One of the biggest talking points from round two of the 2021 Guinness Sevens series was the 50:22 kick that Black Pirates executed against Kobs in the Gulu Sevens final.
That one kick was among the top highlights from the match in which no single try was scored by either team. Kobs won the final 03-00 courtesy of a drop goal kicked by James Ijongat in front of the uprights.
What is the ’50:22 kick’ and where does it apply?
The 50:22 kick is one of the World Rugby law trials applied since August 1, 2021.
It states that: If the team in possession kicks the ball from inside their own half indirectly into touch inside their opponents’ 22, they will throw into the resultant lineout. The ball cannot be passed or carried back into their half for the 50:22 to be played. The phase must originate inside the half.
This was done to encourage the defense to put more players in the backfield to cover for the kick, thereby creating more attacking space and reducing defensive line speed.
After the Gulu Sevens final, Ivan Magomu revealed that their coach Robert Musinguzi was the architect of this strategy to execute the first 50:22 kick of the series. Not just for this specific match but for the series altogether.
So I went digging through the past matches Black Pirates have played for evidence of this strategy.
Their first 50:22 kick attempt was against Jinja Hippos in the main cup quarterfinal during the opening Mileke Sevens circuit. It was off Ivan Magomu’s boot from a restart after identifying that the backfield was open.
But the bounce was not favourable so the ball stayed in play. Hippos responded with a more successful touch-finding attempt that went into touch just outside the 22. So it did not qualify as a 50:22 kick and thus, Black Pirates earned the throw-in for the resultant lineout.
The second attempt was later in the semifinal against Buffaloes. Also on the first phase from the restart. This appears to be Black Pirates’ strategy to gain territory with minimal effort to maintain possession.
You will notice, for all the attempts including the successful one against Kobs, the 50:22 kick is played with winger Arnold Atukunda chasing. The youngster has a pace advantage which is ideal for the kick chase and regather/tackle in the event that the ball stays in play.
In the Gulu Sevens final against Kobs, Black Pirates were facing a different set of challenges. First, the match was played on a wet surface which was not favourable for both teams to swing the ball and play an expansive game. Secondly, they were up against a team with a strong defense characterized by a quick press.
Unlike the earlier attempts shown in the videos above, the 50:22 kick in this match was from a scrummage. Meaning they had to find the opportune moment to execute the strategy with the same objective.
The objective was to play deep in the opponent’s territory while maintaining possession to set up scoring opportunities. But that was not achieved.
In that match alone, Black Pirates kicked the ball five times in open play but were only able to find touch 60%. Only once did they retain possession for the resultant lineout but the set-piece was not successful.
This kicking strategy led to a response from their opponents Kobs who made four kicks in open play with 25% touch-finding success.
At the end of the day, there was only one successful 50:22 kick. With only two of the six 2021 Guinness Sevens Series rounds played, other teams will certainly try to explore the limits of the regulations.