Video analysis Adam Ashley-Cooper vs South Africa 2015

Video Anatomy of a Try: Adam Ashley-Cooper vs South Africa 2015

Video Anatomy of a Try: Adam Ashley-Cooper vs South Africa 2015

As comebacks go that was pretty special. After the whistle. A TMO decision. It was nail biting stuff from a Wallabies team that looked to have blown it 5 minutes earlier when passing up a kick for the corner for a shot at goal.

But regardless of how close the score was, Australia will be pleased they scored three lovely tries, the pick of which for me was the one we’re going to look at in more detail, finished by Adam Ashley-Cooper it comes from a well rehearsed strike move.

Instrumental in it were Matt Giteau and Quade Cooper who we’ve discussed on many an occasion, both showing great skills under pressure.

They will rightly take the plaudits but I also think key in the try was the approach work the Australians had done over the last 20-30 minutes when with ball in hand they repeatedly attacked the Springboks in the 15 meter channel, running lots of patterns behind the gain line getting the ball into that channel and trying to round the opposition pulling the Bok’s inside backs all over the shop.

Like most teams the Boks have a set defensive formation that they will aim to get themselves into as often as possible. The preferred option for the Springboks is to make sure their speedsters are in the outside channels. The idea is to stop them getting rounded and also to have a ready made kick chase formation.

Jesse Kriel and Damien De Allende both defend those channels with Kriel taking the left and De Allende the right. Kriel has only just moved to 13 and he’s going to make mistakes but more worryingly for the Boks is, with a tackle count of 15 made 7 missed, how easily De Allende was exposed by the Australian backs. Frequently targeted in that channel he missed key tackles and was often turned inside out by a Wallaby back line that while skillful, doesn’t have the most obvious of gasmen in their ranks.

I think this awareness of the opposition flags up good analysis by the Wallaby management team, and it’s surely a feather in the cap for Stephen Larkham whose prints were all over the move.

*NB: if you don’t have access to sound, or can’t understand my accent, then Closed Captions are enabled throughout the video*


  • Guy

    Awesome. Thanks.
    There is another angle (from higher and and behnd the posts) that shows another key part of it is that Folau spaces just enough to be in the play, but to keep the outside defender focused and away from De Allende

  • Parker

    Thank goodness for your excellent contributions that, among other things, offset the chronic, emotionally-driven pessimism that affects so many of the comments on this site.

  • Officer McNulty, Baltimore

    love the vid.
    from 2.32 it is extremely satisfying to go frame by frame and watch two boks continue to move towards Cooper after he has popped the pass.
    Something in their small brains must have been screaming
    but their bodies couldn’t change course
    I’m gonna watch this all day.
    Tuesday after the test I’m still laughin my arse off and walkin on clouds.

  • astamax

    I just jollied myself watching that try again, the breakdown of it was just as good. Great efforts as always #thedeadballarea

  • Douglas

    Great analysis Graeme, thanks. Its good to see the Wallabies creating tries from smart movement of the ball and not just attacking the line hoping for lucky breaks or intercepts. They still have work to do but they’re definitely heading in the right direction.

  • Hitcho

    Great clip thanks very much. I actually had no idea they had run that move more than once. Oh and I understood every word you said ha ha

  • Who?

    Definitely some influence from Bernie in running that play, but… It’s also one of Quade’s standard set plays. He’s been doing it for literally half a decade, though usually one pass closer to the lineout. But moving one pass out is something he’s done regularly in the past – especially when playing with Giteau up to 2011 – but also with 12’s like Fainga’a for the Reds in 2012.
    I’m not confident that play would’ve worked as well with Toomua or Foley at 10. That’s not because they’re lesser players or anything like that, it’s because they’re different players, with different skill sets and strengths. They don’t drift as lightly across the field, they run straighter. And their inside passes aren’t quite as lightly delivered. Which means that Bernie will use different plays for those guys to attack the same defenders. Hopefully!

    • Simon

      It used to be Quade’s hallmark, along with the double-cutout pass and the occasional Hail Mary play (which didn’t work so well on Saturday). But it seems to have largely dropped off his radar over the last two years under Graham’s influence. I don’t know why (other than the obvious general answer that the Reds are a terrible side under Graham). Obviously he didn’t play a lot of games this year, but those he did he just seemed to rely on the flat cut-out passes, which didn’t work well because the Reds were seldom getting quick enough ball to outflank the defence.

      • Who?

