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'Unfortunately, Connacht just made the wrong decision in this case'

The final scrum offered Andy Friend’s men a 15v13 chance to win late on against Munster.

Connacht had a huge chance late on against Munster.
Connacht had a huge chance late on against Munster.

WHATSAPP GROUPS AROUND the rugby world will have been abuzz with chats about Connacht’s final scrum attack against Munster since Saturday night.

Andy Friend’s men had a 15 against 13 numerical advantage with two Munster players in the sin bin but they missed their chance to steal a late, late victory. As the Connacht boss himself said, “we weren’t smart.”

Connacht’s missed chance featured prominently in Eoin Toolan and Murray Kinsella’s chat on today’s edition of The42 Rugby Weekly Extra – an analysis podcast available to members of The42 every Monday.

The scrum attack – which saw Connacht carry off the base through number eight Paul Boyle – was unsurprisingly flagged in The42 members rugby WhatsApp group, with both John and Emmet asking what the westerners were thinking.

“We have hindsight, which is nice, but stacking the fullback John Porch behind the scrum was pretty unnecessary because with such a big blindside, Munster are forced to defend with two players on their shortside,” said Eoin on today’s podcast.

“They take CJ Stander off the back of the scrum to defend out on that left side with Chris Farrell.

“Connacht can afford to leave just one there on their right or even stack the right wing, Peter Sullivan, behind the scrum with the ability to go either way. To stack Porch there just denies them another number on the left.

“All Munster have on Connacht’s left is three defenders with Mike Haley defending at nine, so it’s three-and-a-half, if you will. Stacking Porch behind and having the number eight, Paul Boyle, pick the ball was just a really poor option.”

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So what might have worked in this instance?

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“If you stacked Sullivan behind the scrum, it affords Connacht the chance to attack with six players on their left against Munster’s three-and-a-bit, if you include Haley,” explained Eoin, who is an assistant coach and head of analysis with the Kintetsu Liners in Japan.

“A pretty common play these days is having the scrum-half, Kieran Marmion, playing to Sullivan coming onto the openside to run at Munster’s first defender, which is Ben Healy.

“You could have Sammy Arnold running the short blocker line at Damian de Allende and then de Allende has a decision to make.

“If de Allende sits on the short runner, Sullivan can play out the back to Carty and now you have Jack Carty running at Keith Earls with Porch out on the left with Tom Daly and Alex Wootton, so possibly a four-on-one.

“The problem if you go down the blindside is that Connacht needed the conversion to win the game, so depending on how wide out they score, it’s tougher.

“Carty had just nailed a touchline conversion minutes earlier to give Connacht an opportunity but it’s a high-pressure kick in those windy conditions.

“I think you attack the open, use your numerical advantage, and give yourself a six against three-and-a-half. That’s the play I probably would have gone for but these things need to be planned in advance in scenario-based sessions whether in the meeting room or on the field so players have clarity about what to do in different situations.

“Unfortunately, they just made the wrong decision in this case and Munster defended really well.”

Eoin went on to explain how scenario-planning works in professional rugby clubs, while today’s episode of The42 Rugby Weekly Extra featured plenty of analysis of how Munster went about building the lead they just about managed to cling onto at the death.

The lads also broke down Leinster’s bonus-point victory over Ulster on Friday night – which featured some nice attacking variety from Leo Cullen’s side – and discussed the current uncertainty within professional rugby. 

You can sign up as a member of The42 here in order to listen to the extra rugby podcasts and a wide range of other pods on sportswriting, football, GAA, and coaching, as well as getting access to our member-only Whatsapp groups and weekly newsletters.

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