Analysis: Brumbies v. Reds – Super Rugby Round 1 2013 - Green and Gold Rugby
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Analysis: Brumbies v. Reds – Super Rugby Round 1 2013

Analysis: Brumbies v. Reds – Super Rugby Round 1 2013

We’re all armchair critics and we all see different things in matches. Often the things I see watching a game live are not the same as when I do my match analysis.  Here’s what I saw in the match between the Brumbies and Reds last weekend. The accompanying video highlights some of the areas discussed here.

The Reds and Brumbies’ battle for supremacy at the top of the Australian conference in 2012 produced close, hard-fought matches and the determination of the final ladder positions went right down to the wire. There was no reason to think their first clash in 2013 would be any different and while the eventual score line of 24-6 looks comfortable for the Brumbies, it doesn’t reflect the real arm wrestle that the game was.

The Brumbies did everything just that little better and the cumulative effect of all those little things meant that they were the better team on the night.

Defence was always going to be a focus for both teams in this match. The raw statistics tell us that the Reds were the better defensive team – missing only 14 tackles for a completion rate of 91 per cent while the Brumbies missed 23 for a rate of 86 per cent. Of course, those numbers vary slightly dependent on whose statistics you look at. But the raw numbers never tell the full story and the Brumbies scrambled really well to cover their initial missed tackles. I thought the Brumbies actually exerted more pressure on the Reds with their defence and the Reds never looked like scoring. Having said that, there was no issue with the Reds’ defence and while the Brumbies scored two tries neither came as a result of the Reds defensive line opening up.

The other area where there was a fierce battle was the breakdown where both teams threw numbers into the contest in an effort to secure their own ball or to slow down the delivery of the opposition ball. Both teams achieved six turnovers at the breakdown and I thought Liam Gill matched David Pocock.

The contests in defence and at the breakdown are important in any match. Both teams appeared to cancel each other out in these areas but I thought the Brumbies gained the edge in the match by not allowing the Reds to play the game that suits them best – attacking rugby built on quick delivery of the ball from the ruck.

In 2011 when the Reds were such a strong attacking force, 26 per cent of their ruck ball during the season was quick and off the back of that they played some wonderful, attacking rugby. In this match the Brumbies were able to restrict the Reds to only 18 per cent quick ball from the ruck. Combined with excellent line speed the Brumbies were able to limit the opportunities for the Reds to attack and as a result the Reds were forced to kick for field position in the hope of forcing the Brumbies into errors in their own half. Of course that field position game is exactly what suits the Brumbies, with Nic White and Jesse Mogg gaining massive metres with their kicking game.

I thought the selection of Aidan Toua at outside centre signalled the Reds wanted to attack a little wider and use Toua’s pace and footwork to put pressure on the Brumbies’ defence, but if that was part of the game plan, the Brumbies did a great job of denying the Reds the opportunity to implement it.

As well as good defence in general play the Brumbies really attacked the Reds ball at source, from scrums and lineouts. Of 19 scrums and lineouts the Reds had in the match they only got clean ball to launch first phase attack from 42 per cent of those set pieces. When you consider that 75 to 80 per cent of most teams’ possessions in Super Rugby (and the Reds’ statistics are no different) last three phases or less, it’s very hard to play attacking rugby without good first-phase ball to establish a platform – there is very limited time with the ball in hand and if your first phase attack is nullified, you end up kicking the ball away and hoping to launch something the next time you have possession. The Brumbies went into the match with a clear plan to disrupt the Reds’ possession and they combined a strong scrum with aggressive defence in the lineout.

The Reds’ overall game in attack seemed to be lacking direction and spark and while the pressure from the Brumbies and the absence of Will Genia explains some of that, I was surprised that the Reds kept grinding away and really didn’t look to chance their arm until the game was probably out of reach in the final ten minutes.

[youtube id=”xZcLp42H9uU” width=”600″ height=”350″]

Best for the Brumbies were Jesse Mogg, Ben Mowen and Stephen Moore, while Liam Gill, Ed Quirk, Quade Cooper and Ben Tapuai were the best for the Reds.

The Brumbies will go into this week’s match against the Rebels full of confidence and apart from the forced change with Henry Speight out I wouldn’t imagine other changes to their team. I expect them to get up in this match.

The Reds have a harder task against the Waratahs. They need the likes of James Horwill and Radike Samo back in the pack to provide some go-forward and leadership, although Horwill has already been ruled out for another week. I’d bring James Hanson off the bench to start ahead of Saia Faingaa while the return of Anthony Faingaa, who will probably take over the captaincy, will be a big boost for the Reds.

