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The penalty try was wrong. Change my mind

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26th October, 2020

I’ve had several discussions regarding the grand final and specifically the penalty try.

The prevailing sentiment seems to be that the type of goal-line defence by Tyrone May should be rewarded, not punished, but unfortunately it’s against the rules.

But no-one can tell me which rules were broken. For mine this is because none were in fact broken and May’s actions are not against the rules.

So at the risk of being labelled more biased than Phil Gould I’m going to explain why it should not have been a penalty try.

The first rule I’m told was broken was that you can’t use your feet in tackles.

The reality is this ‘rule’ does not appear anywhere in the rule book.

The only mention around use of the legs in tackles is found in the section defining “foul throws“.

So as the actions by May were not a throw we could move straight along but for the record you can use the leg to bring a player to the ground provided you are using your arms simultaneously.

Tyrone May passes the ball

Tyrone May of the Panthers (Photo by Anthony Au-Yeung/Getty Images)

You may not use your knees in any way.

The player misconduct section of the rule book again notes that you may not drop your knees into a player but there is no mention of not being allowed to use your feet.

Now it’s not as if the rule makers haven’t thought about this. They explicitly state that defenders can’t use their knees, so they are consider actions beyond copy book tackles.

They’ve also made note that defenders can not use their feet in junior football, so they’ve considered the feet specifically when creating further rugby league rules outside of just the NRL.

Yet the use of feet being illegal remains conspicuously absent from the NRL rule books.


Now not only is there no rule against using your foot, there is evidence of use of the foot being permitted. Countless times we have seen defenders prevent tries by getting their foot under the ball preventing the ball being grounded.

Never have we seen this result in a penalty try. Nor have we seen eight point tries or sin bins for the same play only the defender has failed to prevent the grounding.

The only difference between these plays and May’s was that May actually dislodged the ball where in the past the would be try scorer has retained possession.

The next argument is “it’s the Billy Slater rule, it’s deemed dangerous”.

Indeed at the end of 2008 interpretations were changed to prevent players sliding feet first in attempts to prevent a try. The action of sliding in feet first at pace to where opposition players are often diving was rightly deemed dangerous as the risk of making heavy contact to a player who has no way of evading or cutting a player with studs is quite high and the practice quickly eradicated from the game.

But does anyone believe May’s actions resembled this style of slide tackle?

Does anyone believe May’s actions were dangerous at all? Because this brings me to my next (not broken) rule.


It was just deemed dangerous.

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It’s true that rules state that referees can penalise any action that they deem dangerous, whether that action is outlined in the rule books or not.

But, the video ref never said May’s actions was dangerous. No-one I’ve spoken to believe May’s actions were dangerous. Now I can’t find a replay to confirm this but… Tamou approached referee Sutton for the explanation after the try was awarded.

And I’m pretty sure in this exchange Sutton even agreed with Tamou that the tackle was not dangerous. He went on to say it was a penalty none the less but not why it’s a penalty.

The final argument I’ve heard in favour of a penalty try being awarded was that May’s actions were against the spirit of the game.


Now this argument was actually tied to the Slater style tackles being outlawed but it was then further applied to this. How is a defender doing everything he can to prevent a try, without putting the attacking player in a dangerous position against the spirit of the game?

This is what the whole game is built around, physical struggles between attack and defence.

There were a couple outcomes from this tackle I would have accepted. I would have been happy if it was simply ruled a knock on.

I would have been less happy but accepted if it was ruled that May deliberately stripped Olam of possession (just with his boot not his hand) and Olam then grounded the ball with his torso.

But could someone please tell me what rule he broke to justify the penalty try being the correct decision?

Ill even provide links to the laws of the game and NRL interpretations to help you, though id appreciate something more detailed than the expert analysis of “The rule that says you can’t do what he did”