Scoring in rugby is almost identical to gridiron, except that there are only 5 points for a touchdown, and 2 for the point after. There is no score for a safety; instead the attacking side gets a scrimmage on the 5-metre line. Also there is no option for a 2-point point after – you always kick, and they are always for 2 points.

Ever wonder why touchdown is called a touchdown? Nobody actually has to touch the ball anywhere, do they? But in rugby you do. A touchdown is not scored unless the attacking player places the ball on the ground, under control, inside the end zone. The Randy Moss style ballet catch would never score because he only gets his feet down, not the ball. And in goal line scrambles, if the defenders can keep the ball in the air, even though the player and ball have crossed the line, again there is no score. This is why you see rugby players dive over the goal line, ball (and face) first into the mud, with a triumphant grin on their faces. Rugby is never played on Astroturf; it would be far too dangerous.

Of course it would be too easy if a rugby touchdown were called a touchdown. It is called a try.

Points after are a little different as well. In rugby the point after kick is taken from a position in line with where the ball was touched down. If the touchdown was scored right in the corner, then the point after has to be taken from near the sideline. This makes getting the point after a lot harder (and also makes ties rarer). Now you know why the British make such good place kickers.

In rugby the point after is called a conversion. Together a try and a conversion are a goal. This reflects rugby’s roots in soccer.

There are two ways in which a field goal may be kicked. The easiest is after a major penalty. This stops the game, and if the ball is within kicking range the field goal may be taken (see Penalties for other options). The kicker may have someone hold the ball for him, or he may use artificial means of holding it in place, such as a plastic tee or a mound of sand. The defenders have to retire at least 10 metres. They may rush the kicker, or try to deflect the ball as it goes over the bar but, as in gridiron, such tactics are rarely successful. A kick made in this way is called a penalty goal. It is worth 3 points, just like a field goal in gridiron.

Field goals may also be kicked at any other time during the game. The only trouble is, the game doesn’t stop. The kicker has to put the ball on the ground and kick while all hell breaks loose around him. Holders and tees are not allowed. You just have to be very quick. The secret is to drop the ball on the pointy end and kick just as it bounces up again. This is called a drop kick. It is very difficult, and you generally only see it done if the team has ideal field position, or if they are desperate for points at the end of a game. Kicks made in this way are called drop goals. They are worth 3 points too.

After a score possession reverts to the other side. Of course they then have to kick off, so they may not have the ball for long. This is a hangover from soccer where retaining possession after the kick-off is easy.


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