Peter Sterling: Mastering the art of the 40/20
We have seen many rule introductions and alterations over the past decade but none as successful as the 40/20 kick.<br><br>From its adoption in 1997, this innovation added a real risk/reward factor to the game that was perfectly balanced. In just one play we are given an opportunity to see vision, skill, technique and at times desperation on display in a fleeting moment that can actually change the course of the contest.<br><br>I was reminded of this attraction over the weekend in a couple of instances where the ball actually didn’t find touch but still provided great excitement.<br><br>On Friday night in Townsville we saw an unbelievable display of sheer athleticism from Matt Bowen in his desperate desire to deny the Broncos a successful kick off the boot of Darren Lockyer.<br><br>In doing so he was forced to become a steeplechaser after batting the ball back in-field and hurdling two fences before circling around again in quest of the bouncing ball.<br><br>Matt somehow managed to retrieve possession in his own in-goal but after a valiant attempt to get into the field of play was grounded agonizingly short. Never have I seen a more thrilling failure.<br><br><a href="http://www.nrl.com/gameAnalyser/tabId/10910/default.aspx?seasonID=240?seasonid=240&roundid=858&fixtureid=50020102201&videoquality=1&type=handlingerror&period=2&time=1006" target="_blank">CLICK HERE to see this play unfold in our Game Analyser.</a><br><br>Unfortunately for the Tiger’s Beau Ryan the following night he also denied the opposition a 40/20 but unlike Bowen was unable to get back to the ball in time. Instead it was the Rabbitoh’s Fetuli Talanoa who took advantage of the makeshift fullback’s misfortune to chase through and score a crucial try to immediately reduce South’s 10-point, half-time deficit.<br><br><a href="http://www.nrl.com/gameAnalyser/tabId/10910/default.aspx?seasonID=240?seasonid=240&roundid=858&fixtureid=50020102204&videoquality=1&type=try&period=2&time=43" target="_blank">CLICK HERE to see this embarrassing gaffe.</a><br><br>This wasn’t the first time we’ve seen such a play prove costly for the defending team. In Round 17 Canberra gifted the Roosters a try when Josh Dugan attempted the same manoeuvre only to see Sam Perrett lead the chase to pick up and score.<br><br><a href="http://www.nrl.com/gameAnalyser/tabId/10910/default.aspx?seasonID=240?seasonid=240&roundid=853&fixtureid=50020101703&videoquality=1&type=try&period=1&time=826" target="_blank">CLICK HERE to see Dugan hand the Roosters a gift try.</a><br><br>All of these incidents give a clear indication as to the understanding amongst today’s players as to just how important they deem the 40/20 and to what lengths they’ll go in an effort to deny them. Therein lies the value and success of the rule.<br><br>One of the big attractions is that they are so rare and thus there is still the element of surprise. In the 176 matches played so far this season we have seen just 37 and much of this has to do with the fact that they are not easy to achieve.<br><br>The leading exponents are Cooper Cronk and Terry Campese with 4 apiece.<br><br>Remarkably, despite Penrith’s success off the boot this year they along with Brisbane and Parramatta are the only clubs not to record a single 40/20.<br><br>Whilst in what is a testament to the astute positional play of wingers Brett Morris and Jason Nightingale, the Dragons are the only team to have not conceded one. <br><br>Such an effort is part of the reason they are easily the best defensive team in the competition. Denying opponents the opportunity to swing momentum and not allowing them field position with possession gives them the best chance to keep their line intact. <br><br>The team that has capitalised on some great kicking in recent weeks has been the Gold Coast. Whilst Scott Prince was the sharpshooter earlier in the year, over the past fortnight it has been Mat Rogers with a couple of screamers.<br><br>Against the Warriors in Round 21 he was able to find touch relatively late in the game with his side holding a slender six point lead. From the ensuing scrum the New Zealanders were denied possession for the next 15 tackles until Rogers himself put the icing on the cake with a telling 71st minute try.<br><br><a href="http://www.nrl.com/gameAnalyser/tabId/10910/default.aspx?seasonID=240?seasonid=240&roundid=857&fixtureid=50020102105&videoquality=1&type=kick4020&period=2&time=1626" target="_blank">CLICK HERE to see this massive 40/20 off the boot of Rogers.</a><br><br>The following week he produced arguably the most impressive touch-finder of the season with a pin-point, short-side bomb that landed literally inches inside the white line.<br><br>Again the Titans were holding a narrow lead of four points until Mark Minichiello crossed four tackles later to go a long way towards putting Parramatta out of the contest.<br><br><a href="http://www.nrl.com/gameAnalyser/tabId/10910/default.aspx?seasonID=240?seasonid=240&roundid=858&fixtureid=50020102202&videoquality=1&type=kick4020&period=2&time=1746" target="_blank">CLICK HERE to see Rogers kick a 40/20 on the tightest of angles.</a><br><br>These type of kicks put plenty of pressure on the opposing back three as to when they should drop back and how deep to go. Based on these decisions the attacking team are then presented with numerous options such as running the ball on the last tackle, chipping over the top or even kicking flat and wide to where the winger was previously positioned.<br><br>Again it is all about risk and reward. <br><br>I have heard a call for the rule to be expanded to 40/30 to see more attempts and possible momentum swings. <br><br>I couldn’t disagree more, the current option is perfect and offers the exact mix of danger of not finding maximum ground or even the possibility of kicking out on the full against obtaining possession inside the opponent’s quarter with a full complement of tackles. <br><br>It’s a bit like not taking too many games to the SCG each year, ideally less is definitely more.<br><br>On the subject of kickers, I hope that an innocuous penalty given away by a defender exerting pressure doesn’t impact on any of our up-coming big matches.<br><br>I’m all for them being protected and am fully aware at how vulnerable they are when in the process of putting boot to ball. However there is no doubt that we have gone too far in the protection when you look at some of the “soft” penalties of late. <br><br>There is no better example than that awarded against the ‘Dogs Ben Hannant in Round 20 against Parramatta for what was nothing more than a nudge on Jarryd Hayne. Because he did not make a tackle by enclosing his arms on Hayne the referee blew the whistle on any momentum that Canterbury were rushing home on.<br><br><a href="http://www.nrl.com/gameAnalyser/tabId/10910/default.aspx?seasonID=240?seasonid=240&roundid=856&fixtureid=50020102001&videoquality=1&type=penaltyconceded&period=2&time=1939" target="_blank">CLICK HERE to see this tough call on Hannant.</a><br><br>It’s disturbing to think that such a decision could decide a grand final.<br><br>The problem is the misdirected call for absolute consistency in every aspect of our game. Unfortunately you don’t know what you’re calling for until you actually get it.<br><br>Rules only work if they are adjudicated with discretion and common sense. We saw what a ridiculous situation was created in trying to implement a consistency in the playing of advantage and how much better things are now that each incident is treated on its own merits.<br><br>The same needs to apply in looking after those kicking the football.<br><br>Penalise any contact that is high, late or attacks the legs but the rest should be “ play on”.