A drop goal, field goal, dropped goal, or pot is a method of scoring points in rugby union and rugby league and also, rarely, in American football and Canadian football. A drop goal is scored by drop kicking the ball over the crossbar and between the goalposts. After the kick, the ball must not touch the ground (i.e. it must be “on the full”) before it goes over and through, although it may touch the crossbar or goalposts. A drop goal is worth three points in rugby union and one point in rugby league.
If the drop goal attempt is successful, play stops and the non-scoring team (the scoring team in rugby union sevens) restarts play with a kick from halfway. If the kick is unsuccessful, the offside rules for a kick apply and play continues until a normal stoppage occurs. Because of the scoring attempt this is usually from the kicked ball going dead or into touch. Defenders may tackle the kicker while he is in possession of the ball, or attempt to charge down or block the kick.
World Rugby, the international governing body of rugby union, refers to this method of scoring in its publications as a “dropped goal”, but this is commonly abbreviated to “drop goal”.
The drop goal is a relatively valuable method of scoring in rugby union, being worth three points, compared to the other methods of scoring: a try (worth five points, with the opportunity to kick a two-point conversion kick), and penalty kick (three points). Because of its value, teams may opt for a drop kick at any point of a match. A converted try, being worth seven points (five for the try, two for the conversion), is still the most attractive means of scoring, especially if a team believes they have the ability to score one.
Teams with a narrow lead often use the drop goal to maintain a margin over the opposition of more than seven points (the value of a converted try).
Some teams play a strategy of ensuring that they score points every time they get close to their opponents’ 22-metre line. If they do not score a try within a certain period of getting close, and if their opponents are disciplined and not giving away penalties, they may attempt a drop goal.
Sometimes a team defending their try line makes a hurried clearing kick or hack at a loose ball which goes down the centre of the field. In these circumstances the attacking team may attempt an opportunistic long-range drop goal from wherever they receive the ball.
A team often tries a drop goal just before half-time, especially if they think there may soon be a stoppage, or if they feel their attacking moves are not making progress.
The advantage rule, where a referee allows play to continue after an infringement, but will return to the infringement if they don’t believe the awarded team has taken “advantage” enough, can be an attractive situation in which to attempt a drop goal. If a team is playing under penalty advantage, and unsuccessfully attempts a drop goal, then the referee may return to the original penalty. The team could then opt to attempt a penalty goal, giving them a second opportunity to score the three points.
A drop goal is worth three points, and before 1948 it was worth four points. From time to time suggestions have been made by some rugby commentators to reduce the value to a drop goal, or to limit or discourage them in other ways.
It is sometimes also referred to as a field goal; however the use of this term in rugby union is erroneous, and instead describes an archaic form of scoring a goal. A field goal was a form of scoring where the goal was kicked from a ball that was in play but on the ground (as opposed to a drop goal where the ball is drop kicked). It is sometimes referred to as a “speculator” and was outlawed in 1906.
In Australian rugby league, the term field goal is usually used, drop goal less commonly. Unlike rugby union, in rugby league the drop goal is worth only one point. Because of this the drop goal’s use is largely in the late stages of a match in order to break a deadlock, or to extend a lead to more than a converted try.
With the introduction of the golden point rule in the Australasian National Rugby League, the drop goal is often the first choice option when looking to secure a win.
The drop-kick field goal is a rare but still legal part of American football and Canadian football, other football codes descended from Rugby football; in both sports, it can be used to score a field goal (three points) or a try (one point). While both rugby balls and the American and Canadian football shape are prolate spheroids, the American and Canadian footballs gradually changed to become more elongated and pointed, a shape much more difficult to drop kick. The last successful drop kick in a professional American football game was when Doug Flutie successfully drop kicked a football for an extra point in the New England Patriots’ regular-season finale against the Miami Dolphins on January 1, 2006; prior to that, the last successful drop kick in a regular-season game was in 1941. Flutie’s kick was in the last game of his career, and he didn’t usually kick the ball at all (dropped or otherwise) as he played quarterback.