seems to have happened. No doubt the Northern Hemisphere did not like it; although they would have the World Cup if they did! (8-7 would have been 5-7).

Three points can be the result of a slip and a hand touching the ground in a scrum, an accidental foot over the advantage line, or being trapped in an impossible 'roll away' situation.

All of the above and heaps more should really be a free-kick. League is rarely won by a team with numerous penalties, but by the team with the most attack and thus tries. Do you agree? And if so is there something we can do to start to change this? Many thanks, Grant Nelson

Interesting series of questions, Grant, but I don't necessarily agree with all your points. Rugby and league are two different sports where different tactics are employed so I don't think they should be compared on penalties awarded.

As a general rule in rugby, the most attacking team with the best field position wins the game. If that team cannot penetrate the defensive line to score because of defensive infringements, should they be punished by taking away a fundamental of our game - the penalty kick? If that was the case then, as you point out, we would not be the current Rugby World Cup holders.

Also your suggestion of having more free kicks than penalty kicks was tried back in 2008/2009 under the ELVs - this is the panel Paddy was on. But in revision they weren't ratified for a number of reasons including that teams under pressure quickly realised that by infringing at the tackle/ruck they were only giving away a free kick, and not a penalty that could lead to three points - so the net result was that infringing actually increased.

Finally, the refs are aware of not making game-deciding decisions. The flipside is that if you put yourself in a position to be questioned, you can't complain when you are not happy about the outcome.

The top three teams of each Super 15 conference should qualify for the finals. Cheers, Tee Thompson

Tee, your suggestion would extend an already congested season by an extra week and do you really want more than half the teams in a competition qualifying for the finals? I don't and I can't see why we would reward the team that ended the regular season in ninth, but who knows what the future will bring.

- NZ Herald

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