Anatomy of a Test: Australia vs England 1st Test - Green and Gold Rugby

Anatomy of a Test: Australia vs England 1st Test

Anatomy of a Test: Australia vs England 1st Test

Once again we take a look at some of the key moments in the first Australia vs England match up in our Anatomy of a Test series.

We start at the very beginning.

Kick off – 4:20: Two sides laid bare.

As with most tests we can tell a lot from the opening exchanges, and this is no different.

From the kick off Greg Holmes gets pinged for rolling away and England clear their lines and from the ensuing lineout England work two phases before Fardy rips the ball from Vunipola and Australia immediately counterattack.

Straight away we see the plan is to take England on in the wide channels pulling England’s compressed defensive structure wide to the touch line.

Australia recycle but here we see England’s trump card come to the fore, line speed – with Haskell smashing Pocock.

Is it man in the air?

Perhaps, but it’s uncompromising and as much as Australia’s opening salvos is showing their intent is to move this compressed English defence around. England are showing they are going to try and cut Australia off before they can do it.

We all knew the script but it’s no less fascinating to see how it pans out

Australia continue to move England from side to side, racking up 8 phases, getting out and around the English defence by using screens in the midfield.

Until Holmes gets isolated and who should pounce? Maro Itoje.

England run two phases and Youngs clears the lines.

From the following lineout Australia again mount pressure and this time as Joseph goes low on Kuridrani and Farrell goes high Robshaw pounces and wins the penalty.

First blood at the breakdown to England – 4 minutes, 2 penalties and 2 turnovers.

08:39 & 15:15: Hooper and Folau are scoring Tries for Fun

Hoopers Try

Australia get ascendancy and build phases, again pulling the England defence out to the touchlines, using Screened passes to get around them.

As they move back on their 9th phase they again use a screen to get Folau into the wider channel.

We can see that as the line comes up Burrell is struggling to make a decision in should he shoot or should he tread water to try and make up the numbers. He ends up doing neither allowing Folau to attack Vunipola.

The outside inside swerve comes and Folau breaks Vunipolas tackle.

Hooper is hauled down short, but one hit infield and as Phipps comes back against the grain Watson and Burrell bite in on the wrong players and Hoopers in.

Folau’s Try

Fast forward to 15:15 minutes and to Folau’s try and we again see a screen used to slow down that defensive press, and Burrell make a poor decision.

As we can see Farrell is leading the line speed looking to close down Folau man and ball. Aggressive line speed only works if everyone buys in the problem is that Burrell doesn’t follow up and this is the space Foley attacks, and Farrell realising this frantically back peddles to try and close that gap.

Allowing Folau to drift out late and take the space and 10-0 up Australia are in complete control.

But there is an interesting sub plot going on behind all this, and while Australia are ripping England to shreds in the wide channels, England are showing incredible discipline.

We’re now over 15 minutes into the game and even under this intense pressure from Australia England haven’t given a penalty away – they’ve conceded a solitary free kick for messing around at the first scrum.

But they haven’t conceded a single pen, in fact they haven’t even conceded a pen advantage for Australia to exploit – the defensive system is failing, but England’s discipline is intact, they aren’t panicking.

In fact it takes 24 minutes for England to concede a penalty, and in that time Australia have surrendered 5 pens and allowed england to score 3 points.

31:27 – Joseph’s Try

Australia discipline is causing them serious issues, England have gone from one end of the field to the other twice now off the back of penalties – 31 minutes in and Australia have conceded 8 penalties 5 of which are at the breakdown and England have racked up 9 points from this.

Foley and Folau have been having a field day but disaster strikes.

As we can see in the below example, pretty much every high kick Folau has received this half has come with 4 chasing England players, England have effectively taken Folau out of the game by putting him at the bottom of the ruck:

He’s been targeted, and driven to the side line with the English kicking strategy. So you can understand why, when England kick a fraction too long, he gets a taste of a counter attack and goes for it.

But it’s a wild pass, and Foley loses it, getting Farrell in his back for his troubles. Kerevi then compounds the problem by making an almighty hash of dropping on the ball.

