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Analysis: Jared Payne's sumptuous offloads shine in Ireland's historic win

The Ulsterman was outstanding as he started at fullback for the first time in Test rugby.

THE PEOPLE GOT what the people wanted. Jared Payne shifted to 15 and produced a few moments of magic for Ireland.

One of his most important actions in Cape Town was to combine with Robbie Henshaw for the thumping hit on JP Pietersen in the right corner in the final play of the game.

Ireland’s head coach Jared Payne Iain Henderson and Jared Payne 'Did you see the one down the right, Joe?' Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Paddy Jackson and Rhys Ruddock piled in to ensure the Springboks wing couldn’t give Elton Jantjies a chance to steal the victory with a touchline conversion.

Payne only had to complete two tackles but his positional work in the backfield for Ireland was strong, while he also had three touches with the boot. He carried well in a busy attacking outing but it was the offloading that will be remembered.

Payne’s most notable effort came in the build-up to Conor Murray’s second-half try but there were four other clever offloads out of contact from the New Zealand native.

Interestingly, no other Irish player threw a successful offload against the Boks. Murray attempted one to Iain Henderson in the first half but it resulted in a knock-on and a waste of good field position.

Keith Earls also attempted one early in the second half but his effort found Jordi Murphy’s foot.

Short-range starter

Payne has an offloading ability that others in the Ireland squad simply don’t have. Having honed the skill over the course of his career, the Ulsterman sees offloading opportunities far quicker than most and executes with precision and confidence.

Payne

Payne’s first offload of the game is a relatively simple affair but we can see how it allows Ireland to plough forward for further gains after the initial half-break by the fullback off Paddy Jackson’s inside pass.

It’s a low-risk offload with one hand as Murray is clearly open and within inches of Payne.

OL1

The best was yet to come from Payne but this was a flash of his thought process around the contact area; always looking to keep the ball alive.

Schmidt special

The 30-year-old’s second offload came at a crucial point in the game, with South Africa having moved into a 13-10 against 13-man Ireland. Joe Schmidt’s men appeared rattled at this stage and needed to gather their composure to remain in the game.

When in doubt, they went to a classic Schmidt play off lineout.

Payne OL 2

From a five-man set-piece, Jordi Murphy carries in midfield and the expectation from South Africa initially is that Ireland will come around the corner to carry.

Instead, their forwards set up to the right of the ruck and the Boks adapt their defence. Murray hits Rory Best and bursts away on a loop line around the hooker.

Loop

We can see above that Murray’s actions draw both Faf de Klerk and Lood de Jager away from the fringe of the ruck and that means Payne is powering into space on his late, disguised line from in behind the ruck.

We’ve seen Ireland run this play a number of times in Schmidt’s reign and it proves effective once again in this case as Payne makes the half-break.

Frans Malherbe dives to tackle him but Payne’s hands are completely free and he offloads to Jack McGrath, the loosehead having worked through the Boks’ defensive line from this starting position to the right of Best.

The key to the success of this offload from Payne is that he has won the tackle before he frees the ball. Thanks to the clever starter player, the fullback’s upper body is completely open and he’s in an excellent position to offload.

McGrath carries forward and with Ireland now in range, Paddy Jackson drops a crucial goal five phases later. Taking the game back to 13-13 at this point – with only 13 players on the pitch – was huge for Ireland and Payne’s offload played a starring part.

Showstopper

As we mentioned in our piece on Ireland’s attack in the opening 20 minutes against the Boks, the maul was strong.

It truly laid the foundation for Payne’s opening try and again for the Murray score in the second half. While it was Payne’s offload that stood out most in the build-up, that piece of brilliance came only after Ireland’s seven-man pack had marched the Boks 10 metres backwards at maul time.

With that superb effort bringing Ireland up towards the South African 22 the progress was finally halted and referee Mathieu Raynal warned Ireland to use the ball. They did so to great effect.

Payne OL 3

Bouncing back towards the touchline where the lineout came from, Ireland are three-on-three.

However, when Payne is up against a forward in the defensive line – hooker Adriaan Strauss is opposite him here – that balance of the numbers can tip towards Ireland at times.

We see below how the defence is shaping up after Payne receives the pass from Jackson.

