Video analysis: Ben Alexander try - Green and Gold Rugby

Video analysis: Ben Alexander try

Video analysis: Ben Alexander try

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.


  • USA fan

    A 20 yard pass from Genia at McCabe’s chest allowing him to get forward momentum is also critical to this. No doubt a Burgess snipe around the ruck or pass two metres away from his intended target would’ve killed this opportunity.

  • stinger

    Thanks Bob another quality analysis. Maybe all the old school thinkers on here who like to criticise BA for ‘seagulling’ might actually realise that he was doing the right thing – he was never going to make it to the breakdown so realign in to a quality attacking position which stretches the defence.
    Like most great tries/plays it is made to look so simple – these guys would have done literally 100s of drills about counter attack, support lines on a breakout, realignment, etc but putting it into practice is another thing. Just keep believing Wallabies!!!

    • Darkhorse

      There’s no question he did the right thing in this instance.

      However, much of the criticism comes from his poor work cleaning out. He may be very mobile, and on occasion get through alot of work, but the quality of his cleanout is poor. Throughout the great highlight video produced by barbarian of his game last week you could see him continually flopping round the ruck.

      The other major annoyance I have with him, is that he seems to often be waiting for a hit up just as it very obvious we are about to lose the ball. Forgot the wide running and get in their and do the tight stuff.

  • redbull

    Just something that struck me is the players all around the ball when JOC goes to ground after the initial run….Beale, Genia, Cooper, Pocock. The young guys are running the show.

    • Patrick

      After running 80metres they are the players I would expect to see there…

  • Gag her

    Completely off topic, but can we possibly get rid of the dynamic top 2 article headline on the GAGR home page. It is so annoying to have to click on the arrows to see what the 2nd top headline article is. Yeah yeah, I know, your web programmers are so impressive in making dynamic stuff that moves on the web page. Not.

    • pants

      If you knew about how to navigate through a website, you would have found the “about->contact” link where you can post feedback about the site.

      Not sure where you’re coming from giving the developers stick about this site. If you had any idea about what those guys have achieved, you would have some respect for their abilities and the phenomenal effort they put in to run this site.

      • Robson


      • Gag her

        You’re quite right, I did entirely forget my manners, my bad. Let me rephrase:

        I’d like to pass my congratulations to the GAGR web developers for an excellently constructed, feature rich, and highly user friendly site, however if I may make one small suggestion for an improvement, I’d love to see the dynamic top 2 article headline removed, as although it is quite pretty, I find it reduces the user friendliness of the site.


        • pants

          You missed the part about the site feedback form being at “about->contact”.

        • Seeing as you asked so nicely…..

  • pants

    They could have scored that try about 4 different ways. I thought if O’Conner had of passed to Cooper on his outside just before he got tackled, Cooper would have scored. I guess its good they had so many opportunities to get that try and the way they eventually got it had one of the higher degrees of difficulty. Like many others, I thought for a second that we’d blown it when Rocky started running across field, but to his credit he got the pass away and I see where you’re coming from saying its “Rocky of old” because I expected him to get tackled with the ball and for the move to break down, but it didn’t.

    • Patrick

      He might have, but he might have tripped over the largely inanimate object in a springbok no 14 guernsey on the wing and fallen into touch or dropped it, whereas it was finally scored with an overlap. Seems like a reasonable option to me?

      • Graeme

        JOC definitely took the right option. Cooper was covered and would almost certainly have been bundled into touch. Instead of pushing one pass to many he did the right thing and took the contact. Australia would have scored more tries if more players had shown patience and recycled with the try-line in view instead of throwing wishful passes.

  • Rob

    Great analysis, Bob! Glad that I’m not the only one who wasn’t worried about Rocky’s movement. Ioane was out there as someone with quickness off the mark, and Alexander does have great hands for a forward if the Boks had got their drift organised, but it was nice of him to take out those defenders for Ben. :)

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  • Pants, agree but disagree with you on this one.

