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Brett McKay
Brett McKay | Columnist Index
One of the new breed of Australian online rugby writers, Brett McKay joins ESPNscrum.com having developed a popular presence on sports opinion site The Roar. He also tweets from @BMcSport.
The Whiteboard
Simple, effective rugby working a treat for the Force
Brett McKay
April 10, 2014
Reds' Beau Robinson connects with Ben McCalman, Reds v Western Force, Super Rugby, Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane, April 5, 2014
Ben McCalman and his Western Force chargers have been making life difficult for opponents © Getty Images
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I mentioned in #Scrum5 on Monday that the Western Force's current four-game winning streak - the best in the team's history - has come on the back of playing simple rugby really effectively.

Their current fifth spot in the overall rankings is well deserved, and there's no reason why they can't remain in the top half from here on. And more importantly, they're earning the praise and respect the club - and certainly their passionate group of supporters - have yearned for some time.

Their patience with the ball at the moment is something all young teams should be really paying close attention to. Twice on Saturday night, against the Queensland Reds in Brisbane, they scored tries on the back of 16 or more phases, simply by doing the hard yards, holding possession, and just taking whatever metres were available.

And on the Whiteboard today I'm going to highlight that patience, taking a closer look at the lead-up to what would become the match-winning try to fullback Jayden Hayward.

It all started from a Reds' scrum around 30 metres out from their own line, on the far side of the ground. From the back of the scrum, Reds scrum-half Will Genia kicked downfield and made a decent amount of ground. Nick Cummins caught the kick on the full, but had plenty of time to look up and commence his run, heading back toward the sideline before going to ground just short of halfway.

I'll break down the phases in a moment, but have you ever wondered what the tracking of 16 phases looks like? Wonder no more; here's the lead-up to the Hayward try, noting the tracking begins with the Cummins kick-reception.

Western Force displayed great patience in the lead-up to Jayden Hayward's match-winning try © Scrum.com
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Certainly from the start of this multi-phase passage, it was difficult to see where a try was going to come from. The Force used five phases to get over halfway, and even then, they'd only made around 10 metres from the point Cummins fielded the Genia kick.

Force skipper Matt Hodgson took a popped pass from the ruck, and made another five or so metres over the gain line on the sixth phase, going to ground on the junction of the Reds 10m line and the 15-metre lineout line.

Young lock Adam Coleman took the Force back infield on the next phase, and from there, fly-half Zack Holmes made some good ground up the middle to go to ground on the eighth phase inside the Reds' 40m, in centre-field. Once again, the Reds' defensive line was on the back foot, and it looked like the Force were making ground at will, as they had through much of the match.

Greg Growden and Russell Barwick run the rule over Super Rugby round nine
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The Force, still only using single passes and one-off runners, went to the outside again, where Kyle Godwin jinked his way past defenders forward, then back inside, then sideways, then forward again back towards the posts. His run committed Reds defenders, but also allowed the Force to set running options to both the near- and far-side of the field. By now, the Force were around 30 metres out from the Reds line.

The 10th phase saw multiple passes for the first time, with lock Willem Steenkamp, realising from behind the ruck the opportunities were out wider, shifted back outside to Hayward, who in turn found prop Oli Hoskins. Hoskins made a good run to the Reds' 22m line, beating outside centre Ben Tapuai along the way.

Over the next couple of phases, the Force reset themselves by working back to centre-field with one-off runners again, before going back to far-side on the 13th phase. All the time, the Reds were back-tracking, holding their shape reasonably well and not committing too many defenders to the breakdown. When the Force did reset back in from the posts, Reds defenders can be seen pulling players out of the ruck to be ready for the next phase.

The 14th phase was nearly the one where it fell apart for the Force. Ian Prior went wide to the outside to Holmes, who kept running that same way before throwing a wild-ish pass on the bounce to Luke Morahan on the wing. Morahan passed straight back inside to Holmes, and he found another few metres just short of the Reds 22m line again.

Ben McCalman took one more hit-up infield, and Heath Tessman saw them take the 16th phase to ground on the Reds' 22m line, to the left of the goal posts. If you're still following on the map, then yes, the Force had been here before, only a few phases previously.

In actual fact, the previous eight phases only made around 10 metres, but this again underlines the patience the Force showed throughout the match. The 16 phases also took up two minutes, and pushed the game into the 79th minute, meaning the Force had to strike soon, given they still trailed by four points.

But here was the opportunity. Prior passed outside wide to Hayward, who started heading out again, but sensing the chance, stepped back to the inside. Reds flanker Beau Robinson had over-read Hayward's run, and lost his footing trying to cover back on the inside, creating the gap.

Jayden Hayward was on the end of Western Force's excellent phase play © Scrum.com
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Once through the first line, Hayward had all the momentum, and burst through the tackle of Quade Cooper, before dragging Will Genia over the line with him. They converted the try, held their nerve after the restart - even with the knock-on - and put enough pressure on Cooper as he made the curious decision to go for a last-ditch drop goal to tie up the scores.

Simple, effective rugby from the Force, and they deserve all the plaudits coming their way at the moment.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd

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