From the sublime to the ridiculously easy
May 29, 2014
Brett McKay dissects the key plays of the Super Rugby season © Scrum.com
Yet more brilliant tries and skill on show in Super Rugby round 15, particularly from a couple of outstandingly good New Zealand derby games.
Israel Dagg's last-ditch tackle on big Highlanders winger Patrick Osborne deserves a special mention, because it wasn't just a try-saver but a match-saver in that, by the time the television match official had deliberated over replay after replay, there was no time left.
As mentioned in Scrum5 on Monday, I'm still not sure how the TMO could be so certain the ball didn't touch some skerrick of the goal line before being grounded on the touch-in-goal line, particularly since Osborne was diving parallel to the touch line before Dagg's contact pushed him along the goal line.
Nevertheless, it was an amazing tackle to end an amazing game, and the narrow Crusaders win could well be the difference between them topping the New Zealand conference at the end of the regular season, and having to run the finals gauntlet from a wildcard place. A massive moment in the possible context of their season.
But we're not going to go on about any further why we still think that should've been a try; instead, we've got two pieces of play from the weekend that made us sit up and hit rewind.
The sublime: Beauden Barrett's kick-pass
You could be excused for thinking The Whiteboard is starting to become a Beauden Barrett highlights reel, such is the regularity he's appeared of late, but that's always going to be the case when an exciting young player is having the season of his career. He's surely a walk-up start for the All Blacks' No.10 jersey to face England in Auckland on June 7, isn't he?
Hurricanes 45-8 Chiefs (Australia only)%]
When you are in a real purple patch of form, the bounce of the ball is always favourable and things that should never work just do. Barrett pulled off one such play against the Chiefs on Saturday.
The Chiefs were well into the Hurricanes half, and looking to attack, when the play suddenly broke down with a handling error. Barrett spied the loose ball in behind a number of Chiefs players, and pounced.
Now, in normal circumstances, you'd think a player would just dive on the loose ball, or perhaps try to pick it up and find a support player. Well, Barrett saw the support player first, and so it became a matter of getting the ball to him to create the possible counter-attacking opportunity. So what did Barrett do?
Beauden Barrett showed tremendous vision and confidence against the Chiefs © Sky Sports / Fox Sports (Image Supplied)
Yes, he kicked the ball (with his wrong foot, no less!) to his support player, Cory Jane, who immediately found himself in space and took off.
Two things to look at in the image above.
Firstly, that's the Hurricanes' 22 metre line in between Barrett in the centre of the shot, and Jane in the top right corner. Jane took the kick-pass on the full and made the Chiefs' 22m before he ran out of support options and took the ball to ground.
Secondly, look at the graphic in the top left. It's the 23rd minute of the match, only six points between the teams, and Barrett pulls out that trick in that part of the ground at that moment! That's confidence!
The Hurricanes scored only five or so minutes later, and went to the break leading 21-8. They then came out in the second half and blew the Chiefs off the park to win 45-8. Makes you wonder what might've been if Barrett had shanked his kick and play had come back for the scrum, doesn't it?
The ridiculously easy: the old 'dummy switch' play still works a treat
Fox Sports' sideline eye, and former Wallabies captain, George Gregan, summed it up best when he offered, "there's no school like the old school, is there?" as the replays of the Waratahs' first try against Melbourne Rebels flashed up last Friday night.
As complicated and as technical as rugby is getting at the professional level, it must have been wonderful for all the park fly-halves watching to see the Tahs score off a set play that still features towards the top of your average fourth-grade list of set plays.
Proving that everything old is new again, Waratahs No.10 Bernard Foley called and executed perfectly the old "dummy switch" play from a ruck on the Rebels' 40 metre line, using inside centre Kurtley Beale as the decoy and bringing left winger Rob Horne in from the blind side.
The Waratahs fooled the Rebels with one of the oldest tricks in the playbook © Sky Sports / Fox Sports (Image Supplied)
The positioning of the ruck and the Rebels' defenders presented the opportunity for Foley. Directly in front of him were three Rebels forwards, and any fly-half surely wants to have a crack at a bunch of forwards 40 metres from the try line. It might not have been seen as a try-scoring opportunity, but it was certainly an opportunity to break the gain line and hopefully find support players in space in behind. The try-scoring opportunities would likely come later.
Ruck'n Maul: Greg Growden hails the form of Rob Horne%]
As you can see in the image above, Colby Fainga'a and Laurie Weeks actually cover the switch in play between Foley and Beale quite well. Fainga'a is moving out on Foley, while Weeks has come back in with Beale. Unfortunately, neither of them have seen Horne trailing in behind.
On that front, we probably have to lay an amount of blame on Rebels lock Luke Jones. If you look again at the Rebels' line, and mark off against the Waratahs backs, you can see the Rebels have actually got the numerical advantage, seven on six, if you work from Jones and Horne upwards.
Jones would have had the best view of Horne coming in from the blind, and he should've been telling Weeks to keep sliding left to cover Horne, with Jones staying on Beale as he came through.
The Rebels really should have had the play covered © Getty Images
The second image shows that Beale should definitely have been Jones' man, and if Weeks were further left than he was, where all he could offer was a grab on Horne's jumper as he ran past, the Rebels would've had the play well covered. An obvious miscommunication, unfortunately.
Melbourne Rebels 19-41 Waratahs (Australia only)%]
The positioning of Rebels inside centre Mitch Inman is interesting too. If you look at the first image, he's essentially marking no-one; in the second image, he's left in no-man's land watching the play go past.
Horne made the clean break, of course, and after heading infield initially, had to veer back to the corner to get past Rebels fullback Jason Woodward and crash over to score. Horne's in great form, too, and his Wallabies squad recall is well-deserved after straight-running and hole-hitting like this since Waratahs coach Michael Cheika turned him into a winger this season.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd
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