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The History of Rugby - Part 3

There are lots of different versions of what type of scoring method gave you how many points and dates and things changed, so if you do find a site or book that gives a different story of the evolution of scoring in rugby, I would not be surprised....


As far as I can tell, this is about as right as you can get.

The scoring system in rugby has changed considerably since the game became codified with the creation of the RFU in 1863.

With so many different ways to score points during a game, attempts at rationalising the methods and values for each of these ways has evolved over the last 140 years or so.

Originally, points were not awarded for tries; kicked goals were worth 1 point and the only time that tries were considered was when the same number of goals had been kicked by each side. For example, the first Scotland v England game (1871) ended 1G-1T to 1G to Scotland; the try merely used to split an otherwise tied score-line.

By 1890, there were five recognised methods of scoring points: the try, conversion, penalty goal, dropped goal and the now defunct field goal, which was discontinued in 1905.

The Try
The number points awarded for a try was increased by one from 1 point in 1890 to 2 in 1891 and then again to 3 in 1893. This was left alone for the next 78 years until the value for a try was increased to 4 points in 1971 on an experimental basis for two years; this was adopted in 1973. The value for a try was increased again some 19 years later to the current 5 points in 1992.

Summary of changes:

1890=1 point. 1891=2 points. 1893= 3 points. 1971/73 onwards = 4 points.
1992 to the present day = 5 points.

The Conversion
Conversions have been worth 2 points for most of the history of the game. The exception was during a brief spell in 1891/2 when they were temporarily increased to 3 points.

Summary of changes:
1890= 2 points. 1891= 3 points.
1893 to the present day = 2 points.

The Penalty Goal
Again, the value for a penalty has remained fairly constant; originally, worth 2 points in 1890, the value of penalty was increased to the current value of 3 points in 1891 and has remained unchanged ever since.

Summary of changes:
1890 = 2 points.
1891 to the present day = 3 points

The Dropped Goal
Following the rugby world cup drop kick that won England the title in 2003, there were calls for the value of the drop goal to be reduced. Since 1890, when the dropped goal was worth 3 points, as it is today, there was a period of some 56 years between the years 1891 and 1947 where the DG would have given you 4 points, but in 1948, the value was put back to 3.

Summary of changes:
1890 = 3 points. 1891 onwards = 4 points.
1948 to the present day = 3 points.

The ‘Goal From The Mark’ or Field Goal
One of the features of early rugby was the mark from clean catch {similar to the modern day Aussie Rules}, from which a player could attempt to kick at goal. Originally, worth 3 points in 1890, it was increased to 4 in 1891. This method of scoring is no longer part of the modern game, having been abandoned as in 1905.

Summary of changes:
1890 = 3 points. 1891 = 4 points.
1905 abolished.

The next, and last, in the series looks at Lions, Barbarians and the Calcutta connection



© Ian Birks, 2005
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