Joseph ever the poacher fly hacks through and takes his chance.

16-10 and suddenly Australia have gone from domination to farce and ultimately head into halftime 13-19 down.

10 minutes that decide the game?

At 45:49 – England spin the maul from a line out and Haskell peels off to go close save for a superb covering tackle from hooper. England recycle and Ford floats a sublime pass over the Australian defence for Yarde to scoot in unchallenged.

Straight from the kick of Australia steal the re-start and bag themselves a penalty on the 22 from Itoje not supporting his own weight at the ruck.

However Moore turns down the goal for the lineout.

Australia lose the ball, and from the subsequent scrum conceded a penalty.

England win a Scrum penalty and clear their lines.

Then comes the yellow (watch Holmes reaction and lip read what he says): you can read Matt’s excellent scrum analysis here


England again kick down field and at 54:29 – Fardy Collapses the Maul giving England another shot at goal.

England have gone try line to 22 and scored 3 points purely off the back wallabies ill discipline and Moore’s decision to kick for corner.

Moore is subbed after this.

57:55 – Hooper try – a lifeline

England again box the ball onto Folau, but Australia recycle and work across the field:

And after recycling the ball move it wide, and who should do the damage but Folau in the 13 channel.

Watch how Watson bites in trying to shut down that 2 vs 1, he gets bounced and Hooper scoots over:

Australia are back in it.

63:24 – Haskell wins turnover – up on feet and England clear lines

It might seem presumptuous to put a whole game on a turn over, but in my mind this is one of the most important points in the game.

Australia are back in the game and building a fantastic head of steam, working around the corner and getting on the front foot, they are breaking Englands defence down easily.

Mumm comes around the corner and Haskell takes him low, gets to his feet and steals the ball.

Now, this is a controversial moment, so let’s break it down:

The tackler can get to his feet and play the ball as long as no ruck is formed – so Haskell is entitled to steal that ball, as there is only Horwill at the breakdown there is no ruck formed (think Chiefs no ruck tactic).

The question is whether or not Polota Nau’s clear out on Hartley constitutes forming a ruck. It’s debatable, it’s not a contest for the ball, and it’s not directly over or around the ball.

In truth it’s a fraction of a second decision by Poite – I personally don’t have an issue with it, but then i’m English and it benefited my side.

It does however have a huge impact on the game. England clear their lines, Australia go quick with the throw and England again turn it over and clear further down field.

For me that’s the game, sure Australia score again, but it’s too little too late.

  • simon

    So it isn’t Kepu who clears out Hartley it’s Tatafu Polota Nau, his feet are behind the ball when he makes contact with Hartley which is a ruck. Poite was a second too slow that entire game and having just a hard time as the english defence with the attacking speed of the game. Still not the worst call in the world but a close to it

    • cheers corrected.

    • Unanimous

      Opponents need to “close around the ball” to form a ruck not just come from behind the ball.

  • simon

    However its a skillset which is adopted in 7’s and its something the wallabies need to look at doing which is cleaning out and protecting the ball in a ruck, it happened against Scotland and it was a key issue in why England got so many turnovers. If a player cleans out and holds his position in the ruck he stays alive if he just cleans out a dies then he cannot protect the scrum half either

    • Seb V

      Happens so bloody often doesn’t it.

    • Tip

      Question: Is it the forwards fault for cleaning out a ruck so fast or is it the Half-backs fault for being so slow?

      • Seb V

        Forwards job is to secure the ball not just clean the ruck – well actually its the whole teams job. Plus the half-back to get there quick. So everyone is to blame.

    • simon

      Halfback might be coming from a ruck on the other side of the field. Forward might be just a few steps away. Especially phipps was being tagged out all night

  • simon

    If it doesn’t equal a ruck then Poite should have called a penalty against the wallabies because Taf tackles and drives Hartley without the ball. Safe to say Poite didn’t even see Taf hit Hartley just saw Itoje hanging around but not engaging in the contest, Horwill should have grabbed Itoje like Pocock did Michael Lynch in the Chiefs game

  • Fatflanker

    Really first rate analysis – this site just keeps going from strength to strength.

