Years from now, 2016 will be the year remembered for the death of the penalty try.
Just a few instances of this were Round 5, Warriors versus Roosters in Gosford, Warriors player taken out by Aidan Guerra, no penalty try. Round 7, Tigers versus Storm, Chris Lawrence taken out by Richie Kennar, no penalty try. Round 8, Cowboys versus Eels, Corey Norman takes out Michael Morgan, no penalty try. Round 15, Roosters versus Warriors, Joseph Manu gets taken out by Ken Maumalo, and, you guessed it, no penalty try.
If you search for ‘rugby league penalty try’ on the website SportsDefinitions.com, a penalty try is defined as “Awarded to the attacking team if a player has been fouled in the act of being prevented from scoring a try.” In all four of the above examples the referees followed that guideline perfectly, with the exception of actually giving a try.
On each of those occasions the explanation given to bemused audiences was ‘too much doubt over whether or not the attacking player would have grounded the ball’. That is of course utter nonsense, because unless defending players had Go-Go-Gadget Arms, there is no way in the world would they have got to the ball.
So why do referees refuse to award penalty tries? Perhaps they don’t want to have too much of an impact on the game (which is presumably the same reason as they don’t call offsides, forward passes, incorrect play-the-balls or send players off anymore.)
If that is the case however they should really check the stats; out of the above four, two teams won despite missing out on the penalty try and 2 teams lost. The Roosters in Round 15 scored in the set immediately following their disallowed penalty try, however the conversion was missed. They went on to lose that game by two points.
Had they got the penalty try the game would have been very different. It would have gone to golden point at 12-12. So, instead of leading 6-0, they lead 4-0, conceded three penalty goals in a row and ended up losing 12-10.
If it had been 6-0, the Warriors wouldn’t have taken all the penalties and the Roosters may well have won the game.
Wests Tigers too, could attribute their Round 7 loss to the Storm to the penalty try they never got. It was 4-4 at the time and should have been 10-4. However, the Tigers opted to settle for the penalty goal, eventually losing 19-18 in golden point. That wasn’t even the only golden point finish though.
The Warriors were fortunate enough to score a 32-28 golden point win over the Roosters in Round 5 after missing out on a penalty try. That was an exceptionally dumb call too, because Aidan Guerra managed to stay on the field despite the obvious professional foul.
Even when the Cowboys held out the Eels in round 8 the game was in the balance. The Eels were in front 16-14 after trailing 14-0. The Cowboys missed out on a penalty try but took advantage of Corey Norman being sin binned to take a 28-16 lead, eventually winning 32-16.
I sincerely hope that the NRL referees start awarding penalty tries again, because they are severely harming teams if they do not.