Waratahs Are Losing Games At The Breakdown - Green and Gold Rugby
NSW Waratahs

Waratahs Are Losing Games At The Breakdown

Waratahs Are Losing Games At The Breakdown

In recent weeks I’ve looked at the problems the Waratahs have been creating for themselves at the breakdown by having their support players positioned well away from the ball carrier.

The idea behind that part of the game plan appears to have been to try and create width in the attack and get runners into a better position to receive an offload, rather than being right on top of the ball carrier. The disadvantage is that the ball carrier has been getting isolated too often resulting in slow ball or a turnover.

It appears Michael Cheika has made some adjustments to this aspect of the game plan and the support runners have generally been closer to the ball carrier in the last few matches. However, the forwards have still been too slow getting into the breakdown and in the match against the Hurricanes last week turnovers and disrupted ball at the breakdown robbed the Waratahs of momentum on a number of occasions.

On top of that there has been a lack of accuracy when cleaning out which has allowed the opposition to stay in the contest when they should have been off their feet and out of the game.

It’s great to make plans to play a running game where the ball is retained for as many phases as it takes to break down the opposition defence but those plans won’t work unless the ball is secured and available cleanly from the breakdown. Unless the Waratahs address these issues they’ll continue to lose matches at the breakdown.

Here are some examples from the game against the Hurricanes.

  • Dougall

    When the Tahs have pretty much the whole Wallabies forward pack and have problems at the breakdown, you know things are drastically wrong.

    • Rex Munday

      Except that most of the Wallaby forward pack don’t deserve to be there.

      • JimmyC

        Like who? Who hasn’t deserved a shot in the wallabies jumper who has one? I am sick of people blaming Deans/the selectors when other players don’t aim up. Its not like any Australian forwards have been knocking down the selection door when those guys were picked.

        • Big Sam

          Dennis, Kepu, Timani, TPN – that enough for you?

          How much harder do you want Mowen, Palmer, Pyle and Squeaky to knock? Being the form players at their positions and leaders of their teams not good enough?

        • Jimmy

          Timani and Kepu were two of the best performing forwards for the Wallabies last year. Pyle, Mowen and Palmer are completely unproven at test level and got bashed last week. Sqeaks will be the starting 2 this year and is always in the mix somewhere.

        • Big Sam

          If “current form has no bearing on that comment”, then how does those three getting bashed last week bear any relevance to when they were overlooked last year for equally unproven guys like Timani and Dennis? And to answer your questions – 1) The Big Concussion was selected to start ahead of Squeaky for every 2012 test in which they were both available (all 3 Welsh tests, the opening Rugby Championship match, and 3 of the 4 Spring tour tests), and 2) not sure what poor old Salesi has to do with whether Dan Palmer had done enough.

          You’re more than entitled to your opinion on who you think deserved the nod for the wallabies jerseys, and it makes no difference to anyone whether I agree with it – my point was that it’s ridiculous to say that there was nobody else out there “aiming up”, or to put on some victim complex like everyone’s just out to bash the tahs without having any examples to back it up.

        • JimmyC

          That is rubbish talk. Current form has no bearing on that comment. All the NSW players you named have deserved their test cap at the original time of selection. Sure I agree that Dennis played poorly for the Wallabies last season but he earned a chance after two great season’s of super rugby. When has Moore been left out of a test squad for TPN? Moore is the most capped hooker in Australian history. Kepu didn’t deserve his shot huh? So I guess you were happy with Mafu being the Wallabies tight head

        • david baldwin

          Like Who – you are kidding right???

          Douglas – how has he been chosen ahead of Pyle, Neville, Fardy or even Wykes. They all show more promise!!

          TPN – the guy gets concussed almost every second game and cannot throw a lineout to save himself. Hanson is the much better and more consistent option

          Kepu – How he has gotten starts when Slipper is available or even Ryan is a laugh!! For a massive human he is lazy, ineffective as a ball carrier and has horrible cleanout technique!!

