Playing advantage is a critical element of rugby, enabling teams to capitalize on mistakes to gain an advantage, either territorially, tactically or through creating a scoring opportunity.
But just what is “advantage” and when does a referee know it over?!
Law 8.1. needs to be properly understood by both the referees and players (and spectators) to provide some clarity on playing and taking advantage of advantage!
8.1 ADVANTAGE IN PRACTICE
(a) The referee is sole judge of whether or not a team has gained an advantage. The referee has wide discretion when making decisions.
(b) Advantage can be either territorial or tactical.
(c) Territorial advantage means a gain in ground.
(d) Tactical advantage means freedom for the non-offending team to play the ball as they wish.
Mmmmm…. a little vague at best.
What I am looking for at advantage? Well there are two distinct types – Scrum advantage and Penalty Advantage.
Scrum advantage is probably the least contentious issue. No one really complains about the award of a scrum as both teams remain in competition for the ball at the set piece. Advantage is over for me once the team in possession has either made a few metres in territory or managed to retain the ball through two or three phases.
Everyone has a view on playing a penalty advantage and when its over. I take much more appreciation for several key issues:
1. Location on the pitch – is it close to touch midfield or in front of the posts 5m out?
2. Context within the match – have their been any fights or tension (is someone likely to get a punch behind your back?)
3. Penalty trends – has there been two or three consecutive offences (is a yellow card a potential?)
4. Penalty reason – is it a cynical penalty and needs further sanction (is a yellow card a potential?)
Then, if you are able to continue to play the advantage I am looking for one of the following:
1. Significant territorial advantage (20-30m)
2. Significant tactical advantage (scoring opportunity)
3. A score
However, is advantage over if a player, under no pressure, attempts a drop goal or drops the ball in the act of scoring? Some referees, players and coaches will bring the penalty back following a failure to score – but isn’t this double jeopardy for the other team – two bites at the cherry?
Advantage is a great feature of rugby, but it remains highly subjective. It will continue to remain a positive aspect as long as teams take advantage of advantage!