Brian Smith's Analysis - Winning Ugly - Green and Gold Rugby

Brian Smith’s Analysis – Winning Ugly

Brian Smith’s Analysis – Winning Ugly


Michael Cheika will sleep better this week after his Wallabies found a way to win in Brisbane in pretty tricky conditions. It was not a great spectacle or an advertisement for the game but it was dramatic and captivating. Most importantly it was a win. A win that was desperately needed on many fronts.

In 1986 the master of “winning ugly”, Brad Gilbert, beat John McEnroe at Madison Square Garden and Nick Bolletieri was commentating. Bolletieri said the game was so ugly he needed three pairs of Oakley sunglasses to watch otherwise he’d get bloodshot eyes.

In my view this test match was ugly (not Brad Gilbert Ugly) but the Wallabies were effective and credit should go to the coaches, who it must be said had to deal with some curve balls in the lead up to the match. In this analysis we’re going to have quick look at the four first half tries and hopefully provide some tips for schoolboys and young coaches interested in some of the fine detail of the game.

Great Start

Michael Hooper’s first try will not go down as one of the most thrilling tries he’s ever scored but it was reward for the team’s hard graft deep inside Springbok territory.

If you watch this clip you’ll notice the great work of Allan Allaalatoa. First he mops up a pass intended for Pete Samu then he pops up and puts in a monster clean-out that paves the way Scott Sio to tractor forward. He then punches an effective pick and go himself delivering a quick ball for Hooper to capitalise.

In a 20 second passage of play Allan Allaalatoa selflessly worked his tail off with three major efforts. Let’s hope he gets a try assist wrap in the team review this week.

The Bomb

South Africa scored next with a well formed drive as the Wallabies failed to execute their drive defence plan effectively.

If you look at the Wallabies set up you’ll notice they’re heavily marking Franco Mostert (#5) in the middle with Pete Samu, Izack Rodda and Lukhan Tui. The Wallabies are virtually giving the Springboks the front because their plan is to blow up their drive with a designated “Bomb” defender.

The “Bomb” is Michael Hooper. Look for Hooper standing as the insert at the front of the lineout. It’s his job to blow up the drive by piling into Eben Etzebeth (#4) and get him going backwards. Scott Sio and Pete Samu are meant to pile into the lifters Steven Kitshoff (#1) and Franco Mostert (#5) and get them shunted backwards. However, the Springboks manage to set the drive and you’ll notice that five Wallabies end up peeling out of the drive at the front with Steven Kitshoff.

Once the Springboks got set we were done for. They are big humans and we failed to execute the plan on this occasion. Later in the game the Wallabies managed to steal a drive thrown to the middle but on this occasion we came up short. Not sure Michael Hooper is the best option in the “Bomb” role but when the Springboks use the 6+1 set up someone has to be the defending insert.

Faf’s Floater

The Springboks backed up with a second try thanks to some concerted pressure on the Wallabies line and a floated pass from Faf de Klerk. In the build up it was South Africa’s big forwards that paved the way.

Steven Kitshoff, Siya Kolisi and Franco Mostert all carried strong but it was the exceptional clean-out on Michael Hooper from the Springbok fly half, Elton Jantjies that provided the quick ball for de Klerk to float his pass to Makazole Mapimpi. Unfortunately for the Wallabies Jack Maddocks had too much to deal with defending his corner.

The Howler

Australia’s second try was a Steven Bradbury special. You may recall Bradbury is the former Aussie short track speed skater and best known for winning the 1,000 m event at the 2002 Winter Olympics after all of his opponents were involved in a last corner pile-up.

To be fair the Wallabies lineout pressure forces the Springboks to throw long. It’s a standard play for any team when you’re backed around 5m from your own try line. What’s not so standard is the entire Springbok backline standing well behind their own try line.

Yes the throw was intended for the back rowers, Pieter-Steph du Toit and Siya Kolisi. However it’s only fair to think the South African centres might have been more alert and better positioned. As it was, Michael Hooper and Pete Samu pressured well and for some reason Kolisi failed to pick up the flight of the ball and Matt Toomua scored the easiest test match try he’ll probably ever score.

The lesson in all this for any young player is to press hard in defence and pressure the opposition. If you do this relentlessly the rewards will come.


There were no tries scored in the second half of this match but there was a lot of endeavour. The Wallabies just hung in the fight all night and when Taniela Tupou came on in the second half he made an impact in the scrum. Both Wallaby tight heads did well and the coaches will be happy considering Sekope Kepu has been such a strong performer in the number 3 jersey.

