For people who are used to simpler scoring in football, a lot of people wonder why scoring a try is worth so much more in rugby than kicking a penalty or kicking a drop goal. So why is this the case?
Why is a Try 5 points and not 3? World Rugby wanted to emphasise try scoring as this makes the game more exciting to watch. So scoring a try is worth two more points than kicking a penalty or a drop goal, to make it the most desirable outcome for an attacking team.
When rugby was first created you did not get any points for scoring a try, with kicking being much more emphasised. Scoring a try was originally just a way for teams to attempt a conversion which was worth points and would help them win games. Rugby slowly started to increase the value of a try.
It was only from 1992 onwards that Rugby began awarding a team five points if they scored a try and there was a good reason for that.
Why is a try 5 points in rugby?
World Rugby wanted to emphasise the importance of scoring tries. Try scoring makes a rugby game much more exciting for spectators and produces a better product on the field. It encourages teams to take more risks and be more aggressive with their decision-making. It makes the games more exciting to watch and brings more fans to the games.
So World Rugby decided that to incentivise teams being aggressive and attempting to score tries that it would be worth five points, two more points than if a team kicked a penalty or a drop goal. That five points excluded the additional two points a team can get if they kick the conversion after they have scored the try.
A try is also worth five points in rugby because it is much more difficult to score a try than it is to kick a penalty or a drop goal. To kick a penalty you just need to win a penalty in the opposition’s half and your kicker has a good chance of slotting the ball between the sticks.
With a drop goal, some kickers are happy attempting this from 40 yards away from the try line.
Whereas scoring a try means you have to break through the defence of the opposition, grinding them down until you manage to ground the ball on or over the opposition’s try line. It is much more difficult to score a try in rugby and so World Rugby had to incentivise teams going for the more exciting option considering it is harder.
Tries are worth five points in rugby because World Rugby wanted to score a try to be the goal of every team who plays the game. Try scoring makes rugby more exciting and by making it five points they give the incentive to the team to attack aggressively and attempt to score as many tries as they can.
The gradual increase of points awarded for try scoring is also because the scoring in rugby was originally similar to football. This meant that a lot more games ended in a draw. World Rugby were looking to avoid draws and therefore they began to increase the value of scoring so that they could decrease the number of draws.
When did rugby change to 5 points for a try?
It may surprise rugby fans to hear that the sport did not award five points for a try until relatively recently compared to how old rugby is.
A try became worth five points in 1992, having been four points for the 21 years prior to that. World Rugby were looking for the best way to incentivise try scoring and decided to increase the value of a try again, this time up from 4 to 5.
Did a try used to be 3 points?
Yes, a try used to be three points in rugby. When rugby was originally created there was not a huge emphasis on scoring tries, in fact scoring a try originally meant that you got to attempt a conversion which would be worth one point. Eventually, rugby started to award points for actually scoring a try.
It was in 1894 that rugby decided to begin awarding three points for a try. At the time this was the same number of points that a team could get if they kicked a penalty. It was also originally worth less than a dropped goal. A try was actually worth only three points for a whopping 74 years.
It was only in 1970 that World Rugby decided to increase the value of a try, even though they had decreased the number of points you get from a dropped goal from four points down to three points.
Did a try used to be 4 points?
Yes, a four used to be worth four points. In 1970 World Rugby were looking for try scoring to be more important in rugby rather than kicking a penalty or dropped goal. So they decided to increase the number of points awarded for a try from three points to four points from 1971 onwards.
World Rugby stuck with this rule for 20 years, despite getting rid of scoring a goal from mark during that time. But in the early 1990s, World Rugby were looking to further emphasise scoring tries. They decided to increase the value of a try from four points to five points which is what it is today.
Does it matter where you score a try?
As long as the attacking team grounds the ball on or past the opposition’s try line then it has no effect on the number of points scored where the try is scored. But what you will often see is attacking players trying to score a try closer to the goalposts.
This is because the conversion has to be taken in line from where the try was scored. So a try scored near the touchline will make the conversion very difficult. Whereas, if you score a try under the goal posts it makes the conversion much easier, almost guaranteeing two points from the conversion.