Let’s start by explaining that the High School Rugby we have had the pleasure of enjoying follows Rugby Canada’s rules for U19 rugby, for the most part. NBIAA rules do take precedent over the Rugby Canada rules if they disagree.
There are a number of interesting conversations that could be had about the NBIAA format regulating High School rugby. Two of the most interesting are the League Points System and the Unlimited Substitutions. I would also make a small point about the Tie-Breaking Format for League Standings in that there seems to be some confusion about some of the terms. Generally speaking, there isn’t an issue with the Tie Breaker rules and for the purpose of this post we won’t touch on the substitutions. The bigger concern is that the League Points System could be structured to further decrease the number of ties in the standings.
Currently, each team are awarded 3 points for a win, 1 point for a tie and 0 points for a loss. There is a wide variety of other ways to do this. The Six Nations Championship which occurs each February and March amongst the 6 big European Rugby Nations only award 2 points for a win. The tie breaker they use is similar to that used by the NBIAA, it is based on point’s differential or +/-. As a result of this tie breaker variable, teams are often required to “run up the score” And this benefits no one.
A more modern approach to League Points System would be:
Win 4 points.
Draw 2 points.
Loss 1 point for loss within 7 points or less of the team that wins.
Loss 0 points for loss of more than 7 points.
1 point for scoring 4 tries or more in a match.
With this set up, a winning team can achieve 4 or 5 points and a losing team can achieve as many as 2 points. The result is that teams are rewarded for getting 4 tries, not 10 tries. The goal of this type of League Points System would be to hopefully reduce the number of ties. This should also reduce the likelihood of three-way ties (where the head to head may be nullify). It is also more in line with the current Rugby culture, something that is a positive influence and should be promoted.
Furthermore, it promotes a more open game of rugby, rewarding those who go looking for points. This means the teams who play a 35-28 game are more highly rewarded than the teams who play a 10-7 game. An indirect result of the open play is the reduction of play in congested areas. This is voiced on Rugby fields as a change in the directions given. The saying “run straight” has been shouted from the sidelines for as long as there has been rugby, now “run at spaces not faces” is being preached at practices. I’m a strong advocate of the latter.
Let’s not confuse this change in approach as a softening of the game. This change is to promote increased skill in the game. The sport encourages this increase in skill by rewarding the scoring of four tries in a game. There are certain local programs that encourage this wide play and support it with strong athletes in the outside back positions. Specifically, the 2012 RHS Girls and the 2014 BMHS Girls come to mind, and both won provincial titles.
This League Point System also motivates teams who may not be in a position to win a rugby game (ie, being down 10 points on the last play). The team can still be rewarded by narrowing the score to less than 7 points and thus earn themselves a point in the standings.
To summarize, there is no draw back to implementing this type of League Points System, and the intent of this structure will far outreach simply clarifying standings and reducing ties. It goes so far as to promote skill development, further encourage competition, and will make the game more fun to play. That last reason is enough for me.