Michael Cheika and his coaching staff will take some good things out of this match and they’ll look to improve going into their next test v Argentina on the Gold Coast. The Pumas asked plenty of questions of the All Blacks defence and they can’t be taken lightly.

  • Human

    Thankyou Brian, your knowledge and insight is always enlightening.
    A question, should the SA 10 have been pinged for coming in from the side to take out Hooper?

    • Brian Smith

      Possibly a pen v Jantjies but we did the same on Hoopers try…the outside-in clean close to the try line paves the way for the pick and go…it’s good coaching!

      • Greg

        Possibly a penalty? He was 2 metres offside and flopped on the ruck. No attempt to stay on his feet. Arguably led to a try as our defense was then too thin.

        I agree many are doing it… this will stop if the refs dish a few yellow cards.

  • Parker

    I am not able to view the first and last videos. Is there a reason they’re not loading? Otherwise very informative as usual. Thanks Brian

    • disqus_NMX

      Yeah, Brians vids never work on Chrome for me, but work with Safari.

      • BigNickHartman

        I’m on Chrome, hmm

        • Patrick

          Works for me on Chrome on Windows 10.

    • BigNickHartman

      Im on Chrome and they’re working for me. What browser are you using?

    • Dud Roodt

      Yeah none are loading for me on Chrome either

  • Who?

    Thanks Brian.
    The first try – I’m guessing (because I can’t see him on any of the wide shots) that Hooper’s come in from the right wing..? Given he’d be stationed out there (as Tui’s stationed on the left wing)? It shows the focus that was going into those drives – we didn’t really have anyone left out to attack by any other means at the end of it all. And Arnold put in some good work there, too – almost as much as 7A’s.
    Second try – completely agree that the lightest forward on the park probably isn’t the one to set up as the arrow into a forming maul… A bit embarrassing to see the Bokke get so far over the line unopposed.
    Third try – Hooper was bridging, so he was lucky he didn’t get that ball. His third breakdown trying to slow the ball in a row (but not necessarily effective at any of them). But Jantjes also came in from the side miles past the last feet. Jackson is consistent at the breakdown, but it’s always a consistent mess when he refs.
    From my perspective, what created the overlap was the failed attempts at tackling Kitshoff. It took too many guys, who then couldn’t get around the corner and realign in defence, leaving the overlap.
    Great pass from Faf… Barely had his hands on the ball – would make an old scrummie like yourself get all nostalgic for the days when a 9 was judged on his pass, wouldn’t it?
    Fourth try, gotta say, that was a pretty handy throw… Must’ve gone 25-28m on the fly, and it’s barely 1m (if that) off the 5m line. And the Wallabies were standing on the 5m line (i.e. they managed to get away with leaving no gap). Don’t know he could’ve done much better than that!

    • Human

      Agree re Hooper. Doubt that the 10 would have shifted Pocock so easily. I do not mind Jackson leaving the whistle alone at the ruck; maul, scrum as long as he is consistent and pings the blatant dangerous stuff. What do you reckon?

      • Who?

        I can’t stand Jackson as a ref. He’s consistent, but I’d rather see the breakdown cleaned up in the first few minutes of a test. A standard set. Especially when we don’t have Pocock there to try and impose some of our own control… Bryce Lawrence was the same.

        • Human

          Fair call.

  • Brumby Runner

    Beale’s totally inadequate defence is also shown up in that third try. Runs out of the line and completely misses the Beast, then has an ineffective attempt on a lock, and then just stands beside the ruck and watches the ball go wide from Faf to the winger. All the time prancing around like an excited cat on a hot tin roof.

    • juswal

      He reminds me of myself before I quit playing.

    • HK Red

      I thought the same watching this game, Beale seemed to be running around for much of the game, trying to for somewhere to stand or make spectacular and totally ineffective attempts at tackling. What is it was Beale and Genia that the never want to be involved in breakdowns. Countless times they’ll fail to commit and will instead stand there looking helpless as the opposition just drive us off our own ball. You never see the NZ or SA or Eng or Wales or Irish backs do that. They bloody get stuck in to protect the pill. Sometimes it seems like those two just don’t care.

  • juswal

    Thanks for the analysis, Brian. The five Wallabies spilling out of the maul in a clump . . . not good. But Ala’alatoa’s efforts towards Hooper’s try were mighty.


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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