Brian Smith's Analysis - Red Card Attack - Green and Gold Rugby

Brian Smith’s Analysis – Red Card Attack

Brian Smith’s Analysis – Red Card Attack

Until last night, I had fond memories of Murrayfield. It’s where I played my last rugby test and the Scots are incredibly gracious hosts.

However, last night was a nightmare for Wallaby supporters and it will haunt the players and coaches as they head off for a break. Regardless of the season it’s always good to finish with a win.

Whenever my teams were on the end of a hiding I would attempt to get something out of the game by reflecting on the most obvious lesson and make some notes in my rugby journal for the future. After all, what else can you do but cry in your beer? In this instance the most obvious lesson to me is – what’s the best way to attack a team defending with 14 players?

The Red Card

Before we dive into the detail of ‘Red Card Attack’ let’s have a quick look at the Sekope Kepu clean-out that triggered this chain of events.

It’s difficult for the ‘jackal’ (defender looking to steal the ball) and the ‘cleaner’ (attacker looking to secure the ball) at ruck time. In order for the jackal to challenge for the ball, he has to get his head over the ball knowing full well that there will be at least one cleaner aiming to blast him off the ball.

The cleaner has a relatively small target to focus on, a bit like a baseball pitcher. All coaches are instructing cleaners to get their shoulders under the chest of the jackal in order to secure the ball. Sometimes things go wrong and this picture pretty much speaks for itself.

With my green and gold eyes I thought Kepu’s error was a yellow card but that’s probably because I know him to be a good sportsman, with no malice. I can completely understand why the referee did what he did, but I still maintain it was harsh considering there was no damage done. Thankfully Hamish Watson played on without receiving any HIA (Head Injury Assessment) treatment.

Red Card Attack – The Drive

The Scots immediately capitalised on the mismatch in the pack with a well constructed driving maul. They had demonstrated supremacy in this area earlier in the match with a 20m drive up the right edge of the pitch. This time they had a shot at the Wallabies deep in the left corner and they were good enough to score thanks to the hard work of their pack and the guile of their scrum half, Ali Price. For the Wallabies the punishment was swift and brutal.

Red Card Attack – Quick Tap

As many of you would be aware Gregor Townsend was a mercurial and very intelligent player. He was always looking for opportunities to assert himself on a game through pure skill or street smarts. It’s fair to say he has taken the same approach into his coaching where he’s had good success with Glasgow Warriors and is now making an impression with Scotland.

This quick tap try was planned, it’s one of those little detail things Townsend likes his players to be aware of. If you watch the body language of Finn Russell it’s clear that he sold the play by shaping to kick to the corner before taking on the Wallabies with ball in hand. Clearly the Wallabies were focused on defending the driving maul and their backs were not alert to the sting.

In fact the Wallaby backs have different roles defending their try line. You will notice in the clip that Marika Koroibete is slow to get into his position in midfield as Russell taps the ball. Koroibete and Beale swap positions defending drives on the try line and this is something Townsend was sharp enough to notice when scouting the Wallabies.

Red Card Attack – Squeeze

From this scrum the Wallabies decided to defend the Scottish back line man-for-man, so that meant they had to defend the scrum one man down. The Scottish pack were clearly licking their lips and they looked to squeeze a scrum penalty to give them the field position to launch their next try scoring effort. It all worked out perfectly for the Scots.

The scrum penalty got them the the 22m line, and from here they drove the line out and smashed over the gain line. Once they had momentum their tempo was rewarded with a try in the left corner. It was clinical and ruthless as these two clips will illustrate.

Red Card Attack – Run From Deep

At this stage the Scots were full of confidence and they started to shift the ball from deep. This exit lineout from inside their own half is a good example.

While the Scots didn’t score from the play it got them good field position and pegged the Wallabies down inside this own half. The play itself is an old Brumbies play called ‘Carboneau’. Back in the George Gregan era, the Brumbies liked to run this play from scrums on the left side of the pitch. In this instance the running scrum half wraps around a back rower to create space on the right edge. It’s an effective play that works well off drives and scrums.

Red Card Attack – Repeat

Much of what the Scots produced in attack came off the back of driven mauls. The Wallabies were schooled in this area throughout the match but particularly after Kepu was sent off.

For the 39 minutes when both teams had 15 players on the pitch, the score was 10 v 12 to the home side. During the 41 minutes that the Wallabies played with 14 men the Scots scored 43 points to 12.