    • Mica

      I don’t think there is anyway that this could or should be a send-off

      • Fatflanker

        Yep gave myself an uppercut for that dumb comment (and edited it out).

        • Mica

          Hopefully McMahon will get one back on Haskell this weekend….. :)

  • John Tynan

    Thanks again as usual Graeme, I enjoy reading your analysis pieces.

  • Seb V

    So England purposely “kick a little too long” – not one player in Aus can put up a high kick with that accuracy. If we had an accurate kicker we could bomb it to Folau and he will win the contest in the air 9 time out of 10.

    • no, England purposefully kick to the box to draw Folau in so he is hit man and ball.

      The kick too long leading to the joseph try is where they make a mistake and Folau decides to have a nibble through frustration.

      • Seb V

        The bomb is a good tactic if we got good kickers, as England have just demonstrated. 1. Put up an accurate bomb and it lands it’s mark – Folau can contest and win the ball back 2. Kick a little too long and it puts a shit load of pressure on them – they will have to work hard to avoid a turnover 3. Kick too short and its anyones game. 4. Kick way too long and gifting them the ball. If we had kickers who were accurate enough that options 1 & 2 occurred more then 90% of the time it’d be a damn good ploy.

        • Grins

          The All Blacks did it for many years and it was.

      • A80

        It worked well because our chase was much improved but it only has to go wrong a couple of times and Folau running it back could really hurt us. Given the strength or our lineout and the ability to control the games tempo wouldn’t it make more sense to put it out (long enough to avoid the quick throw) and then pressure their lineout in their own half. I was surprised at how little we pressurised Auz in that regard.

        • it’s a fair point – and i’m not sure why they went with this tactic over hitting touch and attacking the lineout – perhaps line out % didn’t favour them?

  • Pedro

    I thought that Haskell pilfer was fine at the time but it’s still the kind of thing that gets penalised often so it’s tough. Especially as if it is a penalty it looks so blatant it can result in a yellow.

    I did think there was a few instances when the English reached over the ruck after it was well and truly formed though where the ball was slowed down but not won nor was a penalty/advantage awarded.

    • Haz

      I also though Pocock, amongst others, was doing this but they were not always releasing when told by the ref and hence gave away a penalty.

  • PiratesRugby

    Can you not matinee the vitriol if Quade (or Toomua, Beale, CLL or even JOC for that matter) played as poorly as Foley? Poor kicking, loopy inaccurate passing and a complete black hole in defence. Look at how long that pass floats before it gets to Pocock. He had to check his run and ended up exposed to a perfect tackle from Haskell (who played very well). Haskell’s turnover of Mumm was classic exploitation of a weak ball runner by a superior forward. His words after the game show how relieved he was to get a chance to play Test rugby again.
    Great to see Cheika developing a more sophisticated attack. It was all looking a bit one out for a while. Some might say it’s Larkham’s influence but Chieka is the one in charge and I’m quite happy with the width we play with. Not so sure about the seagulls though!
    Great analysis again. Keep them coming.

    • PiratesRugby

      Sorry, that should read “Can you imagine the vitriol…”
      Autocorrect 1 – PiratesRugby 0.

    • Mica

      Some of Foley’s passing is sublime – 2 examples from the above video footage.
      1) short ball to Folau for the 2nd try and
      2) his pass to Folau who passes to Hooper for Hooper’s 2nd try. This pass is Larkhamesque. It is a really hard pass to throw at full tilt and he beats the defender and hits the running Folau perfectly. Beautiful to watch!!

      I don’t recall him throwing any shockers. Some have been saying that it was Foley’s pass that led to Joseph’s try, but this was a pass that Folau threw and Foley couldn’t reach it. Hardly his fault. I thought in general terms Foley’s running and passing game was very good. The kicking needs work though (both from the tee and general play) – slightly below par would be my assessment.

      • Who?

