Analysis: those precious minutes vs Wales

Analysis: those precious minutes vs Wales

Analysis: those precious minutes vs Wales

It’s being lauded as the gutsiest and most impressive defensive effort of this World Cup and perhaps any other – the Wallabies holding out Wales on their line with only 13 men  for seven minutes. It was all a bit of a blur on Sunday morning, so with the benefit of the freeze frame, in this article we’ll investigate what transpired over those precious minutes.

You’ll see two forces at play in this analysis: a Wallabies team that executes skills under pressure and fatigue almost flawlessly and a Welsh team making poor decisions and simple errors when they matter most. On such things are World Cups won or lost.

60th minute

This is an opportunity well and truly butchered by Wales in numerous ways.

wallabies versus wales defenceThe Wallabies are packing a seven man scrum 5 metres out from their own line. The Welsh get a shove on, but just as they’re headed toward the Australian line for a pushover or penalty try, the Welsh 8 Felatau loses control. The ball squirts out the back to Davies the 9. A try goes begging.

wallabies versus wales defence

Davies picks up, sees space on the short side and makes a dart. The Wallabies could easily have been caught out here, but McCalman is quickly off the scrum and Giteau appears from no where outside of him to cover Williams the Welsh winger. Quick thinking from Davies and Felatau could have seen an inside ball to the Wales 8 for a certain try, but it doesn’t seem to be a consideration.

The move breaks down when Foley comes to help. Big Dog (McCalman) then gets up, forms a pillar at the ruck and takes down the next drive.

61st minute

wallabies versus wales defence

A few pick and goes later and the Welsh spin it wide – they have a three on two overlap with quite literally half the try line wide open to Alex Cuthbert. The two Wallabies defenders Foley and Folau come up as one and as fast as they can. Foley pressures Biggar into a looped pass and Folau almost intercepts. Wales goes backwards 30 metres, but somehow Joubert calls advantage over from the knock on.

wallabies versus wales defence

Two phases later the Welsh have managed to create a very useful three on one down the short side using Biggar, their centres and Cuthbert. AAC hammers Biggar, Mitchell poleaxes Roberts and a covering Folau collects Cuthbert.

wallabies versus wales defence

That leaves the try line open for the 192cm 107kg wing/centre North, except that is for the 182cm, 89kg Bernard Foley who has come haring in from midfield in a sweeper’s role.

wallabies versus wales defence

Foley gets enough of a shoulder on North to bring him down allowing McCalman to get in front of the Welshman and hold up the otherwise certain try.

63rd minute

From North being held up, a scrum is set on the Australia 5m line. The Wallabies have seven men in it and are determined not to yield an inch. There are two collapses before Wales clear the ball from the final attempt.

wallabies versus wales defence

In this third scrum Wales put on the first shove after the feed to little effect. Then it’s Australia’s turn to put on the pressure. On the far side of the scrum the Wales loose-head is coming in at a crazy angle. While it’s not clear who started it from this view, Holmes is unlikely to be boring in, tilted up as he is.

On the near side Wales tight head Tom Francis is struggling to keep his footing from going backwards. He hinges and Slipper goes to ground as a result. Australia may be unlucky to not get the penalty but more importantly the scrum has gone no-where despite them being a man down.

65th minute

The next 10 phases are nothing short of heroic textbook try-line defence. Yes, all tackles need to stick in this situation – and they do. But to be in position to make them requires time for the defence to re-adjust and number up, especially when you’re two men down. This means slowing the ball down just that second or two longer to buy the team time, but not give away yet another penalty and quite possibly another man to the bin.

There are two key points at which the Wallabies do this.

The first is seven phases in. Wales has gone to the left edge and are now working their way back right. Throughout this sequence they use their strike ball carriers Roberts and North extensively. This is Roberts’ second carry and he charges back from deep on an inside unders line from Biggar.

Screen Shot 2015-10-12 at 3.50.14 pm

As they do throughout these phases and the match, the Wallabies double tackle; Holmes goes low around the bootlaces and Giteau high around the chest  – which results in him bouncing onto his arse from Roberts’ 110 kilos. Neither tackle sticks, but it’s enough to bring the Welshman down.  McCalman arrives almost immediately and the Big Dog goes to work on Roberts who’s working on a squeeze ball between his legs.