2on2

Strauss is lining up to tackle Payne and Mvovo is set to deal with Andrew Trimble on the right-hand touchline.

Payne swerves at pace to the outside of Strauss, however, and suddenly it’s not clear to Mvovo whether his captain is going to be able to make the tackle. It’s a tight channel but Payne’s injection of pace on that clever running line is enough to lure Mvovo into turning in.

Shoulders In

Now both South African defenders are targeting Payne. In a more open area of the field, that might mean scope for a pre-contact pass from Payne to Trimble but in this tight channel Mvovo would then probably be able to spin and scrag the Ireland wing.

Payne’s rapidly-computing rugby brain sees the space and opportunity for a one-handed offload that many players aren’t capable of.

OL Replay

Payne is carrying the ball in his right hand and he cleverly reaches out his left to push down the left arm of Strauss.

Strauss understands what’s going to happen here and is stretching that left arm up to get at the ball in Payne’s right, but the Ireland fullback’s own left hand just does enough to push it down.

1

While that is happening, Payne’s rugby brain is also ensuring his right arm extends up and over the right hand of Mvovo as the Springboks wing looks to target the ball.

2

The grip strength on the ball from Payne, sandwiching it between the palm and outstretched fingers of his hand and the inside base of his forearm, is exceptional. The ball clips Mvovo’s thumb but Payne’s carry is totally secure.

All the while, Payne continues to stride upfield and he’s now beyond both tackles with his right arm through the contact and free to sumptuously release the ball into Trimble’s grateful arms. It’s quite stunning skill from Payne.

Trimble attempts to pass back inside to the supporting Jackson but le Roux gets a hand to the ball, forcing it to drop in front of Best for a firm carry.

Murray

Trimble clears out and then Murray takes over with what is becoming a typical finish. The Munster man scored three tries from close-range during the Six Nations and his power from this distance is becoming an important weapon for Ireland.

He identifies the chink between Eben Etzebeth and Lood de Jager – who rushes out of the line – and darts into the gap, managing to ride Etzebeth’s high tackle impressively.

Having not been held, he rolls back to his feet and stretches out to finish for 14-man Ireland.

Always alive

Even when receiving kicks under pressure, Payne looks for the offloading opportunity.

Lay off

He fields a South African kick inside his own half here and even though he’s being driven backwards in the tackle of Willie le Roux, the Ulsterman can see that Henshaw to his right is available.

For Payne, it’s simply a case that Henshaw is better positioned and not under pressure from the defence. Payne keeps the ball alive and Ireland play away to a far more suitable ruck than the one they would have faced had Payne retained the ball.

Counter offloader

Ireland’s kick return under Schmidt can often be quite direct as they look to immediately win back as many metres as possible and set up a ruck in an area where it can be resourced rapidly by their forwards.

Payne did some of that for Ireland in Cape Town but he also showed one particular glimpse of the extra element of skill he brings even to that task.

Counter Offload

Jantjies doesn’t find touch with his clearing kick out of the Boks’ 22 and Payne is lying in wait. Immediately he eats up the metres in running back at the home side but as he approaches contact he identifies an opportunity.

Again, it’s Mvovo who is exploited as Payne forces the Boks wing to turn in. It’s remarkably similar to the offload for the Murray try as Payne darts to the outside of Rudy Paige and lures Mvovo into turning his shoulders in, leaving Trimble free on the touchline.

Payne again carries into contact in his right hand, strides through the collision and gets that right arm free in beyond Mvovo to release Trimble.

 

3

Again, it’s a beautiful bit of skill.

Ireland surge into the Boks’ 22 for a period of pressure that very nearly ends with Jackson’s second drop goal, only for his attempt to slip narrowly wide to the right.

Nonetheless, it’s Payne’s offloading ability that once again helps to put Ireland in an advantageous position and it will be intriguing to see if the Boks can get a better grip on the fullback next weekend in Johannesburg.

Payne’s switch to fullback for the first time with Ireland was a successful one overall. He was largely an assured presence at the back, although he will have been disappointed to be beaten in the air by Mvovo under one high ball.

In attack, the increased space and freedom to choose his battles appeared to sit easily with Payne. His footballing intellect makes him a superb outside centre but Ireland’s injury problems may just mean they have found their best fullback.

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Murray Kinsella

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