The Anatomy of a Try: Darcy Graham vs Wales
I'm a huge fan of using strike plays off first phase ball and in Wales defeat of Scotland, we saw one of the best-constructed strike moves of this years 6 Nations.
I’m a huge fan of using strike plays off first phase ball and in Wales defeat of Scotland we saw one of the best-constructed strike moves of this years 6 Nations.
Dual Code international Jonathan (Jiffy) Davies once mentioned of his time playing Rugby League that (as a back) he loved scrum ball because it let him have a one on one with his opposite number.
If we think about it he’s right and this truism holds true when we look at Rugby Union.
The set piece as an attacking platform is one of the few occasions the attacking team has all the advantages in its corner:
• The field isn’t congested with defenders
• The attacking side isn’t losing numbers to the ruck
• Backs are faced almost man-for-man out wide
Scotland are a wonderfully skilled attacking side, playing with tempo and excellent on-ball decision making under pressure. Though their championship has been devastated with injuries their growing strength in depth has been showcased with some scintillating attacking play.
Against Wales, despite a poor first half, they showed some real glimpses of how good an attacking side they can be, matching Wales for 10 clean breaks but beating an astounding 38 defenders culminating in Graham’s wonderful try.
So let’s break it down in more detail.
The Anatomy of a Try
We join the game around the 57-minute mark. Scotland have started to build some good momentum, taking Wales wide of low phases and finding space around the 13 channel; with Hastings, in particular, making Parkes and Davis earn their crust.
This sustained attacking momentum finally yields a penalty and with some confidence and multi-score deficit they kick for the corner set to launch a play.
Scotland throw to Ritchie at 2 and set up ready to drive the maul.
And here we see our first indication that this is likely a predefined set play from lineout to line break. Watch how just the slightest drive soaks up the Welsh Numbers and brings the Welsh backs forward - both are key.
It’s unlikely Scotland will drive over for a try from where they are, Wales after all have an excellent Maul Defence, but this is absolutely key to the try for two reasons.
The First is that it forces the Welsh pack to tighten in and defend the drive.
The second is that it brings the Welsh back line forward.
Now the second point may seem a bit backwards, why bring the defence up onto the gainline to attack you but this move is all about the execution on the tackle line.
If momentum is about winning the gainline scoring is about breaking, or beating the tackle line.
This move revolves around deceptive/hidden running lines and Russell's ability to pass to a man in space under pressure. This means Scotland need the Welsh tacklers up close and personal so the Welsh defences decision-making time is reduced.
If Scotland had simply attacked through fast ball off the top, chances are the Welsh defence would just drift out and crowd the midfield safe in the knowledge the back row are defending the inside channels.
As the ball comes out we can see how clever this attacking formation from Scotland is.
There is a lot here to unpack in this small clip so let's go through in more detail.
Scotland get a little nudge on, with the intention of pulling the remaining Welsh backrow in tighter, resulting in Moriarty joining and Tupiric hanging off the Maul, giving the Scottish backs the moment they want.
On first glance it looks like the Welsh defence is in a good position, they have the numbers and simply holding and drifting would stop any lateral movement form Scotland.
Additionally, Scotland are very compressed, all within a very small area, but how they burst through this formation is key.
Horne steps into first receiver with Gregg running a tight holding line for Russell to run behind on the slide.
Which as we can see would give Scotland the numbers on the outside edge, and seeing this Davies cleverly stays alive and “swims” past Grigg looking to hit Russell Man and ball.
Unfortunately for Foxy this is exactly what Scotland want and that disconnect from the rest of his defence is where they look to exploit with Russell taking the best of his two options and plays the inside ball to McGuigan under extreme pressure of Davis.
If we look past Davies we can also see Grigg (Highlighted Blue in the Gif) has continued his line and has cleverly collided with Parkes, it’s not a lot, but it’s enough to get McGuigan away from Parkes and he powers through the gap.
From here it’s simply a case of fixing the Welsh defence and stopping it drifting too early. Mcguigan and Hastings get this pretty perfect, allowing Graham to fly over in the corner for a wonderful try.
It’s extremely clever play from Scotland. From their use of the maul to commit the Welsh back row to their exploitation of the space and excellent defender like Davies shooting creates.
Davies is one of the best defensive 13’s in the world, very little gets outside him and he does very little wrong here. Knowing Scotland have created the numbers he makes a decision trusting the Welsh defence will fold behind him to pick up the line break.
If we reverse the angle on the play we can see exactly how difficult this situation is for Davies.
How the Welsh defence is compressed and the volume of space on the outside Edge.
Unfortunately, the Welsh backrow are slow to get across after detaching themselves from the maul and we can see Navidi chasing, hopeful of a chance to get on the ball instead of folding around and supporting North.
While it’s easy to blame this on poor defence, the truth is it’s difficult to find fault in Wales' defence when faced with such an excellently designed strike move brimming with Townsends DNA.
There have been some excellent tries scored in this year's Six Nations;
Wales 34 phase score to snatch the game's momentum from England in Cardiff. Johnny Mays opening minute scorcher against Ireland and for me the best of the lot Darcy Grahams wonderfully worked try for Scotland against Wales from Set Piece (almost).
Unfortunately for Scotland with the loss of more players to injury ahead of their England Test, they face a tough trip with the odds against them. But with Townsend, (one of the canniest attacking coaches in the game) it’s highly likely that if they can get decent ball they’ll be firing some genuine shots at the English defence.