The Wallabies enjoyed a very good win in Cardiff on Saturday, and the performance puts them in a good position going into the big clash with England this Saturday.
In recent times the Wallabies have dominated Wales when it comes to results – in fact it feels like the match up with Wales brings out the best in the Wallabies. In 2016 the Wallabies put on a show, and they played some excellent stuff in this match as well.
This week we’re going to focus on two of Australia’s tries in the first half. Both tries started with scrums on the right edge of the pitch and both involved attacking kicks.
Try 1 – Spread Play
The Wallabies are known to flip players in and out of their traditional positions in both attack and defence. This scrum play around the halfway line is a great example of that.
Bernard Foley (10) sets up on the right wing with the flying Marika Koroibete (14) setting up on the left wing. Reece Hodge (11) steps up at first receiver, Kurtley Beale (15) is at inside centre and Samu Kereve (12) sets up at fullback. Only Tevita Kuridrani (13) sets up in his selected spot at outside centre.
The Wallabies have set up this way to suggest to the Welsh defence that Hodge is going to hit it up with Kuridrani, but their real intention is to run a “Spread” play to give Koroibete a crack at Liam Williams. Against Shaun Edward’s blitz defence this is a good play, and the Wallabies make some great territory down the left edge thanks to the distribution of Hodge and Beale.
Off the back of the bust, the Wallabies struggle to make any more inroads into the Welsh defence, so Foley looks to put the ball into the right corner. To be fair, he’s had a fair bit of success cross kicking to Israel Folau this season but unfortunately he didn’t have much success in this game.
This time the chaser is Kuridrani and defending this play, especially for the young winger Steffan Evans, is a difficult assignment. Whilst the kick was not perfect it is a clever option because the Welsh fullback, Leigh Halfpenny, was the primary tackler of Koroibete on the other edge. The other smart thing is that Foley cross kicked from centre field so that ball would not be hanging in the air long enough for other defenders to scramble into the play.
The driving maul has been Mario Ledesma’s gift to Australian rugby. When he came onboard Micahel Cheika’s coaching team. the Wallabies were getting hammered by the driving game from England and a number of other test teams. This is no longer the case. We can drive with the best in the business and the Wallabies scored this first try with relative ease.
Notice the hard work from Sekope Kepu, Sean McMahon and Tatafu Polota-Nau. Once the maul was set these players did very well to stay on their feet and rumble over the line.
Try 2 – Sequence Play
The Wallabies second try also started with possession from a scrum on the right edge – only this time it was on the Welsh 22m line. The Wallabies set up in a similar way to the previous scrum only this time Foley was at first receiver and Hodge was on the right wing. They ran the same block play that they used to score against South Africa during the Rugby Championship.
In this play Kuridrani ran a hard line off Will Genia to launch a sequence play designed to expose the Welsh tight five players. Most teams call it a “21 Pattern”, where the attack hits the ball up twice to the open side before hitting back to the blind side. It’s a smart option against a blitz defence and the Wallabies used similar plays last year when they tore the Welsh apart on the blind side. On this occasion the Wallabies do well to create an overload on the right edge but they fail to make good use of it.
Despite the failure to capitalise on the overload on the right edge within the first 4 phases the Wallabies maintained the ball deep inside the Welsh 22m area, eventually scoring a try after 15 phases. Again it was the right edge and, again, there was an attacking kick involved.
Halfpenny did well to scramble and spoil Hodge’s scoring chance but eventually the Wallabies crash over with Adam Coleman for a well deserved try. Genia’s composure and his pass selection close to line was excellent.
The Wallabies have used the “Double Block” well in the Red Zone and this was a nice variation on what they ran in Japan last week. It all looked off the cuff, but the alignment of Kuridrani and Coleman suggest the Wallabies’ policy is to have two hard line runners off the scrum half close to the line. It was an effective tactic and is a sign that this group has been together for a while.
The Wallabies are on a roll and they’re in a very good position going into the clash against Eddie Jones’ England.I know full well the pressures involved with England playing at home in Twickenham. The crowd will be enthusiastic and cocky due to their recent successes over the Wallabies.
However, if the Wallabies can start fast their confidence will grow and it will silence the masses. The tour has gone according to plan so far but make no mistake this is the big prize for Cheika’s men. Good luck to the Wallabies!