Watch: Incredible two-point drop goal in vain as champs go down in golden point extra time

James Gordon
Nathan Cleary two-point drop goal

An incredible two-point drop goal on the hooter from Penrith half-back Nathan Cleary wasn’t enough to secure them victory, as they went down to Parramatta after golden point extra time.

In a repeat of last season’s NRL Grand Final, champions Penrith had got themselves in touching distance with a converted try nine minutes from time that made the score 16-14.

After standing firm at their own end, the Eels forced an error in the other half which enabled them to wind the clock down further, as they took six drives up and the game was in to the final minute.

But a high tackle from Junior Paulo, which saw him sin-binned, gave Cleary the chance to take the game in to his own hands.

He expertly measured his penalty kick in touch to go out on the 40 metre mark, before getting in to position at first receiver, and launching a drop goal attempt that made it through as the hooter sounded.

In the NRL, any drop goals from outside the 40 metres are awarded two points.

It took the game to golden point extra time at 16-all, with Parramatta down to 12-men following Paulo’s sin-bin.

But within seconds of the restart, numerical parity was restored when Mitch Kenny was also yellow-carded for a high shot.

That helped set up the field position for Mitch Moses to kick the winning drop goal for Parramatta and render Cleary’s heroics redundant.

Parramatta boasted a superb 95% completion rate (41/43) as they ended their losing start to the NRL season and gained at least a little revenge for their Grand Final heartbreak.

Penrith have now suffered two defeats in three at the start of the season, since their 13-12 defeat to St Helens in the World Club Challenge.

They were beaten 13-12 by Brisbane in round one, before beating South Sydney Rabbitohs 16-10 last week. In the defeat to the Broncos, Cleary missed with a late two-point drop goal attempt.

Parramatta avoided a fourth straight loss, having lost their previous three games by four points in each – 16-12 to Melbourne, 30-26 to Cronulla and 34-30 to Manly.

The two-point drop goal in the NRL

When the two-point drop goal was introduced to the NRL, there were questions from the players themselves about how useful it would be.

A two-point drop goal had previously been in force in Australia until 1970, when it was scrapped due to an avalanche of drop goals. That was for all drop goals though, and not just ones from outside of 40 metres. Souths full-back Eric Simms kicked 68 of them in three seasons, including one in the 1970 Grand Final.

The AAP reported: “More than half of NRL playmakers say they don’t expect the new two-point field goal to have an an impact on games, believing it will suffer the same fate as the 20-40 rule.”

One player who did express excitement at the rule change was Adam Reynolds, who would go on to kick the NRL’s first two-point drop goal in 2021 to guide South Sydney Rabbitohs past Brisbane Broncos.

Cleary and Reynolds are the two stand-out executers of the two-point drop goal in the NRL.

Only one in 20 drop goal attempts from outside the 40 metre line are successful in the NRL, dating back to 2015. There is the risk of conceding a seven-tackle set.

ABC Sport’s Jack Snape said: “The best thing about the two-point field goal, it will mean the field goal becomes a weapon in games decided by two points, the most common of NRL margins.”

Last season, Cleary’s Australia team-mate Latrell Mitchell pulled off a similar gamebreaking moment as he kicked a late two-pointer to force golden point extra time against Melbourne. Unfortunately for Mitchell, he faced the same fate as Cleary, as the Rabbitohs went down by a single point (15-14) in the extra period.

Should the two-point drop goal be introduced to Super League?

The two-point drop goal has been in place in the NRL since the beginning of the 2021 season.

It’s an example of the disparity between the laws of the game between the northern and southern hemisphere.

Some of the NRL changes have been implemented by the RFL in recent years, such as the six-again rule, which still remains controversial.

Sky Sports commentator Stuart Pyke took the debate to a Twitter pool earlier this week.

He tweeted: “One for rugby league aficionados. It is time for the RFL to scrap the 6 again set restart rule. For me, a resounding yes. Interference at the play the ball is a penalty. The End! Be interesting to see what you think.”

Of the approximately 500 fans polled, 67% were in favour of scrapping the six again rule.

The six-again rule enables the referee to reset the tackle count if there are infringements around the ruck.

However, there are disparities between how it is deployed in NRL and Super League, with the NRL having now tweaked theirs so that any infringements given away in a team’s 40 metre zone result in a penalty.

There have been criticisms that the six-again rule encourages cynical play and enables players to infringe early in the tackle count to help reset their defensive line without significant punishment.

Golden point extra time was introduced for Super League in 2019, though the captain’s challenge seen in the NRL remains unfeasible due to every game not being broadcast on TV.

Other variants of rule changes that have been introduced in the northern hemisphere include play the ball restarts instead of scrums and the shot clock.

The green card rule implemented by the RFL came off the back of a similar suggestion made by the NRL in 2021, although they do not have it in force in Australia.

LRL verdict

Whether the two-point drop goal should be implemented or not is one debate, but for me the main thing is ensuring that the laws of the game worldwide are consistent.

We have TWO fully-professional competitions in the whole world. It is absurd that they are playing to different laws, and makes it incredibly difficult for casual and even hardcore fans to understand and follow the games.

As for Cleary’s play, it was simply brilliant. Great rugby league IQ, great technique and great execution. It’s just a shame that it was all in vain and so perhaps won’t be celebrated as it should be.