          Dennis – that is the ultimate laugh when Mowen and Higganbotham and even Samo a year or so ago were playing well!!

          I could say the same about Timani as well!!

        • Jimmy

          Slipper cannot scrummage – end of argument – he is a liability. Actually – let’s ignore the entire Reds front row – they are not in the same league as the Tahs, Reds or even Force when push comes to shove. The Brumbies and Tahs should make up the front row

          Timani and Douglas were good at Wallabies level last year. The rest are all unproven and I haven’t seen them dominate any foreign opposition. McMeniman would be the strongest alternative there.

          Mowen struggles when the opposition is high quality although your Dennis point is probably your strongest argument.

        • Jimmy

          “League as the Tahs, Reds or even Force” should read “Tahs, Brumbies or even Force”

        • bill

          Both Hanson and Fainga have been giving more value to their team than Moore or Taf. Moore is class but compared to how he used to play 4 or 5 years ago last year’s test series was a dissapointment. I don’t think Slipper is anywhere near as bad as you describe.

    • Dally M

      You really need to stop bagging the Waratah players for Robbie Deans poor selections. Do you think they should be saying “No thanks Robbie, i really don’t deserve a starting spot.”
      They don’t pick themselves to start the Test matches.

      • Dougall

        I never said they dont deserve to be there? Douglas has been a powerhouse, Benn is showing fine form. Dennis hasnt found his feet yet in international rugby but deserved his place after his stellar super rugby campaign last year. Ryan has been solid and hooper and palu speak for themselves. Read next time.

        • Dally M

          Sorry, comment went in the wrong place. It was meant for Rex.

        • Dougall

          Yeah thought so, all good mate

  • Dave Mc

    Great analysis as usual Scott. I think their ball carry is hurting them in the ruck contest as well. Two common culprits are the Timani’s who often turn the ball over due to poor body height and positioning of the ball. No doubt it’s a product of their league background. All basic skills – makes you wonder if this stuff is actually being coached.

  • Parra

    Bingo. That was a game to win. The key is disrupted ball. You want to avoid turnovers but they are inevitable in the openly contested breakdown at the moment. There are enough specialists like George Smith to effect a turnover against even the best attack. The disrupted (slowed) ball is what killed the Waratahs though.

    As pointed out, it can be fixed with better speed to the breakdown and better accuracy. Unfortunately it’s too late for the Tahs this year. I think missing out on two competition points (by a few cms) when Hooper was shunted over the sideline has all but killed off the season.

  • ”the forwards have still been too slow getting into the breakdown” Why do you think that is Scott? Is it a poor attitude which is often associated with the Tahs or a fitness issue? Or a combination of both?

    Comparing the Tahs forwards with the Brumbies or Reds, they look soooo much slower and have little urgency about them. Im not even going to compare them to the likes of the Crusaders or the Chiefs… the 19th in sydney could be a masacre

    • Scott Allen

      Alan, I can’t believe it’s a fitness issue. As to attitude, I’m only guessing but they don’t look like they’re desperate enough to get to the breakdowns.

      It’s not just wide breakdowns – if you look at some of the examples in the video there are close breakdowns where there are Tah forwards in the vicinity but the Canes still get in first.

      I wonder if it’s been made a focus by the coach – whilst you’d expect players to know what’s required, sometimes they need to see it’s a big focus of the coach before they start focussing on an area themselves.

      • Dally M

        If there was any games in which they desperately needed to focus on that, its against the Kiwi teams. They always seem to want it more at the breakdown at every level.

      • Gottsy

        do you think there might be an element of confusion there also? i’m not a mind reader but some of the players look as if they are in two minds as to whether they are supposed to provide support or stay out of the ruck to give running options, as the back up is usually only arriving once the ruck is going backwards. also looks to be affecting the 9 as well, ie who was being the will genia and screaming at the forwards to break once hooper had run?

        • bill

          Thats what it looked like to me. A lot of the passes they made that game were hot potato stuff not passes to guys in better positions, out of some determination to keep the ball alive. I was going to make a comparison to 7’s but obviously there’s more room in 7’s and also 7’s players generally make better decisions although again it comes back to the 7’s guys having more space.

