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Scoring through the ages

Carl Mullen signs rugby ball for small boy

Introduction

In early rugby as played at rugby school, the only scores came from goals and there was no points value associated with scoring. The 1845 rules stated that in order to take a punt at goal (this had to be a 'place kick' not a' drop kick') a "TRY at goal" had to be earned by touching the ball down between the posts. The ball was then "punted" over the bar and between the posts without touching the dress or person of any player and in the face of onrushing defenders. The 1862 rules provide a detailed description of the complexities regarding touching down and scoring the goal.

1871

Tthe first RFU laws state that 'A match shall be decided by a majority of goals only'.

March 1875 a proposal for a points scoring system was rejected, as was a proposal that three tries should equal one goal.

November 1875 the law was modified to 'A match shall be decided by a majority of goals, but if the number of goals is equal or no goals be kicked, by a majority of tries'.

1876

Cheltenham College adopted RFU rules but still continued to use their own points based scoring system (they referred to points as rouges).

1877

'When a goal is kicked from a try, only the goal is scored'.

1881 & 1882

Proposals were made for the RFU to introduce a points based scoring system:

1881 (rejected):-"A match shall be decided by majority of points, which are calculated as follows - a touchdown, a touch in goal and a dead-ball all equal in value and each count one point; a try counts 4 points, and a goal kicked from a try 12 points or equal to three tries, and a goal dropped or kicked from the field of play 8 points or two tries. When a goal is kicked from a try the goal only is scored."

1882 (rejected):-
"A match shall be decided by points as under: - A goal direct from a place kick from a try shall count 8 pts; A goal dropped from the field of play, 6 pts; A goal from a flying kick 4 points; a try 4 points; a touchdown, a dead ball, or a touch in goal, 1 point each. The team obtaining a majority of four more points to be declared the winner. Any less majority than 4 points to count as a drawn game."

Prior to 1886 various clubs assigned their own points system. The practice of Touching down the ball behind your own goal line was awarded a Point, sometimes referred to as the "Minor Point" or "Rouge". This should not be confused with the Cheltenham scoring system which referred to points in general as rouges.

Many football annuals of this vintage will show scores consisting of Goals, Tries and Minor points (rouges). Although there was no generally accepted scoring system which contained the minor point (rouge) some unions did adopt it.

But in 1886 a pattern favoured at Cheltenham School was adopted by the RFU, whereby points were scored for a try, a conversion goal and a dropped goal.

1886 (accepted):-"A match shall be decided by a majority of points, a goal shall equal three points, and a try one point. If the number of points be equal, or no goal kicked or try obtained, the match shall be drawn. Where a goal is kicked from a try the goal only is scored."

Later penalty kicks were introduced, allowing teams disadvantaged by illegal play to kick for goal and score points if successful.

October 1888

"Fair catch" (mark) introduced. Laws amended to introduce 2nd type of goal (of lesser value). 'A match shall be decided by a majority of points. A goal shall equal 3 points, with the exception of a goal kicked from a kick awarded by way of penalty, which shall equal 2 points, and a try 1 point. If the number of points is equal or no goals be kicked or try obtained, the match shall be drawn. When a goal is kicked from a try, the goal only is scored.'

September 1891

The IRFB responsible for: 'A match shall be decided by a majority of points. A try shall equal 2 points, a penalty goal 3 points, a goal from a try (the try not also to count) 5 points. Any other goal shall equal 4 points. If the number of points is equal or no goal is kicked or try obtained, the match shall be drawn.'

March 1893

RFU & WRU raise try from two to three points. The value of the conversion is also changed from three to two points, meaning that the value of a converted try remains five points. IRFB adopt this scheme the following year.

March 1905

Field goal is abolished. 'A try equals 3 points. A goal from a try (in which case the try shall not count) equals 5 points. A dropped goal (except from a mark or penalty kick) equals 4 points. Goal from a mark or penalty kick equals 3 points.'
A field goal was scored when the ball was kicked between the posts during open play.

March 1948

'A try 3 points. A goal from a try (in which case the try shall not count) 5 points. A goal from a free kick or penalty kick 3 points. A dropped goal otherwise obtained 3 points.'

1958/59

'Penalty Try' introduced.

September 1971

IRFB increase the try from three to four points for 2 years on an experimental basis in the northern hemisphere. It was written into the rules during 1973.
Australia conceded the first four-point try in major Tests when they played France in Toulouse on November 20, 1971. Flanker Jean-Claude Skrela scored the try when he charged down a kick by Australian fullback Arthur McGill. France led 11-0 before the Wallabies came back to win 13-11 thanks to a long-distance Jeff McLean penalty goal.

September 1977

Goals from marks were rare but valid scoring actions counting for three points until the free-kick clause was introduced to the Laws in September 1977. Before that date a mark for a fair catch could be made anywhere on the field. The player making the catch could opt to kick a goal. Since 1977 a mark can only be claimed by a defender inside his 22, with a free kick to follow. So even if a kicker had the distance to land a goal from his 22, it would not count.

April 1992

IRFB increase the value of the try to five points.
The first major Test after the law change was at the Sydney Football Stadium on July 4, 1992 when Australia won 16-15 thanks to Michael Lynagh's penalty goal at the death. The first five-pointer went to New Zealand winger Va'aiga Tuigamala when he trampled over David Campese to open the scoring in the fifth minute, but with each side scoring two tries the new scoring value made no impression on the game.

