Playing to get penalties in a game might sound very strange but it is actually not so uncommon.
The two most common areas where teams try to get these penalties are at rucks and scrums.
Over the years, scrums have lost some of their effectiveness as a first-phase attacking platform. There are still ways to score from it but lineouts have overtaken scrums in a big way in this department.
Scrums have become a great way to earn penalties and when you get these in the opposition half, you have multiple shots at goal. This is in part why teams work so hard on their scrums and why the glorious big boys, the props, are so sought after in Europe’s top leagues.
One commentator referred to South Africa’s Frans Malherbe as “the goose that lays scrum penalty golden eggs”. Although this is true of Frans Malherbe, it can also be said of a couple of other top props in international rugby.
Scrums are hotly contested with 800-900kgs of forwards from both sides fighting it out as a well-coordinated team. This arm wrestle is also a way of asserting dominance and often sets the tone for a lot of the other phases of play on the field.
Rucks become a little more technical but the easiest way to play toward a penalty at ruck time is patience. Teams often get over-excited and want to score with every phase, while the best teams are great at playing the waiting game.
They set up a number of rucks in succession with the goal of pulling in defenders and creating space for players outside.
Being patient at ruck time also has the added benefit of increasing the likelihood of a defender infringing. At every next ruck, the defenders become a little bit more impatient and desperate and this often results in someone falling over the ball, contesting when it is illegal, or going offside.
If teams are aware of these two ways of earning penalties, they can exploit them to get shots at goal or to earn great relief for their teams. In the heat of the battle, focus and patience are needed and it will likely pay off in more ways than one.