Screen Shot 2015-10-12 at 4.27.11 pm

North is screaming for the ball on the open wing as three Welsh cleaners try to shift the West Australian. It’s not until a fourth cleaner arrives that he rolls off the ball which is probably also half a second before Joubert reaches for his whistle as McCalman is clearly no longer supporting his own weight. Wales gets the ball back, but by my count, McCalman bought the Wallabies between four and five precious seconds.

Screen Shot 2015-10-12 at 4.41

Eventually the ball goes wide where it’s two on two in plenty of space. Foley executes a textbook grass-cutter on Anscome and Folau brings down North with help from a scrambling Kuridrani.

Screen Shot 2015-10-12 at 4.43.54 pm

Impressively, Wallaby Loose-Head James Slipper is first to the scene and he latches on to North’s squeeze ball buying vital seconds for the Wallabies. It takes two goes but the Welsh cleaners do their job just in time.

Screen Shot 2015-10-12 at 4.43Ashley-Cooper lends his shoulder to the effort, adding another second to what turns into a 5 second clearance. Looking up, this means that the Wallabies have managed to number up again…..

Screen Shot 2015-10-12 at 4.51.32 pm

…so that when Liam Willams attacks the line, Douglas and Moore are able to hit him high and low, forcing the ball to be held up. Take a bow Nathan Grey – those drills have paid off!

At this point Beale, Toomua and Polota-Nau replace Mitchell, Giteau and Moore.

66th Minute

The next scrum is a mess, lurching forward, back and then side to side before the Wallaby tight five look to walk through the middle. Joubert however penalises Fardy for early disengagement.

67th Minute

Genia’s yellow card expires and Phipps come onto the field – the Wallabies are now just one man down.

Wales go for a 6-man lineout which Simmons unsuccessfully contests.

Screen Shot 2015-10-12 at 5.23Wales win their own ball, but the ensuing maul is poorly formed with Felatau and Charteris being caught upright. Worse, there seems to be no drive coming through and eventually Joubert tells them to use it for a second time.

Screen Shot 2015-10-12 at 5.40

From the maul Wales run a scissors play where Roberts comes at an unders line and Cuthbert, who had been lurking on the short side behind the maul, offers himself as a threat to the Wallabies midfield. Either Kuridrani makes the read of the century and decides Roberts is a decoy, or he just plain misses the Wales 12, distracted by looming Cuthbert (the image above seems to say the latter).

Either way Roberts goes steaming through untouched, but without the ball as Davies the Welsh 9 decides to go wide to Biggar. Roberts however was a viable option and his remonstrating later would suggest he thought so too. Another try goes begging.

Screen Shot 2015-10-12 at 5.35

Instead, Biggar gets caught ball and all by Ashley-Cooper shooting out of the line.

Screen Shot 2015-10-12 at 5.36As we’ve seen him do so many times before, he’s back on his feet and over the ball instantly, forming a shield between the arriving cleaners and Kurtley Beale who’s come to help and winds up pulling off most probably his first, but most definitely his most important, turn-over of his career.

And that’s it. The Wallabies are down the other end of the field, on the attack and within a minute or so back to fifteen men. The match is on its way to being won and two very different World Cup destinies being unfurled.

  • Patrick

    And a thing of beauty it was too; every minute of it. Great analysis!

    I certainly hope we are more clinical if given the opportunity!

  • Tropical Sauce

    Awesome write and precise.. Thanks Mattb

  • VietGwent

    Decent analysis, but it was Slipper who deliberately collapsed the scrum. See Warburton looking to the assistant referee for the penalty call to Joubert….

    • Warburton asking for a penalty proves that, or is it just the vibe of the scrum that suggests that to you?

      • Funk

        C’mon would a no.7 ever ask for a penalty that didn’t happen?? Would Richie, Hoops, Louw, Dusautior…ok forget what I was saying…..

        • Klashing

          The Genia send off should have been a penalty try to Wales, he openly states he illegally stopped a certain try. Wales didn’t perform well in that period but Hooper didn’t want to play rugby but talk the referee out of the game. I have a different view of the game because I don’t recollect seeing Australia coming close to scoring a try throughout the match.

  • Nicholas

    McCalman was immense when he came on. Brilliant stuff Matt.

  • bazzar

    Kurindrani’s body language looks like he was covering Roberts but is switching to Cuthbert , Roberts seems a fraction early.

    • My_Oath

      Yeah to get it to him would have required a ‘very’ flat pass and there was a yellow shirt blocking that option.

    • Davies pumps the ball twice before Roberts goes through, so could have given the pass to Roberts when he wanted.

