Once upon a time, when you kicked the ball dead the opposition would simply get a tap on the 20-metre line and would begin a normal six tackle set from there.
But nowadays teams are punished even more. Not only do they give up 20 metres, they also hand the opposition an extra tackle.
Often by the end of these seven-tackle sets, teams are probing in the opposition’s half looking for a try. Now you might think that’s fair, after all it was a poor kick for it go dead and therefore the team who kicked it should be punished right?
That’s a perfectly acceptable view point as is the notion that this punishment stops teams kicking the ball dead intentionally to waste time.
However, an incident in this season’s classic encounter between Leeds and Warrington really cemented my view that these seven-tackle sets do more harm than good. In the second half, Warrington’s exciting new signing George Williams chipped over the Leeds defence looking to regather and touch down for a spectacular solo try to crown his debut.
Unfortunately, the kick was just a bit too long and the ball dribbled out of play. Subsequently, Leeds were given a 20-metre restart and a seven-tackle set punishing Williams for trying to play good rugby.
Instead of being dull and tacking the tackle, Williams was positive and tried to conjure up an exciting moment. If it had paid off, we’d be watching that try on highlight reels for weeks on end and it could have been seen as one of the moments of the season. Ultimately, it didn’t go to plan and Williams was punished. So, next time he might not try the same thing. Instead of being creative, Williams may very well be safe culminating in a less exciting product.
In fact, overall we see a lot less kicking near the opposition tryline as teams fear it could go dead and hand the opposition a major advantage. Ultimately, this means we see less tries from these positions, less creativity and a less positive product.
To me this should be changed. We should encourage creativity akin to what Williams showed and the best way to do that is the changing of this rule so that attacking flair isn’t punished.