        For mine, the question with the Reds’ attack under Graham is their complete and utter lack of direction. Quade’s strength, from my distant perspective (others,like Link, Cheika and Bernie, can give comment on his ability to direct traffic – I’m not close enough for that), is his ability to hit the right runner at the right time. Which means that he needs runners to pick between. Give him a choice, he’ll pick the right one more often than most. Which is why he threw the ball to Kuridrani (right option, executed less than optimally), and the pass to AAC.
        But if there’s no runner, you see what we saw from him in the first half of the Test. Him attempting to find a way through the defensive line. But without support off his hip – either for the breakdown following or as a decoy runner – he’s never going to be effective running at the teeth of the defensive line. Because he floats across the field like a 10, rather than storming up the field like a 12, and he’s not likely to win the contact. He’s more likely (or, rather, before his knee issues, was always much more likely) to beat the man with footwork than to run over him with power.
        So, with Quade at 10, Bernie’s smart enough to know that you put the runners there, he’ll pick them. With Toomua, or Foley, we’d see a different version of a similar play. We’d be less likely to see the change of playmakers on the fly – running sideways like that just isn’t the regular go for Toomua. He is more direct. We could’ve seen Giteau swap out from 10 (given he does have a natural drift), but even then he’s not as likely to straighten his own shoulders as much as Quade does.
        It’s the sort of thing that emphasizes how each player has their own strengths. I’m not saying that the other guys are inferior. I’m just saying they’re different, and it’ll be interesting to see – if/when they get a shot – how the attack mixes up to suit their strengths.
        That said, I’m hoping we get Cooper/Toomua this weekend, and am hopeful we’ll see a more direct game, borne out of the straighter running Toomua provides at 12. Though I also absolutely believe that will be dependent on how we manage the breakdown. I don’t think Toomua would’ve made as much difference in the first half, purely because we were so dominated at the gain line and the breakdown in the first half.

        • Simon

          Great post. Yes, unfortunately Quade’s days of breaking the line directly with his running appear to be all but over. That added another big X-factor to his game – the opposition couldn’t effectively cover all the options he had inside and outside because he was always threatening to break the line himself. And that’s if Genia didn’t do it first from scrum-half. Add some genuine pace on the outside from guys like Davies and it’s no wonder the Reds backline of that era was so effective.

          And I agree about this weekend. I think if we get Cooper/Toomua this weekend a lot will depend on how effectively the Pumas can slow down the ball. When they played in Australia last time, they didn’t manage it and the Wallabies always looked dangerous running at the line, but for the game in Mendoza, the Wallabies were outmuscled out front and it showed. Old Mate with his laser pointer in Foley’s eyes was probably the last straw (let’s hope they take steps to control that this year, although knowing Mendoza quite well I don’t hold much hope).

          I’m expecting basically a repeat of that game plan this year. If the Wallabies are able to play their natural game they should rip through the Pumas in the backline on the Cooper/Toomua/Kuridrani/Folau axis. But if as you said we’re beaten in the forwards, particularly at the breakdown, the scrum and the maul, the Pumas could get home in another close game. I watched the ABs/Puma game and their forwards looked quite dangerous at times, they made the ABs look soft as butter when they went through them to score two tries at the maul.

        • Who?

          Another key to the 2011 Reds was that all the runners had differing natural lines. Digby ran infield. Fainga’a ran straight. Chambers ran out. Davies ran out, but not as sideways as Chambers might, and he was fast. The differing angles all meant that the defensive line couldn’t drift at a single rate to cover their man, because they’d end up with two people running at one gap and two men covering no one! Whereas, under Graham, all the backs drift sideways at the same rate. We’ve seen it with the Wallabies, the Force, and now the Reds.
          I do think Quade can still beat players at the line, it’s just more important than ever that he’s got the ball runners there. I think it was 2013 against Ireland, after his first big injury layoff, where he came back and ghosted through the defensive line, bumping a player, but really just showing and going. That’s the sort of tries I want my 10 scoring. And the sort of running I want my 10 doing. I don’t, personally, want my 10 to need to crashball, the way Foley often does for the Tahs. I actually think he runs too often for the Tahs. That’s my judgment, not Cheik’s! But I like my 10’s to pass 9 times, then run the 10th – when there’s a gap in front of them. As Quade does (when the support runners are there), as Bernie did, and as Ella did. Ella being the best known originator of that philosophy.
          The big question post knee surgery is whether Quade can still skin players like he did in 2011 and before. Like he skinned the Blues for the famous try to Taps in 2011. And, as he did in one of my favourite ever G&GR vids, when one of the boys (can’t remember who – RugbyReg? Someone!) went to Reds training, and did some defensive drills with Quade. Quade told the G&GR correspondent which side he was going to go to step him, and even moved so far forward that Quade pretty well went past the defender on the other side, before cutting back and going on the originally indicated side. But the footwork… Great to watch.
          The fascinating thing is that we’ll get to see whether or not Quade can still skin players, given he’s going to 7’s…
          I’m rather concerned about our breakdown against the Pumas. Provided it’s Cooper/Toomua, I’m confident in the backs. Just not as confident in the forwards, given they haven’t yet been named, and their performance this week was, until the arrival of Pocock/Horwill and the departure of Bismarck, abysmal.

        • Simon

          Yes, agree about Quade. I want to see that sort of footwork again but I’m not expecting it. Nor am I expecting it from Genia, JOC or Beale – all of whom were very twinkle-toed in their early days. Once they start picking up the little injuries they’re just never the same. I think Quade will do well in Sevens (at least in attack, I worry a bit about his defence) because he is still quite fleet of foot and he’ll have a lot more space, but he just doesn’t seem to have the same ability in Fifteens.