    O’connor to Cooper on the blind would have been a low % option.
    Copper would have had the sideline alone for support & his options
    would have been reduced. Cooper is at his most lethal when
    he has options (that is support) inside & outside.

    They could have done a simple draw & pass with the overlap.

    Get the feeling Rocky gets a rage on in certain instances. These lead to
    destructive runs but also invite brain failures. Gotta take the bad with the

    Like how AAC falls & prevents a log jam of players, thereby assisting.
    Great try, great way to open the scoring, great example of 1 of Bob’s
    coaching canons.

    • suckerforred

      Yes wasn’t until I watched this that I noticed that the WB’s had some many players on that side of the field they were falling over each other………..

    • Who?

      I agree with your comments on Rocky. For mine, I reckon that, unless he gets a big run, he usually doesn’t find his feet. If he gets a big impact run in early in a game, he generally has a big game. No big run? Quiet game…

      Whilst there’s got to be credit to Beale for realizing the direction he needed to support, that whole try comes off the back of vision from one man. We’ve seen regular charge-downs from Aussies taking clearing kicks in recent years. Giteau’s terrible for it, Barnes is guilty of taking too long and being charged down, Phipps was caught in the Samoa game. This is the first time I can remember seeing one of our kickers with the vision to avoid the charge down. With all that in mind, I reckon that’s just about a 14 point turnaround. Any other week, the 10 would’ve kicked, it would’ve been charged down, and the Boks would’ve been over for the try next to the posts.

      Not meaning to slag off on Giteau, but it’s also interesting to see how much better the timing of our pass was this weekend. Giteau could learn a lot from Rocky’s last pass in that try – he held it until he had drawn two defenders. Giteau often passes before he’s drawn one – even when he’s broken/skirted the line. This week, every player held the ball a lot longer. Sure, there were a few pushed passes that were turned over, but one step at a time, I guess.

      • bill

        Kind of like Darren Lockyer wasn’t it, ruthless advantage.

  • Garry

    It is great to see a big man, like Ben, so mobile around the park.

    Although my fear is that we would be better served by a tight five that is more effectual in the ruck and maul, and be preferable that our loose forwards be the support players (a more traditional role) on the end of these phases. The question needs to be asked, where were the loosies (Rocky excluded)? Perhaps they were tied up at the ruck and maul, a place where a front rower should be. Now before I earn the wrath of the front rowers union, hear me out.

    If we go back to last year, other international sides had worked out that the secret to beating the WB’s was to stifle the backline by flooding the rucks, effectively slowing the ball. We had the likes of Rocky unseen during the game, because they had to spend more time at the breakdown. Because of the slower ball, Genia and Copper were not killers every game, and we suffered form hot and cold games, prompting the ‘click boom’ analogy. That tactic will not have been forgotten by international sides, especially in the wake of the Samoa debacle.

    Although Ben has his strengths, I’d like to see a more traditional selection, one that can fortify our scrum and rucks. Clean, fast ball at the ruck will be the key to over coming the top sides. Conversely, I’m guessing England (and all the UK sides) see there best tactic will be to have multiple scrum resets, followed by yellow cards. We need to get prepared for this now, and having our two front rowers playing out of position is a ridiculous start. Deans and co, wake up. Have the vision to think past next week.

  • Coodabeenawesome

    Have to agree with most of the comments above. What aus need more than yet another ‘mobile ball running prop’ is a genuine tight head. If people don’t understand what that means cos aus hasn’t had one forawhile think Carl Hayman. I’m sure he hasnt scored half as many tries as BA. It’s nice to feel the wind in ur hair on the wing but as TH it’s not ur job…

  • Skippy

    Sorry but I can’t agree with Bob Dwyer’s detailed analysis of that try. Far be it for me to question the ability or judgement of a WC winning coach but for someone who clearly promotes the importance of the basics of the game at every opportunity, how anyone can interpret Rocky’s performance in that phase of play as a ‘in and away’ is beyond me.

