Brian Smith's Analysis - Sayonara - Green and Gold Rugby

Brian Smith’s Analysis – Sayonara

Brian Smith’s Analysis – Sayonara


Michael Cheika’s Wallabies had a genuine crack against the All Blacks in Yokohama but to be fair we were never really in the hunt. New Zealand fully deserved the win scoring five tries and putting on a master class in building pressure and targeting defensive weaknesses. They remain the best team in the world and I fear for the Japanese Cherry Blossoms next weekend. \

Regardless of the result, it’s always worth digging deep to identify areas for improvement. The following clips highlight some lessons we can all take out of this test match.

Try Line Defence

When I look at the following clip there are two things that stand out.

First, I’m a strong believer in getting the scrum half in the front line of defence when you are defending your own try line. You’ll notice that Will Genia is still playing the role of sweeper. Second, Liam Squire runs a lovely “overs” line to beat Kurtley Beale. No doubt Beale will be annoyed with himself for missing a right shoulder tackle. Both these things are fixable.

Blind Sided

The Kiwis were very clever with their scrum plays in this test match. On two occasions they worked over our blind side scrum defence and they were rewarded with tries both times. We’ll focus on their second blind side raid because this was the pick of them for mine.

As the clip shows the All Blacks have a left side scrum on their own 40m line and they know that the Wallabies scrum half will chase TJ Perenara as he scoots open from the base of the scrum. This creates space for Beauden Barrett who switches play down the blind side with Rieko Ioane breaking three tackles before offloading to his fly half who scores. The play is so effective because the Wallabies are expecting TJ to link up with SBW. Watch the entire Wallaby back row commit themselves to the open side before being skinned on the blind. This is smart play from NZ.

Sudden Impact

It was not all one way traffic and when Samu Kerevi was injected into the game he made an immediate impact. There are not many centres in the world capable of offloading out of an Ardie Savea tackle but Kerevi did. The support line from Izzy Folau was also excellent and once he was in space that classic right foot step kicked in and made Aaron Smith’s tackle attempt look average.

This is what the Wallabies are capable of when they control the ball and build pressure. I’m sure Michael Cheika will be wanting to see more of this in the coming three European test matches.

The Last Say

My favourite play of the day was this last effort started by Richie Mo’unga and finished by Rieko Ioane. This is a signature play for the replacement fly half because he is very good at taking the ball flat to the line and making a half bust.

You will notice the Kiwis set up with their blind side winger (Ben Smith) in behind SBW so that Foley and Beale leave Mo’unga for Nick Phipps to defend. This is always going the be a difficult assignment because Phipps is scrambling and Mo’unga will back himself to get an offload away in this situation. If you watched the Crusaders play this season, you will have seen Mo’unga execute this play. It’s a good play.


Unfortunately this is my last dance for a while. I’ll be having a break from writing these analysis columns for G&G Rugby. Thanks for all your feedback, the rough and the smooth, over the past few years. It’s been a pleasure sharing some thoughts with fellow rugby tragics. Hopefully the Wallabies will find some form on the European Tour and shake up the world at the World Cup next year. As our friends in Japan would say – Sayonara!

  • Kiwi rugby lover

    Thanks for this Brian. Sad to see you go mate and hope everything is ok.
    I haven’t always agreed with what you’ve said but really appreciate the effort in doing this for us. You inevitably bring up some good points and give me food for thought.

    I must admit I thought Kerevi was great last night. Would love to see him start at 12.

  • Bobas

    Sad to see this will be your last analysis. Always love your work, hopefully the break wont be for too long.

  • I haven’t always agreed with your thoughts but it has always been interesting and informative to read them. I will be sorry to see you go and I hope everything is ok for you and yours. Best wishes for whatever the future brings.

  • Who?

