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The Golden Point Debate

On Sunday afternoon, I attended another history making match, as Hull FC and Warrington Wolves played out the first ever draw during the Golden Point era in the Betfred Super League.

This was a game with great promise, after the drama we have already seen this season in Super League, the Challenge Cup and the NRL, here were two genuine heavyweights, ready to go hammer and tong for those all-important two points.

In the Airlie Birds’ case, they were putting their unbeaten record on the line, against one of the sides they’re expected to be competing against when the silverware is getting handed out.

The fact that there was nothing much to report, save for a few near misses, tells you all you need to know about the first-half, however things did get more promising in the second-half.

When Jordan Lane exploded out of the blocks for England international Jake Connor to score the first try of the game after nearly an hour, it promised to finally open this game up which, until that point, looked more like a knockout game with both sides trying desperately not to lose, as opposed to putting everything on the line to go and win.

However, a try by Chris Hill soon put a stop to that, as the game once more became about not losing as the scores were tied up again.

Enter ‘The Lane Train’ as the loose-forward was the architect of a sweeping, fast handling move which resulted in a try for Carlos Tuimavave, goaled again by Marc Sneyd from the touchline. Again, the game had to open up for the last ten minutes of what was a dire contest.

A literal last second try from Jake Mamo, converted by England international Gareth Widdop, provided the only real edge-of-the-seat action of the whole afternoon, causing the now dreaded Golden Point.

It must be said, that these two teams boast some of the very best attacking talent in Super League, with players like Jake Connor, Blake Austin, Josh Griffin and Daryl Clark among many others across the pitch, however they were also two teams who had just seemed scared to try anything to gain the initiative in this game – both were seemingly scared of losing.

Frankly, to cut a long story short, they looked like two teams playing for Golden Point, and putting all their faith in their expert drop goal merchants to take the spoils in this game.

It is right to point out the effort that some players made, with Jordan Lane grabbing nearly 80% of the Man-of-the-Match vote, Daryl Clark trying his best, while being consistently let down by poor execution by his halves Blake Austin and Gareth Widdop.

Praise must also be extended to Hull co-captain Danny Houghton for – sit up and take note – a monumental effort of 85 tackles, with not a single one missed, and his running of 10.6 kilometres during the 90 minutes. However, they are the only noteworthy points of a game that massively failed to deliver.

The sad fact is both teams just looked too pedestrian for 99% of the 80 minutes, and only sort of came to life – if you can call it that – when great drop goal exponents were embarrassing themselves with an array of chances which were so far off the mark, they were almost halfway down Anlaby Road outside the KCOM Stadium.

Yes, it can definitely be said that Golden Point has provided some drama in previous games, including this year in all three competitions quoted above, but is it really needed? The evidence of Sunday afternoon would certainly say NO, definitely not.

As soon as it started, both teams were able to set up some promising attacking positions, and with such great talent on display, they should have been able to take those chances, but instead those chances were spurned. Effectively, the ball was just given to whichever player had dropped out of the attacking line to create space for a drop goal attempt.

There was no real snap, no pushing the ball or enticing defenders to make a mistake, which could create that crucial try-scoring opportunity. In fact, you might as well have just settled it with a drop goal shootout, like a penalty shootout in football, it was so abysmal and embarrassing.

Having seen drop goal winners before, for instance Brad Dwyer for Leeds against Castleford, Marc Sneyd for Hull FC away to Catalans Dragons, James Maloney for Catalans against Hull KR this year, it leaves one inescapable impression. That impression is that this sort of drama is made only for television and with a crowd actually in the stadium, to generate the sort of atmosphere that it is meant to create.

It also means that it needs to move towards its conclusion very quickly, to hold everyone’s vested interest, because after a few drop goal attempts it then becomes telegraphed, predictable and boring. The feeling of excitement disappears because you can predict what is going to be the teams’ next attacking ploy.

After 80 minutes on Sunday, Hull FC and Warrington Wolves had played out a draw in a shambolic match. After 90 minutes they had still both earned a draw, but after an embarrassing period in which both teams resembled more of a laughing stock, apart from the named few above, to the rest of rugby league.

Does Golden Point extra time work? I’ll leave that up to you to decide!

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