Pace, precision, power, high energy … all-action, all the time. Tries scored from one end of the field to the other, bone-rattling tackles, sweeping moves and performance under pressure – sevens has everything. 

Well, almost everything. 

While the skills and scoring remain the same, sevens and 15s diverge in multiple ways but no more so than in one facet of the game. Because there’s one thing curiously absent from sevens – drop goals in general play.   

In fact, kicking for points outside of conversions is a rarity in sevens at the best of times. 

HSBC SVNS stats guru Kate Lorimer has dug into the numbers and found that, in the 25-year history of the men’s competition, just 118 successful penalties have been scored. About to take the field in his 104th tournament, Argentina’s Gaston Revol has played more events than anyone and with that has also kicked more penalty goals than any other player. He has six of them. 

There have been two so far this season with ice-cool kicks, both against Fiji. One was from France’s Ryan Rebbadj, the other Australia’s Maurice Longbottom.

The number of successful penalties kicked in the women’s competition is even lower – just 13 over the years, two of which were kicked by Japan’s Yume Okuroda. The most recent came via the boot of Brazil’s Raquel Kochhann in 2022. 

Drop off

If the rate of successful penalty kicks is low, then teams scoring through drop goals or even attempting them has been so rarely sighted on the sevens field they’re almost extinct. Or dormant at the very least. 

A grand total of 15 drop goals have been kicked in open play over the two and half decades of the men’s series and, in just over 10 years of the women’s series, there have been precisely zero. 

Ireland’s Gavin Hussey kicked the first ever drop goal in 2001, against Morocco in Dubai. Another two were landed in that 2001 season but Hussey’s trailblazing moment hardly opened the floodgates for drop goals to become a major scoring option in the game. 

Samoa’s Lolo Lui, captain of the famed 2009-10 series winning team, remains the king of the sevens drop goal, with six of the overall tally of 15 coming from his boot. Blitzboks star Branco du Preez (pictured, above) knocked over the last drop goal seen on the sevens field on the Gold Coast in 2013.   

On the women’s series, the great Ghislaine Landry was arguably the most likely to pot a field goal. Until she was recently overtaken by Tyla King (née Nathan-Wong), Landry long held the record for most points on the series – she was the first woman to 1,000 and finished her illustrious career in 2021 with 1,356. Among those points, she kicked a single penalty. 

Having just come back on after a yellow card, she nudged over the penalty in front of the uprights to take Canada’s lead over Australia two to scores in the final in Clermont-Ferrand back in 2016. 

Risk and reward

While she remembers the penalty goal, the only thing Landry recalls about drop goals is once talking about it with an assistant coach but, “nothing came of it".

Landry says the risk versus the reward of taking a potshot is the main factor as to why we just don’t see them. “When you get close enough to be in kicking range, the likelihood of scoring points is pretty high, so going for three as opposed to a try isn’t worth it” she said, while adding there’s a high risk of turning over possession with a missed kick taken on a whim.

Landry notes it is also an incredibly difficult skill to master and an area where the women’s game is catching up.

“When you watch drop kicks for conversions, generally speaking on the women’s side the skill isn’t as fine-tuned, and that’s not even in open play, so that would speak to some of the reason for the lack of drop goals. But tactically speaking, if you have someone with the skill for sure there’d be a situation for it to come into play.”

Just drop it

She pointed out, however, that all it may take for drop goals to become fashionable in sevens is someone actually doing it.

“Sevens follows trends,” she said. “South Africa’s men started taking deep breaths at half-time, then we started doing it and now I would say every single team does it in some capacity. It’s a bit like calling for a scrum on a penalty now – everyone does it because someone did it once, even when it’s not always the right choice.”

As it has been more than 10 years since the last one, perhaps ‘drop goals for glory’ truly are a thing of the past, a small footnote in the stats lines and history books while the surge of athleticism in the women’s game makes them wholly unnecessary. Or perhaps someone just needs a little nudge.

Having taken her top points scoring crown, Landry cites the Black Ferns Sevens’ King as the most likely contender to take on a droppie and the player with the skill level to do it… if she’s up for the challenge.