      Kuridrani I’m very happy to give the benefit of the doubt to, but to me his weight looks planted too far back and right to really be covering Roberts.

  • Awesome write-up – thanks !
    That was the most nail biting few minutes of my 51 years. Amazing knuckle up by the Wallabies.

  • Will Honeycomb

    Excellent piece.

    I was sitting just above that try line. The calculated ferocity of the Australian tackling was even more noticeable live (I watched the game again when I got home). It wasn’t just the hardness of the tackling- it was also the speed and intelligence with which one interaction was closed down and the next engaged. A bit like trying to juggle in a boxing match. Wondrous.

    • @Adorimedia

      I was on the same angle but on ground level. Phenomenal. Incredible to see it first hand and it DID seem like 30 minutes at the time.

    • Garry

      Gentlemen, charge your glasses….To Nathan Grey. Take a bow sir.

  • Pedro

    Great analysis as usual Matt.

    What I liked most about the Douglas/Moore tackle was the way Douglas effectively pulled the ball carrier over the try line knowing he was wrapped up and wouldn’t have to release.

  • GoMelbRebels

    Great piece, but are you sure it was 7 minutes? I could have sworn at the time it was 30…

    • The 7 hours writing it sure felt longer….

  • Patrick

    In short, Gatland wasn’t good enough…

    • Jonathan Estey

      Conventional wisdom holds that Gatland is a genius who has brought the Welsh this far through incredible adversity. IMHO, he is the most overrated coach in world rugby. You can say he has been masterful in keeping the Welsh ranks filled despite injury… or you can look at how many talented players never got game time before injury forced Gatland to look beyond 200 kg slabs of meat on legs for his backline. You can say he’s been unlucky with injuries while getting the Welsh superbly conditioned… or that his insane pre-tournament conditioning program is partially responsible for the injuries. You can point to the way the Welsh found space and creativity in the last quarter against England… or you can point out that the Welsh backline was impotent for the first 60 minutes and that they only showed attacking menace once the players started ignoring Gatland’s overly restrictive gameplan.
      The fact that Wales let so many scoring chances go begging with a 2 man advantage on the Australian tryline just adds credence to the idea that Gatland has selected and trained a team that are overly dependant on a limited gameplan and lack the creativity to adapt to the unexpected. Wales have the cattle to score tries against the best defences — they just don’t have the cowboy to drive them there.

      • Patrick

        I agree

      • Kiama Chris

        I think you’re being a bit hard. Matt’s analysis shows that Wales came up with some very effective breakdown tactics which nullified to a great extent our excellence in that area. The analysis also showed clearly on at least 2 occasions poor decisions by Wales #9 that cost tries. Gatland wouldn’t have coached that. So certainly not a genius, but by no means an idiot either.

        • Jonathan Estey

          You have a point, Kiama Chris. Gatland, like Wales, is superb in certain areas of the game, and I don’t mean to deny that — only disagree with the “genius” label. The one area I would quibble with you is in those decision-making skills: after 7.5 years as Wales head coach, if Gatland hasn’t been able to develop creativity and judgement among his players, that has to be at least partially on him. It was one thing for him to take over the team in 2007, keep their game simple & tight-to-the-plan, and achieve reasonable success; at a certain point, however, you would think Gatland (and Wales) would want more.

        • Swansea Till I Die!

          You can only develop what is there. There is a very good reason that Davies is not our first choice 9.

    • Canuckruck

      Gatland has taken a nation renowned for creative runnng rugby and turned them into little more than a one dimensional, crash ball fitness club

      • Swansea Till I Die!

        No, the professional game did that. Shane Williams aside Wales haven’t had a player capable of doing it for decades.

  • Canuckruck

    Thanks Matt, great analysis and appreciate the effort that goes into these articles.

    That defense was one of the more incredible feats I have seen in rugby in a long time. Truly phenomenal. Was almost impossible to believe when Mumm when off….that Australia would get out with no points scored.

    I have this niggling concern, that despite however amazing this defense was, the Wallabies will need to score tries to beat the likes of the ABs. Not being able to score tries against Wales is troubling. The opportunity was there.

    • Michael Hassall

      No tries might not be the traditional wallaby way but we did take the points on offer and the Welsh did infringe a lot (enough to be warned for it).

      Hard to believe that was a pool match.

      Here’s hoping for a more attacking performance agains the Scots though.

