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ESPN SCRUM / ESPNscrum Columnist
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
Beauden Barrett knows when to play percentages
Brett McKay
May 15, 2014
Brett McKay dissects key plays that will have a major bearing on the Super Rugby title © Scrum.com
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There was really no contest for a Whiteboard candidate this week, and we flagged as much in Scrum5 on Monday. If there has been a better try scored in Super Rugby this season than the absolute bottler finished off by Hurricanes captain Conrad Smith against the Rebels in Melbourne last Friday night, then it's not readily coming to mind for me.

I honestly don't think there has been a better try this year, to be perfectly frank. And what's more, it's going to take something unbelievably brilliant between now and the end of the season to knock Smith's out of top spot in Try of the Year discussions. But we'll get to that try shortly. Before we break down the silky skills of the Hurricanes, I wanted to touch on something pretty special earlier in the same game.

Jason Woodward's cross-handed chip kick

Smith's try dominated the highlight reels, but the Rebels scored the first five-pointer of the night with some pretty handy skills of their own. Rebels scrum-half Luke Burgess took a Hurricanes clearing kick on the halfway line, and from the ruck, fly-half Bryce Hegarty threw a wonderful flat pass across the face of three Hurricanes forwards to find his fullback, Jason Woodward, in space.

Jason Woodward guided the ball onto his left foot with his right hand © Getty Images
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Woodward doesn't need a lot of room to find metres, and in no time at all he was well into the Hurricanes' half. He came to Hurricanes fullback Andre Taylor on the Canes' 22m line and chipped ahead into the space. Woodward was winning the race for the ball, but was pushed out of the contest by a Hurricanes defender while the ball broke sharply into the path of Hegarty, who'd trailed Woodward the whole way on the inside. Hegarty ran around and scored under the posts.

But hang on a minute - go back to the chip kick from Woodward.

Woodward, a natural right-foot kicker, actually chip-kicked over Taylor with his left foot. But more than that, he guided the ball onto his left foot with his right hand!

Now, stand up for a minute - don't worry about the people around you - and with a scrunched-up piece of paper or something football-shaped, just try and replicate that - guiding the 'ball' onto your left foot with your right hand.

Got that sorted?

Now back yourself up 40 metres and run at full pace back to the spot you were standing and then try that cross-handed chip kick again. Bloody hard to do, isn't it! (You probably should sit back down now because the people around you are looking at you funny.)

It's an unbelievable skill, but I don't think it's the first time I've seen Woodward doing this. I don't know whether he feels more confident chip-kicking with his left foot, or whether he does it to throw defenders off - it worked on Taylor - but he's definitely used this cross-handed technique before. Keep an eye out for it against Queensland Reds in Brisbane on Saturday night.

Try. Of. The. Year.

I tried for I don't know how long while producing this content to get a still shot of Andre Taylor's "dummy shape to kick and sidestep" dance move, but it happened way too quickly for my mouse-finger to pause at the right moment. Nevertheless, Taylor twice shaped to kick ahead and then kept running, having returned the Rebels clearing kick more than 50 metres upfield.

In truth, Taylor was very nearly bundled into touch but somehow kept the ball in play before it was recycled for another phase. Hurricanes No.9 TJ Perenara looked up again to find a deep-set attacking line, and he found fly-half Beauden Barrett in among the traffic. Barrett's next play was exquisite.

Beauden Barrett recognised the urgent need to kick-pass © Sky Sports / Fox Sports (Image Supplied)
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As I mentioned in Scrum5 on Monday, though Barrett had a deep attacking line set, and though putting the ball through the hands would've resulted in a numerical advantage for the Canes, the fly-half recognised that Cory Jane was in space and the ball needed to get him immediately in order to capitalise on that space. Remember at this point, the Hurricanes were back in the lead courtesy of Barrett's goal-kicking, but a try at this moment would put the game out of reach for the Rebels. The percentage play was probably putting the ball through the hands, but the likelihood of success was much lower.

Barrett's flat kick, pin-point in its accuracy, did find Jane out wide, and the winger had just enough time to accept the catch before he was brought to ground by Rebels flanker Scott Fuglistaller, who had been on his own out wide. Fuglistaller was in the process of getting back to his feet as Jane looked for offload options.

Cory Jane's seated offload had to be just right © Getty Images
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In the image above, you can see that Jane has spotted Conrad Smith, and with Rebels winger Tom English arriving to form a ruck, or at least to attempt to stop the offload, Jane knew he had to get this offload right.

Look carefully at Smith's left foot in the image above - that's the five-metre line in front of him, probably another metre or two ahead. Jane had been brought down a similar metre or two before the try line.

Jane not only got the offload away; he was able to throw the ball not just straight up on the spot but backwards far enough that Smith could run onto it and try to evade English before ultimately crashing through the young Rebels winger to score the scintillating try.

It was the perfect culmination of a passage of play laden with sublime, silky skills.

Rebels 15-25 Hurricanes (Australia only)
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd

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