The Reds' set-piece try that wasn't
April 17, 2014
While all the post-match discussion from the Reds-Brumbies derby in Brisbane was for that other disallowed Queensland Reds try, there were several other opportunities last Saturday that went begging.
Certainly, by the time Stephen Moore and Eddie Quirk had their infamous coming-together in the 50th minute, the momentum of the game was already starting to swing in favour of the home side. And that was always bound to happen, after the Brumbies had enjoyed 66 percent of first-half possession, and more than 70 percent of territory.
In fact the whole game was pretty much played at the one end of the ground; you had to feel for those sitting at the southern end of Suncorp Stadium, where precious little play occurred all night.
In the 57th minute, the Reds' outside men found themselves in space after a raid that commenced just inside the Brumbies half, and a questionable last pass was negated by the scrambling defence of Brumbies' scrumhalf, Nic White, whose tackle on Reds flyer Rod Davies forced the ball free.
The presence of Brumbies winger Joe Tomane getting involved, too, coming across from the other side of the ground, should have been a warning sign for Reds fans. It wouldn't be the last time he'd be involved in a try-saving situation in the match, and we're pulling apart that moment today on The Whiteboard.
The set-up was this: a 62nd minute Reds attacking scrum, roughly 10 metres out from the Brumbies try line, and maybe 20 metres in from touch to the left of the posts. The Reds had a deep, set-play backline configuration out to the right.
On initial viewing, the Brumbies seemed to have it well-covered one-on-one, and it was always going to be a matter of how well they coped with the Reds' running lines and decoys.
Reds left winger, Chris Feauai-Sautia, was already on the open side of the scrum, set to run a line inside Quade Cooper. This was a similar set-up to what Cooper used to run with Digby Ioane, and so the Brumbies certainly would've had that in mind.
With the scrum won, the wide run of Will Genia from the base of the scrum pushed Feauai-Sautia outside the channel Brumbies fly-half Matt Toomua was defending in, while the wide outside-in run of Anthony Fainga'a caused all sorts of trouble for Christian Lealiifano.
This set-up image shows the initial stages, though I have to concede that my lines-and-arrows technology hasn't done justice to the angle Fainga'a came back on, which was so acute that he finished up back on the inside of Lealiifano; almost to where Toomua was stationed in the defensive line.
With Fainga'a's line dragging Lealiifano back inwards, the Reds suddenly found themselves with a four-on-three overlap. The Reds had Ben Lucas and one other player stationed out wider, meaning Andrew Smith and Jesse Mogg had to stay wide in defence, too.
The next part of the play was perhaps the most surprising part of the set play, and given the success with which it worked, the Reds will be sure to run again this year.
With Cooper and outside centre Ben Tapuai running a similar line, Genia just needed to take advantage of the hole Lealiifano had left by finding one of the two runners. But it was Tapuai who led the charge, and as he took the pass from Genia, he did superbly well to pass straight back on the inside to the trailing Cooper.
Brumbies outside centre, Tevita Kuridrani, was always coming up hard on his opposite number - which the Reds were clearly banking on - and though he did put a decent hit on Tapuai, it wasn't quick enough to prevent the inside pass.
Cooper was now through the gap comfortably, and neither Lealiifano, desperately diving back from the inside, nor Smith's last-gasp attempt from the outside could prevent Cooper from scoring what looked like being a certain try.
But Tomane's rapid acceleration in behind the front line had him make contact with Cooper before the Reds and Wallabies playmaker could get across the try line, and he somehow managed to reef the ball free as he and Cooper went to ground.
It was the Brumbies' second get-out-of-jail in a matter of minutes, and it was no surprise that Tomane was swarmed upon by his very thankful team-mates.
But just as the Reds will be keeping this play up their sleeve, so too will other teams be going to school on how easily the Brumbies defence was opened up with the decoy run of Fainga'a. Likewise, the Brumbies will be doing some extra drills themselves to help them recognise these decoy runners earlier, and slide their defence accordingly.
Before the resulting scrum, the Brumbies made the equally surprising move to replace super-experienced tight-head prop Ben Alexander with rookie Ruan Smith. Alexander had had an outstanding game to that point, and the Brumbies enjoyed scrum dominance with Alexander packing down with Moore and Scott Sio.
Sio himself had been replaced by Smith's twin brother Jean-Pierre only just prior to the previous scrum, and so now they were about to pack a crucial defensive scrum with two relatively inexperienced props.
The effect was immediate. The Reds not only secured the tight-head scrum win, but with a superb second shove turned that tighthead into an unprecedented pushover try.
Reds captain, James Horwill, admitted post-match that he'd never been involved in a tighthead pushover try in his life, and if the Brumbies were able to have that moment again, you do have to wonder if they still would've replaced Alexander.
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