        I’ve seen some blame Foley for not catching the pass, but the reality is that it was too high for him.
        But if Quade threw a pass behind his own goal posts in a match where we’d been struggling to exit our red zone, to set up a ruck where he had to go in to avoid a turnover, and where Phipps had to box kick to get us out of trouble, he’d have been strung up!

      • jamie

        No one said Foley didn’t throw any sublime passes: But had Quade played the exact same game as Foley there’d be plenty calling for his head.

    • McWarren

      Couldn’t agree more mate with regards to your vitriol comment.I am not going to criticize Foley, because he did some good things, mixed with bad. But had Quade missed those kicks, tackles etc. he’d have been hung out to dry. We need to stop expecting perfect 10/10 performances from players. And I include myself in that expectation.

  • Brendan Hume

    Bit tough on Kerevi – in fairness it was a trainwreck before he got to that ball. Other than that, nice to relive the pain again! Wallabies lack of composure when under the pump was only matched by England’s sure composure in similar circumstances. Wallabies should be better for the run – England confidence should be up. Looking to be a cracker tomorrow night.

  • hammertimethere

    The issue with Haskell’s turnover is that he let Mumm go and was out of the ruck (there was one) to the side. It’s true a tackler can stand up in the ruck without coming through the gate but once out of the ruck must get onside and then play from there. Haskell didn’t, penalty, likely 3 points and different game.

    • that’s the point though, if a Ruck has been formed he has to come through the gate, if no ruck he’s ok to attack the ball.

      at least that’s my understanding.

      • Grins

        I think you are right on this. The question is whether the clear out constituted a ruck. Clearly not in Poite’s mind and I think it is hard to argue that it did in any event.

  • Davo

    So when Burrell shoots out of the defensive line it’s a mistake. When Haskell does it it’s brilliant. When Farrell does it it’s Burrell’s fault for not coming with him?

    • Mica

      Haskell – gets his man.
      Burrell – misses his man.
      Farrell – depends on the game plan. I reckon the game plan was to blitz from 10 – 14/11 (judging by their play to this time). Yarde was also up with Farrell (as per blitzing) and there is a man outside Yarde (the Australian winger Fardy).

      I suspect that:
      a) Burrell was off plan and
      b) Yarde and Farrell had realised they needed to push up hard to combat the overlap.

      Burrell pushing up hard on Foley would have given England their best chance of shutting down the play (hence Graeme’s assessment). Burrell doesn’t, Foley identifies the space and opportunity (good first five play). Folau does a Folau and runs a great line to adjust to the defense and support Foley’s reaction. The pass is bang on and nobody will stop Folau running this line especially when back pedaling. Try time and more of this please especially this weekend!!!

      • spot on, it’s all about decision making and how you fit into the system – it’s clear that Burrell is at odds with the system and struggling to pick the right decision.

        England use the Sarries system – Gustard was their defence coach I did a whole analysis of it here:

  • BG

    When Fardy gets penalised for bringing the maul down, does he have the ball? From the GIF it looks like he does. In that case, doesn’t he have the right to go to ground, as he did?

    • Henry Dissmissinya

      That’s exactly what I thought when watching the match. Real head scratcher

    • Jack

      Or at very least is tackling the player with the ball…?

    • Klaus

      He absolutely has the ball and has ALL right to do what he did. It wasn’t a great night for Poite and his two blind assistants. That was very poor.

      • it all depends if he is seen as the ball carrier or not – if he is he can take the ball down. If he isn’t then he can’t.

        It’s easy to blame the Officials but Fardy is in the middle of the Maul, middle of field and we’re looking at it 5 days after the test with the benefit of repeated glances. In real time it looked like a collapsed maul to me – so like the Haskell call I have no major gripe about it but then it wasn’t my team on the receiving end of the call.

        What i would say is that what i’m trying to illustrate is how poor Moores call to go corner was, because it was effectively a 6 point call that gave England an unassailable lead.

        • Who?