          Against the Boks, I heard the commentators say that Higgers and Fardy were positioned very wide. I didn’t notice that myself until they said it, but it’s true – Higgers made that break down the wing channel, and Quade’s pass to Kuridrani might have been intended for Fardy who was outside him. So that might be why we were so monstered at the breakdown too. Cheik trying a new tactic of loose forwards out wide instead of in tight where they arguably should be.

        • Mike

          A lot of posts miss the point – the individual player brilliance is not nearly as important as the structures he plays in, yet people continually talk in terms of individuAl player abilities.

  • PiratesRugby

    It was a very well worked move. Thank you for showing us how it had been set up throughout the game.
    I think Genia’s long, accurate pass was critcal to the success of the move. I don’t know that any other halfback in Australia is capable of that.

    • Bobas

      Skelton wouldn’t have needed to pass it if they bold enough to give him a run at scrum half.

  • Mart

    Great vid, the move was a joy to watch. Simple smart football.
    Well spotted Graeme about De Allende chasing the ball. I’ve always thought his defense was exceptional… Especially after the Stormers Tahs game in sydney. I obviously don’t have your eye.

    • I think he’s a decent enough 1 vs 1 defender due to his pace and size.

      But his super rugby stats are pretty bad, don’t have them to hand but I think the only person with more missed tackles is Beale.

      That in itself doesn’t make him a bad defender because he also has a high tackle completion count so his defence ratio is ok – but it’s the type of misses he makes, getting stepped by Horne in his own 22 and so on… that to me is poor defending and I’m certain they were looking to exploit that left channel.

  • Bay35Pablo

    Nice analysis. Can you give Kafe some tips …. ?
    Marto and Kearnsie would have lost interest before the opening graphics ended.

    I must say all 3 Wobblies tries did look well crafted on the night, and I was thinking after the 1st 2 if only we could cut out the dropsies and get into those positions more. The Bokkes had the better of the breakdown and were on us, but their tries had more of an opportunistic slant/slip ups by us.

  • Bobas

    There’s no video on YouTube that uses the words “Stephan Larkham” in it that I don’t like.

  • RobC

    Excellent Graeme. Ah, Im curious. Who won’t be able to understand English spoken by an Englishman?

    • hehehe! I have a strong London accent, and living in France and trying to coach English speaking French guys in English can be….. interesting.

      “What is this Bowl thing you talk of?” I said BALL!!

      It has given me an inferiority complex about my own language. :D

      • RobC

        HAHA. This is GAGR mate. No PC nonsense here, haha.

        You can say things like: if you dont understand an Englishman’s English, then watch Room with a View 20 times.

        Or go to accent neutralisation programme in Bangalore :D

        Nice pickup targeting Damian de Allende’s.

  • TouchFinderGeneral

    Absolutely top stuff as usual. You are rapidly ascending my list of favourite folk to come out of England (Jeeves & Wooster & The Who currently occupy the top 2 slots).

    Nice to know it wasn’t just my imagination thinking that Giteau & Cooper were deliberately deep-ish & ‘lateral’.

  • Warwick Todd

    I really love your work dead ball area.

  • Just sayin

    Love the segment.

    I did my own video analysis immediately after the game, and I can tell you the reason the move worked was for a very, very different reason.

    It was because Habana did not track his winger (AAC). So AAC should have been pulverised by a flying habana coming from 90 degrees, but habana was a lazy bugger and let his man go.

    Watch the video at 1/4 speed on youtube and you’ll see none of the other springbok backs did anything wrong, it was simply that habana should have been there and he wasn’t.

    This move looks spectacular, but the fact it worked so well came down to an awful defensive lapse (by habana), not necessarily anything other than that. Great move none the less. But it probably won’t work against the all blacks (surprised it worked against a wary springboks outfit to be honest).

    Even though I disagree with the analysis on this occasion, it’s still great work, keep it up.

    • Interesting point, and I would agree with you if it had been off the top line out ball, allowing Habana to track AAC.

      However the Australians set and drove, so Habana came up to help defend the short side – which is right. If you want to blame a covering tackler then Pienaar would be the obvious choice as that area is his defensive zone as a sweeper (Cotzee ends up getting there too late) but he was defending at 2 with BDP at 9. Habana gets there late having gone after the ball was played.

      Personally I don’t think it’s reasonable to expect a winger to chase his opponent all over the pitch on 2nd/3rd phase ball and ultimately De Allende was at fault for the line break.

      Charlie Morgan at Rugby World also did a piece on it:

  • Graeme

    Not mentioned enough was Kuridrani’s role in the move. The dummy line he ran ended up holding the cover defense back a step allowing AAC to motor through.

    • yeah it’s a good line, it makes it very hard for Pollard to get there and certainly influences the outcome.

  • Richie Zhou

    Great video :)


an Englishman living in France, Graeme runs the Rugby Analysis website He coaches in his spare time, is an IRB qualified coach and you can catch him on twitter lazily re-tweeting other peoples comments.

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