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

Julian ‘The Bus’ Savea finished one move superbly, while Ben Smith’s forward pass spoiled another.

THIS PIECE FOLLOWS on from Part 1 yesterday, which you can read here.

Julian Savea’s second try

Just over four minutes after Savea dotted down his first try from New Zealand’s opening line-out attack of the game, the Kiwis created another score from the same source and finished by the same man.

While the opportunity for New Zealand to launch that first score came about as from an error by Mike Brown, the second try stemmed from a superb restart by Aaron Cruden.

Cruden Restart

Having conceded a penalty to England, Steve Hansen’s men were intent on getting the ball back as swiftly as possible. Fortunately for them, Cruden’s restarts short to the right are among the best in the world.

Kieran Read chases well and forces the ball loose as he competes with Joe Launchbury, before his teammates swarm in on Courtney Lawes to force the Northampton lock into touch.

From the moment the assistant referee signals for a line-out to when Dane Coles throws the ball in, just 13 seconds elapse. The Kiwis are focused on getting the ball back into play as quickly as possible, striking at England as the visitors organise themselves.

The ball boy is still on the pitch as Coles throws to Read, while Richie McCaw is already moving away from his starting ‘half-back’ position behind the line-out. Simultaneously, Aaron Smith moves from the front of the line-out formation into the hole vacated by McCaw.

McCaw

What it all means is that New Zealand suddenly have an extra man in their backline attack as McCaw takes on the role of first receiver. Dylan Hartley does look to track the openside from a similar starting position behind England’s line-out, but he’s already three steps behind.

Ben Youngs, meanwhile, is in his usual defensive position, marking the blindside channel in case New Zealand look to attack back down that space [which they did later in the half with major success].

With the ball in McCaw’s hands, Ma’a Nonu arrives on a flat line, straightening the Kiwi attack and forcing Kyle Eastmond to make another demanding defensive decision.

Nonu Line

The presence of right wing Cory Jane [circled above] in behind McCaw adds another stress for Eastmond, providing another potential target for the openside’s pass and another reason for the Bath centre to stay tight to Freddie Burns.

That’s exactly that Eastmond does, initially lining Nonu up despite Burns having the Kiwi 12 covered. When the image is frozen, it is of course easy to pick these things out but in live play, the amount of movement from New Zealand [Cruden is drifting wide behind Nonu too] makes it a hugely demanding decision.

McCaw releases the pass behind Nonu to Cruden, and as we see below, the decoy running of Nonu and Jane has been enough to draw Eastmond in, leaving the space on his outside shoulder for Cruden to run into.

Jane Animation

It’s worth noting the space between Eastmond and Manu Tuilagi in the instance above, which echoed a major problem for the pair in the first half before the Bath man was withdrawn.

While Eastmond’s decision to initially bite in exaggerates the spacing here, it was an issue for the entire 40 minutes when England had to defend. We don’t know if Eastmond was getting any communication from Burns inside him, reassuring him that there was no need to bite in, but we repeatedly saw this hole open up in between Eastmond and Tuilagi.

Bath coach Mike Ford has suggested that Eastmond was not individually responsible for the first half defensive errors and, while he is obviously slightly biased, there is certainly truth in that assertion.

Inside centre is a difficult position to defend on line-out attack, with New Zealand’s brilliant movement taking full advantage of that.

Returning to the play at hand, Cruden makes the scything break and eventually forces Mike Brown to bite in on him, with Marland Yarde struggling to get across and allow the fullback to drift out onto the attackers wider out.

Brown Bites In

As pointed out by the New Zealand-based commentary team, Cruden has the option of hitting Malakai Fekitoa short off his left shoulder as Brown bites in, but opts to go for the long pass to Savea out wide.

While the pass is not as accurate as Cruden would have intended, the sensational pick up and finish by ‘The Bus’ compensates and sees a wonderful line-out attack end with five deserved points.

Savea Pick-Up

Julian Savea’s disallowed try

Perhaps the best of New Zealand’s three excellent line-outs attacks in the opening 15 minutes against England was the one that ended without a try. Hansen’s charges used the same move they attempted for Savea’s first score, but pulled it off successfully this time.

Like earlier in the game, the passage starts with a good line-out maul from the Kiwis, driving forward five metres before the ball is released. It’s worth noting that the maul is still making progress when McCaw pops the ball off to scrum-half Smith; front foot ball for the backs and a nightmare to defend for England.

Similarly to the two tries we have already looked at, there are major spacing issues for the England midfield defence in this passage. Out-half Burns is drawn close to the maul as Jane comes off his wing to offer himself as a carrier off Smith.

As a result, Eastmond is drawn in tighter to line up opposite Cruden. But as we have seen in the video above, the Kiwi out-half runs that now familiar line out the back of Nonu and into the space between England’s centres.

Spacing

Throughout all of these examples, Tuilagi has been lining up directly opposite New Zealand’s outside centre Fekitoa. Many midfield defences will start ‘tight’ to the set-piece and then use a slight drift in getting across the pitch as the opposition move the ball wider.

However, England defence coach Andy Farrell prefers his defenders to line up ‘square’ to attackers, advancing straight up the pitch to tackle them, rather than ‘showing’ them the outside shoulder.

The Kiwis are aware of this, and took full advantage with these line-out attacks.

Eastmond Can't Drift

As we see above, Eastmond is now in the position where he has to stick on Nonu running a direct line back against the grain, even with Cruden drifting behind him. If Eastmond slides past Nonu onto Cruden too early, the Kiwi 12 will make a clean bust of the English line.

Nonu makes an excellent pass to Cruden off his left shoulder, as Tuilagi realises that he is going to have to adjust and deal with the out-half. However, with Chris Ashton also up flat in the line, the pair of England defenders are now in no man’s land.

Ashton Tuilagi Nowhere

Cruden has the vision and handling skill to loft a basketball pass over Ashton’s head to Ben Smith, who is suddenly in space with Savea outside him. Again, Brown is the last defender for England, utterly stranded.

Two-on-one

It’s a real shame that Smith could not finish the move off by providing Savea with a pass that was not forward, but the entire attack from the Kiwis remains superb.

England struggled against New Zealand’s line-out attack inside the opening 15 minutes on Saturday, ultimately giving the home side a lead they couldn’t recover from.

This article was written for www.therugbysite.com – a technical resource for coaches and players of all levels.

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

Aaron Smith underlines the importance of intelligent support play

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Murray Kinsella

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