It's been great to see penalty moves come back lately


The recent rise of tap-penalty moves in elite rugby

It’s funny how a few positive innovations in a once-forgotten, or at least much rarer, even novelty element of the game can create a jolt in popularity.

We’re talking about tap-penalty moves.

Back in 2020, we asked some voices from the game if there was a future for old-school wall moves in rugby. Many we spoke to loved the grainy old clips, but struggled to see modern day applications. Not when the driving maul was seen as such a successful weapon. Yet Harlequins attack coach Nick Evans told us: “The surprise element alone warrants that they still have a place in the game. I imagine teams will look at success rate – the percentages – versus training and preparation time. Which is why we see it more in exhibition games than in competitive games.

“Personally I love the out-of-the-box thinking, and the challenging of the status quo nature you get with the wall move.”

When we’ve seen tap-plays have crushing effect recently, we’ve often appreciated the simplest form of tap-and-go plays used by Exeter Chiefs. They had mastered it. But we have seen a resurgence since.

But what of the innovation?

The fascinating thing is that you can see top teams learning off each other in almost real time. Take this example from the United Rugby Championship semi-finals last season. The Bulls pulled this out against Leinster, on their way to a tournament-rocking victory.

And then Leicester Tigers made use of a play on their run to a Premiership title, with variance on the same theme.

The Bulls themselves wouldn’t stand still though. Look at their match-up with Edinburgh this season.

Sticking with the URC, we had this play during the festive period, as Benetton Treviso racked up a hefty win over national rivals Zebre Parma.

And sticking with analyst Brett Igoe, he looks in more detail at what the team have done with it.

Lorenzo Cannone is chuffed with this one, after Michele Lamaro sends him through the gap from this move.

And Leinster? Well they’ve seen the power of the tap play up close, and are always looking for ways to evolve. This was the most recent version of their tap-plays.

After conceding this one, Munster boss Graham Rowntree said of Leinster: “We spoke about it a lot, they have an armoury of quick-tap moves. We spoke about it, and previewed it in the week, and trained it, but we have to be better.

“In the white-hot heat of the battle we have to be better than that.”

Toulouse have made recent use and the Barbarians are always good for a trick play. But how could we see this evolve again in the coming months?

Let us know your thoughts on tap-penalty plays via or on our social media channels.

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