          Graeme, please clarify this for me… The maul’s formed. A defender goes through the middle to get onto the ball carrier. At that point – providing he’s on the ball carrier (not even the ball) – doesn’t he have the right to sack the ball carrier? Everything else he’s done has been legal.
          So, to my mind, he’s legal to either pinch the ball and get it to ground, or to get the ball carrier to ground. If not, it means the only way to defend a maul is to stop it.
          If the only means of legally finishing a maul is to prevent it from advancing, then there shouldn’t be any complaints about players swimming up the sides of a maul. Because they legally can’t do anything to stop the maul when they get to the ball carrier anyway (because that would be collapsing the maul?)..?
          Live, it took a moment, for me to register what was going on, but Fardy was hanging onto the ball for more than long enough for me to realize that he was on the ball and, therefore, to my understanding of the laws, fully entitled to do whatever he wanted. The reality of the situation was that England was advancing, so nothing good was ever going to come of it for Fardy. Because, even if he’d managed to get the ball out of English hands and to deck, the maul would’ve simply rolled over him (faster after the English player released the ball than it’d already been advancing), and upon clearing him, the English players would’ve simply pinched the ball. Off his feet, with a wall of English players in front of him, he’d have had no hope of successfully effecting a turnover. So I don’t think the penalty was necessary – England were already on advantage.

        • well that’s the point, it all depends if he’s seen as the ball carrier or not.

        • Who?

          If he’s not the ball carrier, though, isn’t he entitled to sack the ball carrier, provided he’s on the ball carrier? Otherwise, what’s the point of getting to the ball carrier?

        • Mica

          The point being that If the maul is stopped legally and the attacker can’t play the ball it is turnover for the defender. So the point is to stop the ball carrier being able to take the ball out of the maul (by locking it up) after stopping a maul legally otherwise once the maul has stopped the attacking team can take the ball out of the maul.

        • No, unless he is the ball carrier he must stay on his feet. The idea is to rip the ball or hold it up when the momentum stops – which it will with a guy in the middle working against it.

        • Mica

          I don’t think he is the ball carrier. He’s on the ball carrier, but you still can’t intentionally collapse a maul. The law says 17.2 (d) “Players in a maul must endeavour to stay on their feet.”
          17.2 (e) “A player must not intentionally collapse a maul. This is dangerous play”.

          With regard to stopping a maul as a defender (so not in possession and without a try being scored or a penalty) the only option is to stop it moving forward, have the maul collapse without a defender pulling it down or tackling player legs or for the attacking team to take the ball out of the maul (17.5 & 17.6 – paraphrased :) )

    • Haz

      He wasn’t in possession of the ball. He was latched onto the ball. Whilst latched on to the ball he used his weight to pull the mail down. That’s dangerous play and a penalty.

  • gypsyspud

    I think you’re too harsh on moore’s decision to kick for the corner. Wallabies had shown that the English defence wasn’t too much trouble for them, and if not for an inexcusable drop ball from mumm it would would have been on for all money.

    • aye

      You mean Mumm drops the ball right?

      • Think he’s talking about Mumm at the front on the short lineout

    • Hey Mate, i completely hear you.

      For me, Australia had just conceded a try, and needed stability to build on – forcing a kick into the corner, a OTT lineout and then the series of pen’s wasn’t stability. imho. :)

      In the article is a link to a whole article examining that decision and outlining why i think it’s a really poor call from Moore.

  • Chinese Dave

    I love how all the haters piled in on Hooper for going for the 3 points but remained schtum about Moore not going for it much earlier. Captains make decisions on the field, they’re not usually clear cut and they’re under pressure. They also don’t get the benefit of hindsight we armchair captains/coaches get. To be clear, I’m not faulting Moore for his decision, just pointing out the hypocrisy of the Anyone But Tahs brigade.

    • Who?

      I think the difference is the timing. I don’t care who made the call at the end, it was always unlikely we’d get back 100m to score a try. If we’d gone to the corner, rolled in for 7 (highly unlikely, given Foley’s kicking rate on the night and the likelihood it wouldn’t have been directly in front), and received a restart, the worst case scenario was a draw. So, going for the corner was trying to play the draw. Secure the draw, hope for a restart to push for a win. If we’d received a restart, gotten back to the halfway, then suddenly you’re talking about long range penalties, drop goals in extra time… Options are there. You’ve only got to be 10m inside the opposition’s half. Whereas, in taking the penalty, you’ve got to go all the way past the tryline to get the win, and the draw’s off the table.
      The most interesting thing was Cheika’s reaction to the decision to take the points. He didn’t look impressed in the coach’s box.

