Pita Gus Sowakula's try divided opinion

World Rugby give law clarification on controversial hurdle try

It was highlight reel stuff when Chiefs No 8 Pita Gus Sowakula hurdled Highlanders scrum-half Aaron Smith on the way to an athletic try. But in the wake of the Chiefs’ win in the opening round of Super Rugby Pacific, many questioned if referee Paul Williams was right to let the score stand.

Well today, World Rugby have waded in to clarify that leaping over opponents is illegal.

After being asked for this stance on this incident by New Zealand Rugby, the global body replied: “We agree – jumping to hurdle a potential tackler is dangerous play, as is the act of a ball carrier jumping into a tackle. 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 (penalty kick) against the ball carrier.”

The above is not the only incident that has had us all pondering what the laws allowed us to do with an opponent in the air – and NZR also asked World Rugby’s views on England wing Jonny May’s acrobatic try against Italy in the 2021 Six Nations.

Related: How to score a wonder try: The rugby league skill flying into union

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

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