    Brian, great read on that second blind side try. Burke and Bray in commentary said it was Barrett’s vision of the space down the blind side, but watching Ardie Savea and Liam Squires position themselves, clearly that wasn’t the case. Ardie goes straight forward off the scrum, and then around the back to the blind, while Squires goes forward and around the back of the scrum almost to the openside, before blocking Wallabies changing direction and then following himself. Both Squires and Savea did a great job of blocking, and Dempsey did a great job of getting around the back of the scrum (to a position where he was easily blocked). Worth noting TJ and Squires pointing at each other before Barrett dotted down, clearly TJ appreciated Squires’ work, and the only thing Squires actually did was block returning Wallabies.
    Kerevi’s break is down to big Karl being unable to push across to Beale, and then SBW misreading the pass and pushing outside Kerevi expecting yet another second line attack from the Wallabies. It was a 4 on 3 for the Wallabies there, and Banks’ hard crossfield line clearly had SBW watching. Kerevi’s a beast though, and his shedding of ALB’s tackle when he first came on was pretty special, too.
    In the last try, it’s yet another bad read from Foley. I say yet another, because he’s made quite a few in the front line over the past two tests. He’s outside where Mo’unga ever reached across the field, he’s looking at SBW, but he’s not in a position to tackle SBW (Beale is still set up on SBW). Who’s he actually tackling?!
    Thanks for your articles over the past few year, they’ve been great reading. It’s always interesting to see the focuses that top level players and top level coaches have compared to those of us who haven’t worked in those environments. Even better when they’re so clearly articulated.

    • I thought Izzy looked ok in attack at 13, but people with a lot of experience in the midfield and/or wing say 13 is the hardest defensive position – you have wingers running odd lines, inside backs running loop plays, forwards standing off from the breakdown and a fullback looking to insert into the line all to consider, at a minimum.

      I’m not really picking on him but I thought on a number of occasions it just showed that he wasn’t used to the position and he didn’t have the experience to make the good defensive reads. Dumping a player who doesn’t have a lot of experience in rugby into that position against the AB is asking a lot. Add to that the confusion – did the Wobs ever actually line up according to the numbers on their backs – and I’m really not surprised he wasn’t sure who his man was.

    • Attizar

      It’s actually TJ pointing at Reiko (who points back in response) to acknowledge the half break and offload.

      • Who?

        Good spot, I didn’t pick Reiko got back up right as the camera angle changed.
        Still, definitely some good work by Squires and Ardie… Though Ardie could’ve held pace a bit longer to hold Hooper off a bit better (going off the controversy in the game report comments about A. Smith doing that for B. Smith’s try).

  • Human

    I concur with other comments, Brian, thankyou for sharing your insight. Best wishes.

  • Geoffro

    Sorry Brian but couldn’t play the clips so have not much response.Do recall previously when ABs scored the commentators saying Hannigan didn’t break fast enough because he was pushing so hard.LOL &.WTF , a defensive scrum close to the tryline.

  • Richard Patterson

    Thank you for all your outstanding work here Brian. Every week you served up content to us that was insightful and well presented. You will be missed.
    I wish you good luck. I am certain a professional franchise somewhere could use your analysis work if that is a path you wish to pursue.

  • Greg


    Thanks for the write-up. I always enjoy reading your thoughts.

    Best wishes for your future plans. Hopefully we will see you back here at some stage.

    Al the best.

  • John Tynan

    Thanks Brian. Before you leave us, would be interested in some modern coaching insight as it relates to that blind side try to Barrett. Admittedly I learned my craft a long time ago, but in that situation as a blind side flanker, I was coached to break down the blind side and come around the back of their scrum, to cut off that switch play with such a large blind side. Dempsey was nowhere to be seen, and obviously broke open, having to turn around the back of our scrum?

    • Greg

      Indeed our 6 broke open and then found the black 7 in his way when he turned around.

      That said… we had 3 on 2. Good hard tackles from 9 and 14 and black 11 is stopped with their 10 still covered.

      • John Tynan

        I also think a sign of brilliant tactics, as this play was also the very next play after Naivalu went off – they had a replacement blindside flanker who ran a shit line (he’s not the messiah…) and replacement blind winger who was probably supposed to be defending in mid-field but had no idea what permutation and/or combination of field position/position on field/score/day of the week/phase of the moon coincided with where to stand.

  • Human

    I suspect that it is a forlorn hope, but could it be that Brian is hanging up his pen in order to take over a role with the Wallabies?

  • Human

    Is there an Australian halfback who can pass off the ground without taking a step and a pump of the arms before release…slow ball kills momentum.

    • Brumby Runner

      Yep – Phipps, but his passes will go anywhere but too often not to a player.

      Next best are Powell and Gordon but neither look like getting any time with Cheika in charge.

  • markjohnconley

    thanks, all the best

  • southern macro

    starting to think that the “finishers” should be the most explosive players in the squad – not the starters

  • Nutta

    Many thanks Brian.

  • Patrick

    Thanks mate, I’ve loved the analysis and learnt a lot from it. All the best with whatever is next.


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.

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