Penalty tries and repeated infringements are two distinct issues. Repeated infringements do not automatically trigger penalty tries, regardless of where and when they occur. It is incorrect application for a referee to threaten “the next one’s a penalty try” or to award a penalty try because of repeated infringements.
A penalty try is awarded if:
Law 9.A.1 Penalty Try
If a player would probably have scored a try but for foul play by an opponent, a penalty try is awarded between the goal posts.
Law 10.2 (a), 10.2 (b), 10.3 (b)
A penalty try must be awarded if the offense prevents a try that would probably otherwise have been scored.
The key words are would probably been scored and the offense. What this means is that the specific offense must have prevented the probable try.
A series of similar offenses by a team or by an individual becomes persistent or repeated based on several possible factors:
- Time span in which the offenses occurred
- Place on the field in which the offenses occurred
- Offenses by one player
What this means is that an offense can be a repeated infringement without reaching the standard of a penalty try even if the offenses occurred very close to the goal line. Repeated infringement is foul play, and is covered in Law 10. However it does not per se mean that the standard for a penalty try has been met.
To award a penalty try, the individual offense must (by itself) have prevented a probable try. This is true whether it is a singular occurrence or part of a pattern leading to a referee determination of persistent offenses.
The referee, therefore, must make two separate judgments. First, has this pattern reached the point of persistent offending? And second, did this particular offense prevent a try? These judgments are independent of each other. An offense may be repeated without leading to a penalty try. And an offense may result in a penalty try without being part of a larger pattern.