They enjoyed success because they controlled the ball and continued to do the things that enabled them to score points. In essence, they drove the seven man Wallaby pack off the edge of a cliff and showed great discipline in doing so. On top of that Scotland played some quality rugby with ball in hand and thoroughly deserved their win.


As Wayne Bennett says – “losing is not terminal and winning is not permanent”. The sun will come up tomorrow, even though for the Wallabies there will be a couple of dark days ahead as they break camp and head for home. Nobody likes to lose and it’s incredibly humbling and painful to ship 50 points.

However, the game is gone and we can choose to learn from the experience or whine about it. If you choose to learn from the experience the lesson is clear – take advantage of your Red Card Attack opportunities by targeting your opponents primary weakness and exploiting it with vigour and intelligence. Townsend’s legend grows in Scotland and around the world.

It’s refreshing to see a former ball player heading up a national team and powering his troops to play total rugby. They certainly did their homework on the Wallabies.

  • (((Neil DM)))

    Im a Scot. I was there. And I have to say this is an excellent analysis of the game. Aussie rugby looks like its at a low ebb, as a Scotland fan I know what this is like, and I entirely sympathise with your position. My only tinge of sadness on Saturday was that the drubbing to Australia was handed out during Stephen Moore’s last game. He’s an amazing servant of the sport, and a great ambassador for Australia – I am really sorry his last memory of professional sport will be this one.

    • Greg

      Neil, Thanks for your comments. Very gracious.

      We played a poor game and made many basic mistakes. This takes nothing away from the strong performance by the Scots.

      Feel free to stay around and join the conversations on G&G next year. Different views are always welcome. Even when it hurts we at least try and be objective here :-)

    • Brian Smith

      Hi Neil, the reason Aussies love the Scots so much is because they’re gracious winners…your proof of that. In the past I’ve probably not given your team the credit they deserve…it won’t happen again.

  • Patrick

    I wonder if the wallabies have someone who could do this homework thing on other teams…

    • Greg

      even on themselves?

      • Patrick

        Apparently goal kicking is a weakness…

    • John Tynan

      Isn’t that why we are here on GAGR?

  • FucktardStorm

    “For the 39 minutes when both teams had 15 players on the pitch, the score was 10 v 12 to the home side. During the 41 minutes that the Wallabies played with 14 men the Scots scored 43 points to 12.”

    I really don’t know why everyone is carrying on like the red card wasn’t the real reason for the loss.

    • Greg

      Even in the first 39 minutes we were making mistakes. Eg dropped flat pass that the Scots kicked through to score I think.

      • FucktardStorm

        Sure, they weren’t perfect, or even one of their better games, but to expect perfection every match is unrealistic. At 12-10, the game is anyones. Then the red card, and it’s all over unless you have an absolute blinder.

      • Who?

        I couldn’t believe that pass. How you can have your 10 throwing passes literally to no one in the first half of the game?! It’s not like he should’ve been tired at that point.
        I agree that it was a clear indicator that the Scots were in the box seat, in spite of the scoreline at the half. The first half scoreline isn’t always a clear indicator of the final score, games still often open up in the last 20…

    • Strip Chief

      Tell me about it mate. Teams are scared of using it as an excuse but it does influence matches. All cards below were fair but they still had a big influence on the outcomes.
      Scotland vs Scotland – 2nd Test.
      ABs vs Lions – 2nd Test.
      Lions vs Crusaders – SR final.

  • Brisneyland Local

    Brian, as always wonderful analysis. Can I ask why are the Wallabies not doing this? If the answer is that they are, I am afraid I will have to call “Bullshit” on that.
    Because you dont get shipped by 50 points if you have done your homework, planned your attack and structured your defence, and developed branch plans and sequels ( i.e. A plan B and a plan c) for when things dont work.
    The Wallabies have one plan, and the coaching staff obviously believe that it is a superior plan when executed properly it will win everytime. But it doesnt and they cant adapt it.
    Not only was our plan shite (to use the scottsih version of the word), we couldnt adapt, then we completely dropped out bundle and got pillored. It was an embarrassment.
    But what is more embarrassing about it, is that aside from the complete dropping of our bundle, the mistakes we made are repeated.

    • Greg

      @BL agreed, the home work seems to be missing.

      re “a superior plan when executed properly” I think that form an attack point of view it might be and that it might be pretty much unstoppable….. but I don’t know because we can’t execute it without errors.

      As to the defence…. we just can’t keep hiding players.

      and 10…. what is the succession plan?