    • Braveheart81

      Wales’ defence was outstanding as well. They rushed up very well and shut down our opportunities. Our best chances came in the last 10 minutes and we should have potentially scored then (maybe if Folau hadn’t slipped over on his break).

      We had little possession and territory though most of the match. I wouldn’t be too concerned about it. Some test matches go like that, particularly at the RWC.

      • Nutta

        We continue to not do well against rushing defences. Our short kicking game lets us down here as does our penchant for these huge, sweeping cross field movements that require us to play 15m behind the G-line for 40m of width before we flatten up in the OC channel. If a dumb-arse like me can read it like a book sometimes I’m sure everyone else can as well. Need to introduce some Toomua style flatness occasionally to mix it up

        • Braveheart81

          Agreed. I definitely think more short kicking needs to be employed if we are faced with a rush defence that is effectively shutting our backline down.

          I guess you can expect that we’ll try and beat it playing the way we want to play first though. Cheika has been pretty clear that the Wallabies want to play their style and are confident they can win playing like that. So far they’ve been successful with that.

          A couple of short kicks are important for that though because they should help allow you to play the way you want to play by second guessing the defence and potentially making them hold back.

        • Nutta

          That and also putting an inside runner option off the mid-field Donkey pivot in “the grand sweep” to hold the slide defence up a bit. Imagine Rooster or Hooper or some such suspect off the inside hip of Squeak or Kepu when they play pretend-pivot? It’s that old line of forcing defenders to make a choice…

  • dsb

    Makes me want to watch it again. Thanks.

  • Red Kev

    Yeah awesome walkthrough, thanks Matt

  • Michael Hassall

    Thanks for the article Matt, great stuff.

  • Pfitzy

    Welsh halves did not have the confidence to get them across the line. Davies is greedy, and Biggar a good kicker but not a director or enabler at 10. They were basically waiting for the beef at 12 and 13 to crash over, and that works against teams with variable tackling ability.

    The number of important tackles made by Foley in this match will hopefully shut up a few more of the haters who were picking on his defence. The game against England sure zipped their lip about his abilities on attack.

  • The way momentum was going I’m surprised/glad that Izzy’s late(ish) shoulder charge on Cuthbert wasn’t seen by the TMO. We may have been down to 12 men had it been caught.

    • Hugh Cavill

      Yeah agreed. It was a really dumb move that could have cost us the match.

    • Pedro

      Or the citing commissioner….

    • sampro

      I thought the TMO would have been all over it too.

  • Stray Gator

    Great analysis, excellently written up.
    Pressure is a strange and horrible beast. Imagine if Wales had taken a penalty goal and then forced us to play 13 on 15 using the whole field. Doesn’t bear thinking about.

    • Spank

      UNBELIEVABLE!!!!!!!!!! WONDERFUL!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Bay35Pablo

    Nice to have some decent dissection, rather than say Marto and Kearnsie whanging on shouting “Huge!!!”.

  • Duncher

    I got goosebumps all over again just reading this… SOOOOOooo pumped

  • stanley

    Great analysis. Especially liked the pickup around the gang tackle. Is this a new technique that nathan grey has implemented? or have the tahs been doing it for some time? Anything to slow the ball down and allow the grass cutter to roll away and realign is gold

  • Nutta

    Thankyou for taking the time Matt
    I’ve been formulating a few D drills to use next pre-season for those bold/silly/desperate enough to engage me and parts of this will help immensely. BTW I’m plagiarising your work to that end. Sorry ’bout that.

  • Kiama Chris

    Thanks for that FF. Fantastic analysis. You see things the rest of us miss.

  • Da Munch

    Adding another screen shot from 65:08 – Folau catching the Shepard and the sheep, lucky he has long arms.

  • Reggy Didge

    I’ve read the analysis carefully. I think it is outstanding.

    The overriding thought I had was how TF did Wales bomb the game despite our defensive heroics?.

    I’ve tapped into a few comments below and have to agree that Gatland’s team had no Plan B. As for butchering tries? I cannot believe we got away with it. I watched crash balls and grunting it up when spinning it wide to the unmarked would have meant try time. Dumb dumb dumb.

    This was Wales big chance to cash in on a team that is bloody good. Its now all over for them. They have to take the low road to the finals and even if they survive Boks and ABs they’ll be fried by the time of the WC Final. Unfortunatelty for them it now can’t and won’t happen for them despite their plucky performances…


Matt started G&GR just before the 2007 Rugby World Cup and has been enslaved ever since. Follow him on twitter: @MattRowley

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