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Dublin: 13 °C Friday 10 July, 2020

Analysis: New Zealand show clinical edge with tries from line-out platform

We’ve taken a detailed look at the Kiwis’ attacking out of touch last weekend.

SET-PIECE ATTACK offers teams a wonderful chance to create try-scoring chances, given that the side in possession can pre-plan their moves and exploit the space created by the forwards being restricted to one small area of the pitch.

New Zealand gave an excellent demonstration of exactly that in their 36-13 victory over England last weekend, blitzing Stuart Lancaster’s side with three line-out attacks in the opening 15 minutes of the encounter, two of which led to tries.

While the third effort didn’t result in a further five points, the Kiwis’ superb start to the Test match dampened any early English optimism, while also providing them with a 12-point cushion on the scoreboard with less than a quarter of the game elapsed.

Julian Savea’s first try

While this wasn’t the cleanest of tries from New Zealand, there were many elements of high quality that went into constructing the score. The line-out actually stemmed from an England error [Mike Brown kicking directly into touch after bringing the ball back into his own 22], a somewhat symbolic incident in the second minute of play.

Kiwi hooker Dane Coles hits Brodie Retallick towards the front of the line-out, and with England competing in the air through Joe Launchbury, it provides the attacking team’s pack with an ideal chance to get their maul moving forward.

'Maul... drive it.'

In the image above, we see New Zealand beginning to launch the maul into the space opened by England’s decision to compete for the line-out throw. With scrum-half Aaron Smith screaming  ”maul, drive it,” the forwards do exactly that.

It’s by no means the most impressive driven maul of all time, but New Zealand manage to eke out a few crucial metres and get the attack onto the front foot. From there, the backs take over, starting with Smith’s stunning pass.

Laser Pass

It’s a remarkable piece of skill from the Highlanders half-back, a laser beam of a pass over a distance of approximately 20 metres and with an incredibly low trajectory. Smith’s rocket means the Kiwis are suddenly in midfield and running at the English defence.

The length of the pass also cuts out any possibility of Billy Vunipola or Freddie Burns [who start close into the maul] getting across the pitch to first receiver Ma’a Nonu. As we see below, that forces inside centre Kyle Eastmond to commit to his opposite number.

Hole Opens Up

In turn, that means Eastmond can’t drift out onto Aaron Cruden, who has taken a line behind Nonu and is available to run into the space between the England centres.

While the pre-contact pass from Nonu doesn’t arrive to free Cruden to run into that gap, Eastmond is passive with his tackle attempt, allowing Nonu to release the ball even after being engaged in contact.

Being aware of the bad situation England are in defensively, Eastmond could have unleashed himself into the hit on Nonu, attempting to snuff out the danger before it could develop any further.

Unfortunately for Lancaster’s side, that hit does not transpire and Nonu is free to offload messily, before Cory Jane sweeps up the ball and feeds Smith, who has worked hard to follow play.

All 14 Tightly Bunched

At this stage, Chris Ashton and Manu Tuilagi have come infield in an attempt to shut down the play or even regather possession for England, but the end result is a congestion of defenders in one tight area of space on the pitch.

Smith’s wonderful pirouette out of the challenge of Ashton is followed instantly by another remarkable pass, this time one-handed. Such a pass likely makes up part of the scrum-half’s training regime, and he can rely on the skill under pressure as a result.

Smith Pass

Mike Brown is left utterly stranded as England’s last defender and with a 2-on-1 scenario, Ben Smith and Julian Savea are never going to be stopped.


In the second part of this piece, we’ll take a look at the two other incisive New Zealand attacks from line-outs in the opening 15 minutes against England last weekend.

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Murray Kinsella

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