    Sadly I think Bob’s loyalty to a Randwick boy and desire to boost Elsom’s confidence and potentially even get the readers of G&GR to get behind Rocky has clouded his professional judgement. An in and away cannot even begin to describe Rocky’s movement. I find it interesting that Bob praises option taking of Beale/Cooper and O’Connor (particularly in O’Connors’ decision not to offload to Cooper on the wrap around) but yet takes a different stance with Rocky who clearly didn’t play the ‘higher percentage option’ or indeed do the basics in his movement.

    When Rocky receives the ball all he had to do was draw his opposite and off load to the support player. Who in turn all he had to do was draw and off load. Australia had a 5 on 2 advantage overlap until AAC tripped over and after that still had a 4 on 2 overlap. All Rocky had to do was the ‘basics’ and instead he crabbed (started 20m in from touch and popped to BA on the 5yard line).

    Rocky took away the space of those outside. When he first moves sideways he is still a good 3 metres from the defensive line and simply, it appears to me, that he just tried to beat the opposition defender for pace on the outside. He did not try and do a in and away. An in and away is largely effective when its even numbers i.e. 2 on 2. The ball carrier goes to the man, steps to his outside and gains the interest of the second defender…. Once this has been done he simply offloads to the vacant team mate in space. You often see this in league or indeed in union near the touchline when a centre attracts the opposition winger to come to the assistance of his centre, and the player having attracted two defenders, puts his winger away. Gidley and Tahu were experts at this at the Knights. Ryan Cross as a league player and Mark Gasnier are always trying to do this.

    I find it incredibly ironic that if Rocky did not get his offload away, or it was knocked down etc everyone on here would be criticising him and drawing attention to his ‘ability’ to butcher a 5 on 2 or 4 on 2 as it turned out.

    Yes… Rocky did slip a good pass. And fair play to him for being able to do that in contact. But the bottom line is… he should never had needed to slip a ‘miracle’ pass. I’m a big Rocky fan. Not sure of his captaincy ability but a big fan none the less. I want him to hit top form and nothing would please me more than to see him and the team do well. But let’s be serious here lads… And Bob Dwyer…. Rocky deadest almost butchered it and lets not sugar coat it. All he had to do was draw and pass. The overlap was already created. The SA was on the backfoot….and he had plenty of support. The highest percentage of success option in this situation was catch, draw and pass. Not crab, not almost butcher it and have to rely on a lucky pass to put BA away. Rocky chose, perhaps as he is a bit out of form, hasn’t played a lot of footy this year… the low percentage option… and thankfully it came off.

    Otherwise we would all be sitting here this week having a go at him and calling for his head.

    It’s all about the basics Bob. You say that every week.

    Except this week when it comes to Rocky.

    • bill

      He wasn’t crabbing, if he were he would’ve been over the sideline, he did good, he showed awareness of who was outside him and made a good decision on that and what was in front of him. Excellent pass to Alexander.

      • Skippy

        Get off the grass mate. Showed awareness of what was outside him? Clearly.

  • Cutter

    I didn’t interpret Rocky’s move as an in and away either. It looked to me as though he was running across field to try to beat the front rowers in front of him on the outside.

    The most interesting part of this move is the identity of the support players for Cooper when he first makes his break. If there is a criticism of Cooper it is that he doesn’t know what is happening next so how can his team. However, two players who do know are Genia and Beale. You’ll notice that Beale actually pushes Genia out of the way to clear his running line. The other key to the move was Beale’s clean out which cleared the ball for Genia to distribute.


If you don't know Bob Dwyer is the world cup winning coach of the 1991 Wallabies, then give yourself an uppercut. He did a load in between, but he now runs Bob Dwyer's Rugby Workshops, which you can read more about on his site.

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