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This article (archive link) about the Scottish team Berwick Rangers centenary refers to the first competitive game:

The fishermen of the Greens also formed a football club around the same time, called the 'Royal Oaks.' They shared the field with Berwick Rangers. The first ever competitive football match in Berwick was a local derby between these teams on February 16, 1884. The result was 'a win for the Rangers by one goal and "two tries" to nil.' - proving that the rules of this new game were still not very clear.

I'm aware that the initial rules were not clear back then, but I wonder if there is any record of what a "try" could have been or why it was recorded as a score.

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A try, at least originally, did not affect the score directly, and is only recorded to mark a key aspect of that game: there were very few scoring opportunities at all.

What it did was provide that team with an attempt to kick a goal - hence, to try at goal became simply try. In the case at hand, the Rangers earned two tries, scoring one goal, while the Oaks did not get any tries.

This was later changed in the evolution of the rugby football codes (awarding points for the try itself; reducing the relative value of the goal) while it was removed entirely from the association football code (the goal is scored directly from play), or had been removed by the first formalisation of the Gaelic and Australian football codes.

A reasonable summary of the scoring history of rugby football, the only code family that maintains the try as a scoring mechanism, can be found here at RugbyFootballHistory.com; note the 1877 rule statement in particular, and the reference in the 1888 description.

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