In my Coaching Manual I say that ‘Attack is not about scoring tries. Attack is about “asking questions of the defence”.’ Counter-attack is the same, if we can get ‘enough players quickly back behind the ball to present a number of possibilities for our attack.’
In this excellent team try, finally scored by Ben Alexander, this is exactly what happens. The Wallabies, with urgency, get their ‘attacking alignment into position from what began as a defensive alignment.’ Actually, they do it twice: once from the actual turnover, and immediately from the ruck ball, this time back to the right.
Quade Cooper, as always, quickly takes care of a defender who rushes up out of the line (something that the Boks had decided they would not do against him) but a key element is the urgent repositioning of Kurtley Beale. He first sees an opportunity outside of Horwill, going left, then when Horwill takes the ball into contact, Beale immediately goes back to the right. Perhaps he hears a call from Cooper, the ultimate communicator, to Genia.
This repositioning enables Beale to support on the inside of Cooper and continue the play well into the Boks’ red zone. Note the urgency with which Beale accelerates to support Cooper – his eyes light up like a child in a lolly shop! (It’s an absolute delight to see players enjoying the opportunity to show their abilities, like we see here. All coaches should strive to allow their players the same opportunity.)
Cooper changes his pace and line to get closer to Beale and is subsequently well-positioned to get the pass back from Beale – this could actually have given the try to O’Connor – but Beale throws the longer, more difficult pass to O’Connor. O’Connor takes his first (but not last) diving catch of the day and carries strongly to attract a couple of defenders. He wins the contest and recycles with urgency. This is important in enabling the attack to continue before the Springbok defence has time to realign accurately.
Regular readers of Dwyer’s View will have seen my insistence on the vital importance of realignment of the attacking (and defensive) line. Sometimes it looks more like an attacking zig-zag than an attacking line. Not so here, though: the line reforms with accurate shape, allowing easy use of any or all players in the line.
Many choices exist, but Rocky Elsom senses his opportunity to occupy a couple of wider defenders with a classic in-and-away, and slips the early pass to Alexander. He needs no second invitation to the tryline and scores — with Ioane unmarked outside him! (Rocky is beginning to look more like the ‘old Rocky’, before persistent injury hampered his last season.)
My philosophy is that ‘all turn-over ball, whether from a kick, an opposition spilled ball or a tackle-ball steal, offers an opportunity for counter-attack. The key to realising the opportunity is your reaction time to getting back behind the ball. This is purely and simply a “state of mind”.’
The Wallabies were certainly in the right state of mind.