Scoring history table

 Northern Hemisphere Seasons
Try
Conversion-goal
Penalty-
goal
Dropped-goal
Goal from
mark
 
1886 to 1888
1 point 4
2 points 4
3 points
 
1888/9 to 1890/1
1 point 7
2 points 7
2 points 6/7
3 points
 
1891/2 to 1892/3
2 points
3 points
3 points
4 points
4 points
 
1893/4 to 1904/5
3 points 9
2 points
3 points
4 points
4 points
E & W 1893, IB 1894
1905/6 to 1947/8
3 points
2 points
3 points
4 points 10
3 points
 
1948/9 to 1970/1
3 points
2 points
3 points
3 points
3 points
 
1971/2 to 1977/8
4 points
2 points
3 points
3 points
3 points
 
1977/8 to 1991/2
4 points
2 points
3 points
3 points
- 14
 
1992/3 -
5 points
2 points
3 points
3 points
-
 

It never ceases to amaze me how many different versions of the 'history of scoring' there seem to be in various books etc. The above table represents my current understanding.

The main problems associated with recording the history of scoring results primarily from the fact that each home union originally had its own laws although the RFU's laws were usually adopted, there was no International Board until 1890 and the IB's laws were not used for non-internationals until 1930. See laws

NB.
In the table above I've shown the points for a try/conversion as accumulative, this is for ease of comparison reasons.
Strictly speaking a separate score for a goal after the try was scored was not introduced by the IB until 1979 and prior to that the 'goal from a try' substituted any points awarded for the try itself e.g. using that method you would show 1891-1892 as 2 points for a try and 5 points for the conversion goal (converted try would be worth 5 points.

Notes:
1. In June 1871, the first RFU law stated that a game would be decided by the number of 'goals' scored only.
2. In March 1875, a proposal for a points scoring system and another that three tries should equal a goal were rejected.
3. In November 1875, a game was decided by whichever team scored the most goals and if that was equal, trys. In 1877 this was modified so that if a try was converted to a goal then it was only counted as a goal.
4. In October 1886, a points system was introduced which followed the Cheltenham college system. 3 for a goal and 1 for a try. But if a try was converted, 3 points were awarded for the conversion (goal) which replaced the 1 point awarded for the try i.e. the team scored 1 point for a try and 3 for a converted try (goal). In the table above I've shown the points as accumulative e.g. 1886 a converted try (goal) = 3 points (1 + 2).
5. Fair catch or mark introduced in 1888.
6. In 1888, a free kick awarded as a penalty for off-side could be made into a goal.
7. The International Board in 1889 (which England had not yet joined) stated that a goal from a try was awarded 4 points, a dropped goal or one from a fair catch 3 points and a try 2 points.They declined to award any points for a penalty goal. The dispute between England and the IB was referred to arbitrators who decided the Laws then existing in England should be adopted for that year, with the exception that there should be no penalty of a free kick if the ball was knocked forward from a throw in from touch. England then joined the IB (1890) so things got a little less complicated for internationals from that point onwards.
8. Scotland proposed in 1900 that the penalty goal should only equal 2 points but the proposal was rejected.
9. The change of a try from 2 to 3 was made by the RFU and the Welsh union in 1893 but the IRB adopted it in 1894.
10. In 1905, England proposed and Wales supported that the points for a drop goal be reduced but this was rejected by Scotland and Ireland and so it was rejected.
11. Field goals, which started at 3 points were changed to 4 points and stayed at that value for nearly 60 years (1891 to 1948), before finally being reduced by a point.
12. A try was increased by the IRFB to 4 points for a trial period of 2 years in the Northern hemisphere and was formally adopted in 1973.
13. Try also includes the 'penalty try' where a try is awarded if unfair play by the defending side avoided an almost certain try (same value as try).
14. The goal from mark ceased to exist when the free-kick clause was introduced 1977-78. Goals from marks were rare but valid scoring actions counting for three points until the free-kick clause was introduced to the Laws in September 1977. Before that date a mark for a fair catch could be made anywhere on the field. The player making the catch could opt to kick a goal. Since 1977 a mark can only be claimed by a defender inside his 22, with a free kick to follow. So even if a kicker had the distance to land a goal from his 22, it would not count.

Some definitions:

Try. When an attacking player is first to ground the ball in the opponents’ in-goal, a try is scored.

Penalty Try. If a player would probably have scored a try but for foul play by an opponent, a penalty try is awarded between the goal posts. Originally included in the laws in 1888.

Conversion Goal. When a player scores a try it gives the player’s team the right to attempt to score a goal by taking a kick at goal; this also applies to a penalty try. This kick is a conversion kick: a conversion kick can be a place kick or a drop-kick.

Penalty Goal. A player scores a penalty goal by kicking a goal from a penalty kick.

Dropped Goal. A player scores a dropped goal by kicking a goal from a drop-kick in general play. The team awarded a free kick cannot score a dropped goal until the ball next becomes dead, or until an opponent has played or touched it, or has tackled the ball-carrier. This restriction applies also to a scrum taken instead of a free kick.

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