          Best way to learn when not to throw the pass is to make a shitload of passes and mistakes. Bit painfull in the interrim I’m afraid.

      • Nutta

        I can’t get away from the voice of an old coach in my head screaming at us when I was about 15:

        “By Christ you mob of dumb-as-dogshite fairy-lovers!!! Fkn BACKS run 5 metres wide and 1 metre deep. You’re a fkn PIG! YOU run 1 metre wide and 5 metres deep! How else are you gunna support the break-down? Fkn tele-kinesis?”

        Then he would go on to accuse our parents of acts of sexual piracy of a nature which I still think would be physiologically impossible

        Tis a pity the old boy is dead – he might of got a job with the Tarts!

  • USARugger

    I’d really like to see them get this attacking pattern to function. The few times it begins to ‘click’ you can see the wide forward pattern asking real questions of opposing defenses. It’s totally reliant on very good body position and technique at the breakdown as you generally will be committing fewer men to your own breakdown and also for the #9 to be lightning fast to each breakdown and distributing just as quickly. It’s rare so far that both of these things are happening at the same time. The times the ‘Tahs were securing their own breakdown McKibbin seemed to be taking his sweet time getting to the breakdown and even longer to actually move the ball out. Is he just poor or over-thinking? It really isn’t that tactically intense of a system for the #9, just move the ball rapidly and the ranging pattern from the forwards should lead to holes opening up within 2-3 phases. So why does it look like he’s referring to a friggin’ GPS unit when he’s at the back of the breakdown?

  • bill

    the tahs should keep being adventurous, but realistically this season is a learning exercise for them if they do persist with it. And so will be much of next season, 2015 they might start to reap some rewards.

  • Rugbysmartarse

    can anyone give me some more insight into the laws regarding the halfback? The last ruck in the video Savea makes the tackle and then stands up but instead of going for the ball he takes out Lucas (picks up an ankle and pulls him away from the ruck). Is Lucas deemed to be part of the ruck (even though he’s trying to clear the ball) or is he afforded some protection as halback from being taken out? I recall seeing this penalised previously, but maybe misheard the call

    • mpm

      The way I saw it they were both competing once Lucas arrived forming the ruck. Then Savea drove Lucas back.

  • Bay35Pablo

    Nice analysis. You’d have to think Cheiks is spotting that on the replay.

    It shows poor structure in attack for the styls, but does it also show a certain tactic from the Canes – i.e. forwards spread throughout their defensive line to allow this quick counter rucking? How was their attach structure ste up to avoid them having the same problems? Or did they have the same problems (at least in the 1st half one presumes) meaning this is a common issue not just the Tahs, for having this type of avowed styel?

    • Bernie

      That’s an interesting point, but I wonder if its not actually the result of the pattern working – if not the practical execution. What I mean is that it often seemed like the Tahs backs were being turned over by the Canes forwards, which suggests the desired mismatch between (backs running at forwards and vice versa) was being generated, though not taken advantage of. Just speculating though. Thoughts?

      • JimmyC

        Agreed but conversely it allowed Foley to use his feet against forwards to great effect.

  • AJ

    I would love to see George Smith either starting as a 7 or coming on when the 8 tires for the WBs. I really doubt whether Palu or Auleua can be effective for longer than 50-60 mins.
    We desperately need a back three able to make it to the rucks late in the game. I think in the second half we’ve got to have a combination of higgers, smith and gill/hooper hitting the breakdown. Its the only way we can secure good possession and maintain effectiveness at the set piece.

  • For a professional team that’s a pretty embarrassing video to watch.

  • Lindommer

    “Competition at the breakdown defines New Zealand rugby”, one of my rubber stamps on its way to you, Scott.

NSW Waratahs

Scott is one of our regular contributors from the old days of G&GR. He has experience coaching Premier Grade with two clubs in Brisbane.

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