      • Brisneyland Local

        Yep spot on. The execution is not there because the skillls arent there either. But also if the opponents adapt, we then cant change it.
        Our defence is utter tripe! (Again with the scottish references).
        we adjust our defence plan to cover our players, but that really just highlights that those players arent good enough.
        As to our ten. Everyone says Foley is it because there are no other options. But that is just a ppor excuse because we havnt really tried any other options. But to be honest as Flaky as Cooper is, based on Foley’s last performances he is better than that. To behonest I would throw pretty much every other 10 in there before I would let Foley lose again.
        (And no that isnt a anti-NSW rant) it is a Anti shit player rant!

        • Who?

          I’ve never seen Quade throw a pass to ground for a direct opposition score in the first half of a game before…

        • Brisneyland Local

          Very true!

    • Brian Smith

      Hi Brisneyland Local, thanks for your message…it’s hard to know what happened in the 2nd half without being inside the camp…it might be that the England loss took a lot of emotional energy out of the group…or it could just be that our drive defence was poor and we paid a huge price for that…most of what the Scots did in attack was off the back of a dominant mauling game…we have to address this now that Mario has moved on.

      • Brisneyland Local

        Thanks forthe response Brian. Very correct that it is hard to know with out being inside the camp. But I must admit that is the best example of dropping your bundle that I have seen for about a decade!

  • Human

    Thank you Brian…after reading a few of your pieces, I understand why I was never going to go far in rugby. Has the ARU or MC ever sought your input to the Wallabies? Would you consider it?

    • Brian Smith

      Hi Human, thanks for your message…I write these segments to help educate the schoolboy players and coaches I currently work with…it’s cathartic!

      • Human

        Thanks. It is instructive for we laymen as well. I hope some of our senior coaches and staff read your stuff as well. I agree with BL and others below, the Wallabies do not seem to do this homework/preparation…that is the most frustrating aspect for me…we keep doing the same things every game, and making the same errors and therefore, largely getting the same results.

  • Happyman

    Great Analysis Brett

    As always it is evident when we lose that our back row has no capacity to control the pace of the game. It is in times like this that not having a hard working ruck monster (Pocock, Gill Fardy etc) is laid bare. When it works it looks awesome but our inability to change gears is a worry. This is not a Hooper rant as he has really impressed me on the tour. His Yellow against England was very very harsh but our back row balance is wrong.

    Foley at 10 is my biggest concern as his game seems to have stagnated or gone backwards. Again he is an example of a player who cannot adapt to changes in the game. Fortunately there are others coming through at NRC I just hope they re given the chance at the next levels.

    For mine MC is still the answer however from the outside it looks like his opinion is not questioned. His teams don’t seem to play with any intellectual rigour. If you look at great teams in any sport they have the ability to take away the oppositions threat and expose their weaknesses. (Patriots NFL as an example). Ewen M was very good at that and as a Reds supporter it always felt like we were alway asking different questions of the opposition every week I miss those days.

    The WB seem overreached and don’t play whats in front of them. If you look at the kick receptions they will move it up field for two phases and then kick. I have seen them make 20 metres on the carry but the third phase is always the kick therefore we must kick. Momentum is so hard to achieve in this day and age I would have thought when you have it you keep ball in hand.

  • Who?

    Nice work there Brian.
    I’m with you – I thought the Kepu card should probably have been a Yellow. Not because I think he’s got a long history as a clean skin, but because whilst it was high, we had a player who was retreating (not falling, but retreating, which makes it harder to target), and the tackle wasn’t without arms. Kepu’s left arm was wrapped. The right shoulder was a bit unnecessary (as in, turning it into a shot, rather than just a hit), but ultimately the left arm makes it a high cleanout only, not a shoulder charge.
    Great vision on picking out Marika’s slow cover across.
    Also, I think the Wallabies were a bit stiff with the scrum penalty. They retreated because the Scottish THP dropped the scrum, which broke the binds and gave him an inside drive on Sio. It should’ve been a reset, even the Scottish commentators called that. A reset, because other than when the scrum dropped (and Scotland were setting up very low and taking it to ground (unintentionally) because of that), we were pretty solid there. Even with 7 men.

  • Julius

    “I thought Kepu’s error was a yellow card but that’s probably because I know him to be a good sportsman, with no malice.”

    That’s one of the most willfully dishonest statements I’ve seen in a long time. Kepu is a violent thug. Just one look at his antics in the 2015 RWC final would show that.


Brian Smith is a rare breed who has both played and coached international rugby and doesn't mind telling it as he sees it. He's currently putting his Oxford degree to good use teaching Commerce and coaching rugby at the Scots College, Sydney.

More in Rugby