Video Analysis: 2013 Super Rugby Round 3

Scott Allen March 6, 2013 11

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On Friday night against the Waratahs the Rebels were clearly the better team in the first half. Michael Cheika said in his half-time interview that he’d basically told his players they couldn’t play at the pace of the game and would have to set the pace — and that meant they had to lift the pace.

He obviously found the right switch because the Waratahs looked a different team in the second half playing attacking rugby without taking unnecessary risks. Apart from lifting the pace of the match I thought that the key difference was that support runners started running closer to the ball carrier which meant that when the ball carrier took the ball to the line he had options to offload the ball to rather than just shifting the ball wider by passing before taking on the defensive line.

Matt Rowley wrote an article on this very subject yesterday and included some video so take a look.

The Waratahs offloaded the ball 16 times in the match (5 in the first half and 11 in the second). After two matches they are leading the competition in both the total number of offloads in the competition so far and an average of 14 offloads per match. The only team that comes close to that average is the Chiefs with 12 per match. The other teams in the competition are averaging only 7 offloads per match so it’s pretty clear what the Chiefs and Waratahs are trying to do with their attack and I like the plan.

Playing an offloading game reduces your reliance on controlling the breakdown – effectively you keep the ball out of the breakdown as often as possible by moving it on before the opposition arrives. However, I still see problems on the horizon for the Waratahs at the breakdown: I don’t think Dave Dennis or Wycliff Palu have been getting to the breakdown quickly enough and that places too much of a burden on Michael Hooper, who has himself been quieter than he was last year for the Brumbies. If that pattern continues I believe teams that attack the breakdown by committing numbers quickly (like the Brumbies) will thwart the Waratahs’ attacking plan. It’ll be interesting to see whether the Waratahs have a change in their game plan this weekend when they take on the Brumbies.

The Rebels’ attack had limited options to penetrate the defensive line and they looked to be playing a retention game, just going through a number of phases waiting for something to happen. In round 1 the Rebels completed 86% of their possessions within four phases, which climbed to 89% in round 2 but fell dramatically to 69% in round 3. When retaining the ball for long periods didn’t work, particularly in the second half, Kurtley Beale and James O’Connor introduced the chip kick which didn’t improve their attack at all.

With both Beale and O’Connor in the team you’d expect the Rebels’ attack to really threaten opposition defences but it hasn’t appeared to click yet this season, apart from breaks created by individual brilliance. I see that with Beale out of the side due to injury O’Connor has been selected at number 10 this week against the Reds, which I think is his best position. Let’s see if the attacking pattern looks a little more dynamic this week.

The Force competed much better this week against the Bulls but still look like a club that hasn’t worked out the right combination of players and as a result they looked a little disjointed.

Their wide defence was ordinary and their defence of the Bulls’ driving maul was woeful.

Sias Ebersohn was an improvement at number 10, although his kicking in general play needs to improve. The Force have potential and maybe the week off will give them the time they need to settle on a combination and develop more cohesion.

The Reds came away with the points against the Hurricanes but are certainly still not playing anywhere near their best. In attack they are clearly lacking the threat that Will Genia poses for the opposition and as a result the defence is focussing more attention on Quade Cooper, who isn’t playing badly but isn’t performing at the level we’ve come to expect from him.

The Reds are obviously missing the leadership of Genia and James Horwill and I think they’re also missing Anthony Faingaa to lead the defence. While the Reds scrambled really well in defence over the last two weeks, with Faingaa in the team they look far more composed in defence and without his presence there are a few issues developing. This week those issues were primarily on the right side of the defence, where the Hurricanes achieved a numerical advantage too easily on Dom Shipperley’s wing on a number of occasions.

In attack the Reds look like they are trying to make things happen, rather than being a little more patient and waiting for the opportunities to open up a phase or two later – they seem to be rushing just a little.

The good news for Reds fans is that despite not playing that well over the first three weeks of the competition they are still winning matches and accumulating points. With Genia, Horwill and Faingaa all due back over the next couple of weeks they are well placed to re launch their campaign against the Rebels this week and the Force the following week.

Discussion

  • sph45

    I really think Beale at 10 is a mistake. That, and Folau at fullback seem to be the most glaring positional backline miscalculations of the Australian coaches at the minute.

    • Ooaahh

      Beale’s biggest problem at 10 (in fact the rebels biggest problem at 10) is Phipps at half back.. watch the clip against the tahs’ there were two clear opportunities for a snipe. Taking these when they appear is crucial for a good half back to provide less pressure for their 10. Phipps is just such an ordinary player that offers very little besides fitness. I can’t understand why they don’t give kingi a run there.

