Thursday, July 18, 2013

3rd Test film breakdown–Part 2

The final part of a detailed look at How The (3rd) Test Was Won by Conor Philpott… (click here for part one)

The second test saw the Lions kick a lot as did the final test where it differed was how they kicked. In the opening two games we saw box kicks used quite a bit as well as garryowens  rarely did the Lions kick for territory. Jonathan Davies was used as a kicking option in this game and his left boot was very accurate and it took a great deal of pressure of Johnny Sexton. As I highlighted in the first test Sexton also liked to chip it over the flat Australian defence. This tactic would be pivotal to Sexton’s try. In his own 22 Sexton chips over the defence and the ball bounces around the ten metre line of the Lions after some indecision from I believe Joe Tomane North pounces on the ball and offloads to Davies in the tackle who manages to get rid of the ball before being driven out into touch where by an Australian brings the ball over the sideline. The Lions go from being deep in their own 22 to being on the edge of the Australian one with a superbly executed play and credit goes to Sexton, North and Davies for their work.

From the lineout the Lions go through several phases doing good work around the middle of the park and the right hand side of the field wearing down the Australian defence. Now we begin to see Gatland’s philosophy emerge and know why it can be effective. Decent carrying from both backs and forwards has left the Australians exposed on the right side of their defence (left attacking side for the Lions), Murray gives quick ball to Sexton and the threat is immediately apparent. Roberts is a decoy (black line) so  as attacking options the Lions have Bowe (green), Davies (blue), North (red circle) and Halfpenny (out of shot) while the Australians have Lealiifano, Joe Tomane and Will Genia who is acting as a sweeper (not in shot)


Halfpenny (blue) joins the line after Bowe offloads to Davies who is on his way to escaping the clutches of Lealiifano and North (red) is still outside if needs be. I’ve circled Johnny Sexton whose support play here should be noted he does a great job of keeping up with the play and giving the option inside as the play begins to develop.


Halfpenny takes the ball from Davies shows superb acceleration and sells a nice dummy to Genia. George Smith does well to grab hold of him but he manages to offload to Sexton who races in under the post. The score shows Gatland’s style at its most effective level combined with some lovely hands and some individual brilliance from Halfpenny and nice support from Sexton.

It reminds me of a similar opportunity for Australia in the second test. Notably, they had several crucial knockons, turnovers or penalties go against them. The Australians were guilty of forcing things instead of gradually wearing down the Lions defence they often gave the pass that wasn’t on that eventually would lead to lost ground or a turnover. There were several examples of Australia’s poor play with possession of the ball and how they managed to ruin a lot of their chances but I think the next image showcases this better than most. The Aussies have finally managed to strign some good play together, and on the 8th phase they are beginning to find some holes in the Lions defence. O’Connor lays off to Beale and the Wallabies have a 2 man overlap. It looks like real trouble for the Lions and a score is highly probable, however Beale lays his eye off the ball and spills it forward.



Now onto more sublime Halfpenny play. Genia clears his lines but fails to find touch the kick is too long for anyone to chase and Halfpenny is given a good 20m of space to run into and he chooses to do so. He shows great acceleration and footwork  to fend off both Genia and Joe Tomane and executes the 2 on 1 with George North to perfection and North scores his second try of the test series he won’t get many easier than that in his career!


In the second test Halfpenny had a chance to counter but chose not to take it, while I imagine he wouldn’t have scored it what annoyed me here was that his first instinct was to kick and that he didn’t even look up at the space in front of him or the options he had. Halfpenny has a comfortable 10m in which to run into a fractured Oz defensive line is full of holes and opportunities like it was for North’s try he also has Bowe to use if he wants the pass is risky but makeable and Bowe would certainly make ground but he doesn’t even think of these options simply kicking it away.


Finally we have Jamie Roberts’ try. The Lions have earned a line out just outside the Australian 22 and secure it with Murray taking the ball on. in the still below he has options in both North and Roberts. Hooper and James O’Connor are focusing solely on North while Lealiifano is opposite Roberts but seems to have his eyes on the ball and the possibility of North getting it.


Milliseconds later (yes literally) Lealiifano takes half a step to the left. Murray is now about to pass to Roberts. That one small step takes Lealiifano out of it and he doesn’t have enough time to adequately adjust and get to Roberts who shows great speed and burst to scamper away for the easy score.


That’s it you’ll be glad to know. The Lions won the test series well in the end, the bold choices paid off in most aspects with Faletau’s carrying aiding greatly as did the work of Hibbard and O’Brien in the pack. Davies’ kicking game helped although I think BOD may have been as effective had he played. The gameplan had its issues but was largely successful. Had the Lions not been so dominant in the scrum I wonder would they have won but that’s neither here nor there. Congrats to Warren and company on a successful tour.

Conor Philpott (@cphilpott95) is a proud Corkonian, and a massive sports fan with rugby being his sport of choice. Be it Munster, his club Highfield, the Lions or Ireland, Conor will probably be watching rugby in some shape or form


Taken by JLP from RDS press box on Nov 16, 2019