Gregor Paul 's Opinion

Gregor Paul is the Herald on Sunday's rugby writer

Gregor Paul: The redemption of the drop goal

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The drop-goal, it seems, has earned a secret redemption in New Zealand now that Daniel Carter has become adept and rather fond of knocking them over. Photo / Getty Images.
The drop-goal, it seems, has earned a secret redemption in New Zealand now that Daniel Carter has become adept and rather fond of knocking them over. Photo / Getty Images.

The drop-goal, it seems, has earned a secret redemption in New Zealand now that Daniel Carter has become adept and rather fond of knocking them over.

For most of the last decade, probably longer, the drop-goal has been treated with disdain in New Zealand. It has been the drunken uncle at the family wedding - invited but not really welcome - especially at World Cups.

It is the nature of knock-out rugby that games often go to the wire and the drop goal becomes the means to make and break dreams. Trawl through the past and there is barely a World Cup where the drop goal has not been massively influential: the 1995 final, the 1999 quarter-final between England and South Africa as well as the semi-final between the Wallabies and the Springboks and of course the final of 2003.

Yet despite the legitimacy of the tactic, New Zealanders have been rather dismissive and anti this drop goal business. A kind of moral superiority has existed and grown: that somehow victories with tries are the only ones worth celebrating.

The northern hemisphere sides are mocked for nudging the scoreboard up in multiples of three.

After every World Cup, bar the last, debate has broken out about reducing the points value of drop goals.

Thankfully this misplaced smugness and derision has reduced as the All Blacks, rather than remain oblivious and seemingly above such a crass and unimaginative way to pick up three points, have embraced the drop goal.

Carter has become masterful at landing important field goals. It was his late drop goal that saw New Zealand scrape past Ireland in June. Strangely, a nation willed the All Blacks to advance up-field in those last few minutes in Christchurch and for the ball to be worked infield and for Carter to slip behind the scrum and land the goal. He did exactly that and a nation rejoiced - without a hint of shame or acknowledgement that had England, Italy, Scotland or Wales done the same, they would have been held in contempt: accused of being 'boring' or somehow unworthy.

It was Carter's drop goal in Soweto that brought the certainty of victory. It was a seriously good call from the first-five. The All Blacks, a man down, were only 13 points ahead and therefore vulnerable.

However unlikely it might have been, two converted tries from the Boks in the last 12 minutes was a possibility. Carter assessed the danger and did exactly the right thing by taking the three points when he had the chance.

Again, no one mentioned then that the field goal should only be reduced to a single point.

Here's the thing - everyone loves the drop goal when it works for them and sees them home. There's no need for other nations to be judged or ridiculed for how they collect points and in test football a win is a win - it's not somehow a better win because it was achieved by scoring tries.

- Herald on Sunday

Gregor Paul

Gregor Paul is the Herald on Sunday's rugby writer

Gregor Paul is the Herald on Sunday's rugby writer. He has written several books on rugby including the Reign of King Henry, Black Obsession and For the Love of the Game.

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