World Rugby says recent hurdling try should have been a penalty

The Rugby Committee was far less definitive on Jonny May’s try against Italy last year.

WORLD RUGBY SAYS that the recent try scored by Chiefs number eight Pita Gus Sowakula against the Highlanders in Super Rugby Pacific should have been disallowed for dangerous play.

Sowakula athletically hurdled over Highlanders’ scrum-half Aaron Smith before landing and diving to score.


The try was allowed by Test referee Paul Williams and his assistants but New Zealand Rugby subsequently sought clarification from World Rugby as to whether Sowakula’s actions were legal.

World Rugby’s Rugby Committee has now issued a clarification that it was dangerous play and should have been a penalty against try-scorer Sowakula.

“Jumping to hurdle a potential tackler is dangerous play, as is the act of a ball carrier jumping into a tackle,” said World Rugby.

“Even if no contact is made, we believe this act is in clear contravention of law 9.11 and runs contrary to the game-wide focus on player welfare.

“In this specific case, the sanction should be a PK against the ball carrier.”

Rugby law 9.11 states that “players must not do anything that is dangerous to others including leading with elbow or forearm.”

NZ Rugby also asked World Rugby to clarify whether England wing Jonny May’s high-profile finish against Italy in last year’s Six Nations should have stood.

In this instance, May dived/leaped beyond and over a covering Italian tackler to score in the left corner. Unlike Sowakula, May did not land again before dotting down.


However, World Rugby has not given a definitive ruling on this specific example.

The Rugby Committee indicated that referees must use their own judgement in “very rare situations” like this and said that the safety of players must be “the priority deciding factor.”

“A ball carrier may dive with the ball in order to score a try, and we all agree that should be allowed,” said World Rugby.

“From an equity perspective, if they do so, a defender may attempt to make a safe and legal tackle on that player. As we have said above, jumping to avoid a tackle should be regarded as dangerous play and should be sanctioned accordingly, even if no contact is made.

“Player welfare should remain the priority deciding factor for match officials in these very rare situations.

“In such instances as this rare example, which involves great player skill and dexterity, match officials have to make a judgement call as to which actions have taken place.

“If there is any element of dangerous play, in line with the above ruling, then a try cannot be the reward.

“In principle, in a try scoring situation, if the action is deemed to be a dive forward for a try, then it should be permitted.

“If a player is deemed to have left the ground to avoid a tackle; or to jump, or hurdle a potential tackler, then this is dangerous play and should be sanctioned accordingly.” 

Comedian Michael Fry is our special guest on this week’s episode of The Front Row, in partnership with Guinness. Joining host Seán Burke, Eimear Considine and Murray Kinsella, he chats about his family’s rugby background and his short-lived playing days, before using his musical ear to rank the anthems of each Guinness Six Nations team. Click here to subscribe or listen below:

The42 / SoundCloud

Your Voice
Readers Comments
This is YOUR comments community. Stay civil, stay constructive, stay on topic. Please familiarise yourself with our comments policy here before taking part.
Leave a Comment
    Submit a report
    Please help us understand how this comment violates our community guidelines.
    Thank you for the feedback
    Your feedback has been sent to our team for review.

    Leave a commentcancel