Forced to make a decision I’ve tipped the Waratahs — but for those G&GR Tahs supporters coming up to Brisbane for the match whom I’ll be catching up with, just remember that tipping is one thing; I certainly won’t be backing them.

  • theDuke

    Great analysis scott.

    Do you think the following areas had any significant impact:
    – Errors – like dropped ball
    – Missed kicks at goal – factoring in difficulty

    It did seem like an arm wrestle, until the desperation tactics for the reds took over. They just seemed a little off in their execution, and the little things really made a difference.

    • Scott Allen

      The errors in the first game of the season are to be expected and both sides made them, so no real impact.

      On the goal kicking, if the Brumbies were accurate they could have put the Reds away a lot earlier in the game than they did.

      I was disappointed that the Reds went for their 2nd and 3rd penalty goal attempts. Yes, it would have been nice to be 9-0 or even 6-0 up after five or six minutes but they were long range and on the angle. I would have preferred to see them to kick for touch and take the risk to try and get a try early – that would have had a more significant impact on the game as it would have signalled an attacking intent, which I think was the only way the Reds were ever going to win that match.

  • Johnny-boy

    Lack of organisation from the Reds and still a bit of laziness methinks. Brumbies clearly wanted it a lot more. Better pull your fingers out a bit earlier this season boys or you’ll be chasing your tails all season again. Otherwise there’s going to be an awful lot of disappointed and underwhelmed Reds fans at Suncorp on Saturday night. Not to mention a little angry. Turn it on !

  • RedsHappy

    Scott, some observations, as a hard-core Reds man:

    1. For me, the principal Reds-related phenomenon being witnessed now in 2013 (as it was in most of 2012 as well) is essentially this: since the latter stages of the Reds’ 2011 campaign, the Reds as a team and in terms of total skill and execution have not notably improved. If anything, their total capability and demonstrable ‘in play intelligence and game control’ has marginally deteriorated.

    At an individual player level, from 2011 to late 2012/early 2013 the only individual players spanning those Super periods that have markedly improved are Gill and AWH. I can so no others gaining significant demonstrated capability or playing smarts over these comparative periods.

    Thus, the problem for the Reds in 2013 is simply that at least three other local franchises are – or seem highly likely to be – improving markedly over this period, namely the Tahs, Rebels and Brumbies. In 2011, the Tahs were the poorly managed and trained group we all came to know so well, the Rebels had just begun, and the Brumbies were again falling away through mediocre coaching and ‘player power’ dramas. Thank goodness for Aus rugby, all that’s changed now, much for the better. In 2012, the final Super15 points table clearly showed that the Reds were really only able to dominate the local franchises and, bar the Chiefs, not the best international ones. That was an omen for 2013.

    2. From late 2011, the Reds’ management presumably had to assume the local and international Super15 competition would soon (of necessity) significantly improve and that their only credible strategy to ‘truly be great’ was to hold or increase the established 2011 quality and capability gap between themselves and, at the very least, the other Aus franchises.

    But instead of executing a gruelling and hard-edged change program – with potentially new imported players in areas where home-grown wasn’t quite good enough – the Reds initiated talk of ‘dynasties’, ‘management succession plans’ and ‘when greatness calls’, all inspiring stuff in a superficial sense but looking back now it implies a degree of permanentised self-belief and hubris that was misaligned with the forthcoming competitive dynamics the Reds would come to face and placed a potentially reckless emphasis on status quo continuity vs the planning of tough-minded change to maintain the Reds’ 2011 relative competitive capability vs the other 14 teams.

    The greatest implicit expression of these quiet complacencies and introverted decisions was the odd and still extraordinary decision to implement post-2011 a ‘two bosses but less specialists’ coaching structure with the appointment of the hapless, track-record-less Richard Graham as ‘Head Coach’ as “Chook” Fowler and Tatsy Taylor departed, with neither replaced bar Richard Graham apparently taking over ‘training, planning and defence’. (In announcing the RG appointment, his key qualifications were oft-stated that he was a Queenslander who was ‘willing to learn all the Reds’ systems and way of doing things’.) No one to this day has clearly and credibly explained why this very unconventional body and structure of coaching resources makes sense and how it will surely improve the Reds as a team, other than allowing Link the freedom to roam to other, bigger pastures. And today we hear hardly a peep from RG, he is the quietest value-adding senior coach ever.

