Anatomy of Jonny May's wonder try: Power, agility and audacity combined in one move

Plus, Jonathan Kaplan on why the try was rightly awarded by the officials

Jonny May (top) of England avoids the tackle of Luca Sperandio of Italy to score a try during the Rugby Six Nations
Jonny May produced a brilliant individual moment Credit: Shutterstock

Jonny May's acrobatic try lit up England's victory over Italy at Twickenham but led to some armchair observers wondering if the move was illegal. Charlie Morgan analyses May's moment of brilliance and Jonathan Kaplan offers a referee's view.

The build-up

Having crept slightly flat on the edge of England’s backline, perhaps anticipating a grubber through towards the dead-ball area from one of his playmakers, Jonny May readjusts and drops as George Ford’s pass is pulled back to Elliot Daly. He is in the five-metre channel when Daly releases the ball, with opposite man Luca Sperandio around eight metres in field. An off-the-ball, out-to-in angle from Owen Farrell has caused Italy’s defence to concertina and present space out wide. May accelerates down the touchline, showing awareness and agility to stay in bounds as opponents scramble towards him.

Jonny May takes off down the wing Credit: Shutterstock

The take-off

May weighs around 90kg and is an explosive athlete who takes pride in devoting hours to stretching and speed work. He will have one of the most impressive power-to-mass ratios in the England squad, and makes the most of that attribute with a bound from his right leg that gives his jump huge height. His hang-time is prodigious, allowing May to hurdle Sperandio. Crucially, and skilfully, he also transfers the ball across his body and into his left arm. Nestled there, it is furthest away from any covering defenders and less likely to be knocked or nudged away in a desperate tackle.

Jonny May takes off Credit: Getty Images

The finish

Law 21.15 of rugby union states that: “If the ball or ball-carrier touches a corner flag or corner flag post without otherwise being in touch or touch-in-goal, play continues unless the ball is grounded against the post.” This means that May’s try will stand if he places the ball down before the rest of his body touches the ground – regardless of any contact with the corner flag. He shows impressive dexterity to place the ball as part of his landing. Acrobatic finishes are commonplace in the National Rugby League, Australia’s premier 13-a-side competition. Farrell is a fan of rugby league, and his voice was heard across a quiet Twickenham: “That was f---ing brilliant!”

Social media critics are wrong - there was nothing illegal about May's flying score

By Jonathan Kaplan

There were some suggestions on social media that Jonny May’s try should have been disallowed for jumping out of the tackle. I'm afraid I don't see any issue - this was a brilliant finish that was quite rightly awarded. 

Scoring a try is, on occasion, an act which requires great skill. May improvised with a finish straight out of rugby league, and sometimes you have no choice but to take to the air to score a try. If we disallowed it (and I have no idea under which law you would do so) then we would be oversanitising the game and you run the risk of having to rule out a try every time a player dives for the line, which is clearly ridiculous.

In the same breath, if Luca Sperandio had made the tackle then that would have been fine as well - I don't see it as taking a player out in the air. If a player jumps up in the act of diving to score, I would imagine a common sense approach would prevail in allowing a defender to actually defend. It was a super score that was correctly given.

Two other points I’d like to make, on separate issues. Firstly, I thought Owen Farrell was fortunate not to be penalised by Mike Adamson for his late challenge on Stephen Varney. It was avoidable and the try that followed could have been disallowed.

I also have huge sympathy with Jack Willis for his knee injury. My understanding is that World Rugby has outlawed clearouts that target the legs of the jackaller. From what I could see this didn't happen here - although there was a potential side entry by Sebastien Negri, the Italian player. It appeared to be more of a body roll that cuased the injury, which is not illegal.