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Dublin: 20 °C Tuesday 23 July, 2019

Conor O'Shea's Quins scored a delightful set-piece try against Saracens

Harlequins enjoyed victory over the reigning Premiership champions and this score was important.

SET-PIECE TRIES are a pleasure to watch and a pleasure to score.

Conor O’Shea’s Harlequins provided us with a delightful example from a lineout platform in their 29-23 win over Saracens in last weekend’s Premiership action.


Aesthetically, it’s a sumptuous score from Quins and a deeper look at the try underlines the intelligence and hard work that went into creating it.

From a lineout just outside the Saracens 22, key target Charlie Matthews begins in the middle of the Quins formation, before dropping to the tail.


The movement is important but, as we see above, Matthews actively encourages Saracens to track him when he waves his right arm before Rob Buchanan’s throw.

Jumping at the tail of the lineout for Saracens is Jackson Wray, who looks to get in the air with a lift from Mako Vunipola behind him. However, it’s almost immediately clear that Quins are going even longer with their throw, meaning Maro Itoje doesn’t attempt to lift Wray from the front, skirting past, and his jump is abandoned.


In crossing the 15-metre line, Quins immediately ensure that the lineout is over. That’s by design in this instance, rather than the throw going just a little too long.

As we’ve highlighted above, the lineout ending means Saracens begin to race forward in defence, leaving them susceptible to a late change of direction. We’ve seen many other teams use the 15-metre line in this manner, Joe Schmidt’s Ireland among them.

It should be noted that the throw itself from Buchanan here is excellent, perfectly arced to find Matthews and launched with enough power to ensure Saracens are chasing the ball even before it’s in the Quins lock’s hands.

Back Pod

Having been beaten by the throw, Sarries make urgent attempts to get to Matthews, presuming that he will come to deck. Their thoughts are on opposing a maul attempt, or even ripping the ball loose.

Wray, Vunipola and Jim Hamilton are all looking to move towards Matthews in the image above, while Itoje [circled in yellow] is attempting to reach up at the ball, just after it’s been popped back down to Danny Care.

The manner in which the Quins scrum-half stays hidden is crucial to the try, as he waits until the last moment to show, thereby ensuring that Hamilton has honey-potted towards the ball to leave a gap.

Block, Hidden, Ashton

There’s also a clever bit of subtle blocking at the front of the lineout, where Joe Marler walks forward and across Petrus du Plessis just before Care receives the ball. There’s no major contact but it delays the Sarries tighthead enough to leave Care with a clean channel of space to run into.

While all of this is happening, Saracens’ blindside wing Chris Ashton is advancing infield to cover in behind the frontline defence [red arrow above]. He is taking his cue from the frontline, and though he only takes three or four steps infield, they end up leaving him stranded when Care breaks through.

The support line from Buchanan back in the five-metre channel is ideally-timed, with the hooker having held his width and burst forward after his excellent throw.


As highlighted above, Quins’ wing Ross Chisholm is also bursting forward as Care receives the ball, luring the Saracens defence further upfield and drawing their focus towards him. The same running line also provides a second possible outlet for Care once he gets behind Sarries.

The scrum-half’s acceleration and ability to change direction at speed are important to the score too, as he shifts off his right foot, behind Saracens’ scrum-half Neil de Kock, and gives himself the space to find Buchanan with his pass.


Quins’ victory at the Stoop was about much more than this set-piece score, but it will certainly have been one of the more satisfying elements of the win.

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About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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