      • McWarren

        I figured Hooper thought we have more chance of running it 100m than getting another penalty out of this clown.

      • Chinese Dave

        I’m not defending the decision, just comparing the reaction to two, probably incorrect in hindsight, decisions by two different people.

        As Graeme pointed out above, it seems Cheika wasn’t impressed both times, but he’s not on the field, is he?

        • Who?

          I didn’t pick up a negative reaction to the decision to go for the corner. Where I was unimpressed in that decision was the call (guessing it was Horwill – don’t think Mumm was out there yet?) to throw to the front of the lineout, rather than go to the middle and maul.
          But the reaction to Hooper’s decision doesn’t, from what I’m reading, go on state lines. If I’m not mistaken, even Foley was surprised at the call.

        • Chinese Dave

          I certainly felt the criticism of Hooper was above and beyond criticism of his decision. Maybe it was those “Hooper isn’t and never will be fit to be captain” responses for the usuals.

        • Who?

          I don’t think Hooper’s ready to be captain. Not sure he ever will be. But that’s nothing to do with that decision. Every captain makes the wrong call sometimes, even experienced ones.
          I certainly don’t think it cost us the win. I think it cost us the chance at a draw, but, let’s be honest, even that’s no certainty. But I do think it’s one he’ll look back at, and think that, next time, he’ll try for the draw. Because 7 points behind… A penalty’s not going to do it.

      • jamie

        My question is, what’s the point of a draw in a 3 match series? We’d still have to win 2 games….

        • A80

          You could end up with a drawn series rather than a loss.

        • Who?

          It’s good on two levels. First off, it means you have lost!!! That’s a HUGE psychological difference.
          Secondly, it means it’s harder for England to win the series. A drawn series would see them retain the Cook Cup, but it would still be better to draw a series than lose it.

  • Mica

    Great work Graeme – interesting to get your insight into these matches.

    Key things for this weeks test.
    Refs interpretation of the breakdown. This hurt Aus last week. Very different to what we see from the SH refs and this hurt Pocock’s game. Quite frankly the breakdown was a mess with regards to angles, offside, tackle transition to ruck etc. Without Pocock in the side I don’t think this will be the same area of strength that it could have been last week anyway. In the side named our best defensive ruck-ball winner will be Fardy. Both Hooper and McMahon are more defensive hitters/tacklers and attacking ruck securing rather than the immovable object at a defensive ruck (like Pocock and Gill and (Smith – had to put that in)).
    Scrum. Two things to consider. How will the protagonists from both teams measure up tactics and execution wise and how will the surface hold up. Australia’s scrum is amply able without shenanigans and hopefully may have wised up to the likely shenanigans. If in form and fit, Kepu will win his battle (possibly by some margin), Hartley makes a big difference over Tom Youngs and will really need to help keep Kepu from getting ascendancy. Slipper and Cole will be intriguing. I don’t think Slipper is as strong as Sio, but I think he is a smart scrummager and on that basis should be better equipped to deal with a wily Cole.

    I think the surface will be a problem, so the whole scrum battle may just descend into a mess even if both teams want to scrum properly so this could be a moot point.

    • Who?

      I think Slipper will pack higher than Sio, and that will make a big difference. He’s also got an excellent Super coach, who knows how to put together a front row, where Sio doesn’t have the depth of knowledge to call on.

  • Who?

    I wasn’t able to lip read Holmes’ reaction. Could anyone put it up on here..?

    • Unanimous

      I can’t make it out either. I don’t think it’s possible from that GIF.

    • Kokonutcreme

      Holmes says f***k me


an Englishman living in France, Graeme runs the Rugby Analysis website He coaches in his spare time, is an IRB qualified coach and you can catch him on twitter lazily re-tweeting other peoples comments.

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