    All of this odd managerial decision-making – combined with the poor game execution and IMO game preparation and seeming lack of a coherent game plan last Saturday – points in the same direction: the 2012-3 Reds have not invested enough in the resources, structure and techniques *to preserve the excellence gap* they held over many 2011 Super15 franchises. The team is largely happy with a kind a replica of where they were in the championship year and the folly of that model will likely be revealed in the type of ‘gee, what hit us’ loss they incurred v the Sharks in the 2012 finals and the fact that they were so out-thought and out-played by a manifestly far better prepared Brumbies side in their last game.

    Now for the fan in me: let’s hope I’m wrong.

    • JimmyC

      Quiet day at work mate

      • RedsHappy

        Passion comes in random bursts ;-)

        • JimmyC

          I love it. I want it to be Saturday already.

    • Kiap

      Hard-hitting points. Hope you’re wrong.

    • Roscoe Tims

      Valid argument for sure. There’s a noticeable feeling of ‘standing still’ and not much value adding. Notwithstanding injuries etc (there is some depth to the squad), the two players they’re really missing are both in the forwards, Ben Daley and Big Kev. Their work rate and aggression at the breakdown and with ball in hand would make a difference. I daresay Higgers will turn out to be a loss over the season as well. Difficult to compensate for these losses.

      • JimmyC

        Rosco I’d day that Scott would disagree with you about Daley. Meat then potatoes then gravy. Isn’t that his saying

        • Scott Allen

          No, I got that saying from someone else on G&GR (whose name unfortunately I can’t remember at this moment).

          But I certainly support the saying – Daley must improve his scrummaging or the Reds situation will be worse at scrum time and therefore I believe Holmes and Slipper are the best starting options at the moment.

        • Patrick

          It was Nutta.

        • Scott Allen


    • Mick

      Tapuai has definitely continuosly improved since 2011 I reckon too (he was great back then.. but I think is better still)

  • Gus

    I thought the Reds attack looked much better with Frisby playing at 9. He looked a far more natural halfback then Lucas who was far too tentative getting the ball out under pressure. Any thoughts on that anyone?

    Also it was easy to see that the Reds forward pack being outplayed in the set piece was their ultimate undoing. I would put that down to inexperience and youth for the most part, although having only 2 genuine jumpers in the pack makes things difficult. Unless the forwards develop during the season (getting back Samo and Horwill will help) the Reds will find it tough to beat the quality sides. Fingers crossed im wrong though because I’d love to see the reds firing on all cylinders.

    I also thought that the Reds kicked ineffectively at least throughout the first half. The box kicks were either poorly executed, poorly chased or both. In most cases the box kick gave the Brumbies uncontested ball to attack from or return with interest. Serious question: Is the box kick vital in today’s game? Because honestly I would much prefer the Reds to pass the ball to an inside back for the clearance in most cases.

  • Pedro

    please please please can the wallabies select a big kicker in the backs. Watching the Brums reminds me how much of a bonus players like Latham, Gerrard and Larkham were to the Wobs when kicking for territory.

    • Mick

      hmmmm maybe Mogg?

      • Pedro

        Or white, they can both leather it into next week

        • ooaahh

          not jumping on the band wagon yet but a mate of mine who watched the crusaders trial said Israel Falou had a massive punt.

  • The Rant

    I have an issue with this video: It’s only 4.39 long.

    • Mick

      haha yep – I could watch that analysis all day long! Hope Ewen and Richard take a look! (and Ben Lucas)

  • Dougs

    I think the Reds showed toward the end of last year that they are still a good team, but no team can compete with the better teams without their key players.
    When they were winning, the Reds would hang on in the set piece (just), compete admirably at the breakdown then shred the opposition with their backs. Without Horwill, Samo and Higgers they’ve lost what little they had in size/ set piece and without Genia they’ve lost a key part of their backs (Quade is a freak, but Genia does make him look good to a certain extent). I think with those guys back and with a few games under their belt the Reds will start to look like the team of old.

    The other obvious variable in this is the Brumbies. Whatever it is that Jake White does, he does it well. The Brumbs are unrecognisable from the pre-White era. Any team that beats them at the moment is doing well. Reds to beat them away from home without 2 of their 3 key players (Horwill, Genia, Quade) was always a big ask.

ACT Brumbies

Scott is one of our regular contributors from the old days of G&GR. He has experience coaching Premier Grade with two clubs in Brisbane.

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