  • http://www.greenandgoldrugby.com/ Matt Rowley

    Scott – great stuff as usual, but I still don’t see how you put the blame at Cummins’ door for the first try.

    He put trust in his inside man which is crucial. If there was a lack of comms it musta come from Brown who just simply stuffed up.

    Even then – if the badger had come in there woulda been strife.

    *still goin vertical!*

    • Parra

      Agree, it should be the inside man communicating to the outside man.
      The other one, where he was beaten on the outside was bad though. Poor defence from Cummins. He also gave away a terrible penalty for joining a maul from the side – more like coming around to the Bulls’ side and joining it from there.
      Otherwise I thought his game was very good, extremely committed under the high ball, also taking a spectacular aussie rules style mark from a Force kick, snatching it from the defenders.

    • Scott Allen

      Matt

      I don’t put the blame on Cummins – I put the blame on Brown and Cummins.

      Only an unsophisticated defensive line relies on communication only from the inside man. The better the attack coming at you, the better your defence needs to be.

      If you want a defensive line that can cover up mistakes from individual players (which will always occur) each player must work with their inside and outside man to maintain spacings and depth in the line. If the inside man gets it wrong the outside man should be able to cover the mistake or vice versa – it’s not about blindly trusting the man next to you.The moment the nexus between the three players is broken holes open up and can’t be closed.

      You’ve probably heard it described as “defending in threes”. Across the defensive line you have a whole series of “threes” working side by side and interacting with each other – that’s what maintains the integrity of a good defensive line.

      Brown broke the nexus with both his inside man (stayed too close to him) and his outside man (got too far away from him).

      Cummins broke the nexus with his inside man by getting up level with him when he should have stayed slightly behind him – indeed he was going vertical but in this instance it was vertically up the field when he needed to delay his launch a little. Had he stayed back he would have been able to adjust back inside and at least attempt to tackle Steyne.

      Clearly Cummins and Brown weren’t communicating – if they were Cummins would have been scanning inside as well as forwards and would have identified the problem that had arisen inside. Instead Cummins turned out to focus on to his defender too early – if you look at the still shot in the video from end on you can see that Cummins has already turned his shoulders out but Steyne still has the ball in hand.

      Whilst tackling is an individual skill, defence (your structure, your shape and the integrity of the line) is a team skill. It was the defence that broke down here and both players were responsible for that – you could try to assign a % of blame to each player but if you do that you’re treating defence as an individual thing and you won’t be able to maintain an effective defensive line.

  • USARugger

    Scott – anything specifically you’d suggest the Rebels do to add that “punch” to their attack? I know JOC will be steering the ship this week so hopefully the attack will be a little more direct. But what else? Maybe have Inman take a few blind passes on the inside?

    Asking purely out of curiosity.

    • Scott Allen

      I think they need to start changing some angles – all seem to be running a bit straight with no attempt at deception.

      The inside switch is one way but would also be good to see some players in motion so the defence is in two minds as to who will actually get the ball. The ball runners need to offer the #10 some options and let them make a decision as to which player is in the hole and therefore who they’ll pass to.

      • Whal-a-B

        Hi Scott, while you’re on the subject of angles, do you know why we don’t see more of it at the higher levels of Australian rugby? I’ve played a reasonable amount of rugby at club level in Brisbane and one of the first things you learn every season is the importance of running lines. Maybe it’s me but I never really notice the Aussie teams doing many changes of angles in attack – that rebels video is perfect example with them just shifting the ball along a pretty flat attacking line. It’s also consistent with just about every Wallabies attack last year!
        I’ve noticed The Chiefs are so good at their Angled runs and attacking from depth – that Anscombe try on the weekend ended with just a simple switch (after some fantastic lead-up work) but exploited the space perfectly.

        • Scott Allen

          I also don’t understand why those simple running lines aren’t utilised by some of the Aussie professional teams.

          I went to Brisbane Broncos training this morning and watched them running angle after angle in general play. Yes, league is a different game and the lack of breakdowns helps their realignment but similar sorts of plays that the Reds use in general play are so effective – just look at the simple angled forward decoy runner the Reds used in the lead up to their first try against the Tahs.

  • Rusty

    Great assessment of the reds. I think Genia will bring just a little more composure to the attacking structure.

  • Stin

    Tahs team named. Volavola in. Will Tahs make use of his longish kick or try to keep ball in play and minimise breakdown engagement still? Good to see Ulugia making way for Holmes I think(?)… Kingston unlucky…

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