Creating the space for pace
USA put in a very comprehensive performance to dominant the All Blacks 42-14 in the QF of the London 7s. As the last tournament before the Olympics it really adds some excitement to the looming tournament, and piles on the pressure to the traditional rugby nations, as Tier 2 nations showcase their rise.
Whilst the work of both coaches, Mike Friday and Strength and Conditioning coach Chris Brown on getting team USA up to a world class level of fitness to perform (and beat) the best teams, so too is the teams understanding of what they have and how to use it.
The whole team knows what to do.
Lets review the USA’s first try as a great example of how they are working together to create enough space for their more dangerous weapon.
Lets start with the USA’s first touch of the ball. Simple hands to Perry Baker who pins his ears back and heads for the outside. Ware just makes the tackle but it is very very close.
Here’s the message USA is sending (it’s really a warning)…we have the pace! From the first act on Defense the All Blacks see (and feel) the threat of pace USA has. The All Blacks (consciously or not) are thinking,
“S**t that guy is fast!”
Consequence: What happens when you have real pace is that teams try to cover you on the outside and they over chase. This causes vulnerability on the inside and forces the inside men to turn shoulders and chase too.
It is interesting to note the tactics of the All Blacks. Usually a team that refuses to kick. With only a couple of minutes gone, 7 nil up on the scoreboard, and with lots of attacking options against a reforming defense line, they chose to kick long.
There could be numerous reasons for this but the ones that spring to mind first, are that they are trying to tire out USA’s ’Gas’ men by forcing them to run long distances. The other reason is that they are trying to unstructure the USA’s attack, force individuals to ‘have a go’ and get caught isolated.
USA have been well drilled in both fitness standards and in simple game structure. Nuia regathers the ball and slows his feet and dances until support arrives. He holds in the midfield until support arrives on either side of him, which forces Mickelson to reduce advancing.
USA’s attack realigns on both sides of Nuia. They go right toward Bakers wing. The reactions of the All Black defense it to turn shoulders, preempting his speed on the outside. The USA team use a simple “Drag” play (stay tuned next week on The Rugby Site – we feature this) and keeps the ball alive.
They quickly bring the ball back they other way with a quickly reformed attack line. New Zealand now are scrambling on defense and inside players are turning shoulders and are ‘hauling arise’ to defend together.
Test gets the ball on the edge and instead of trying to ‘have a go’ on his own verse the scrambling defense he uses the “reload the pull out” play. You can watch how this is done by Mike Friday himself here
When the ball comes back New Zealand are instantly in trouble. The defense on the outside have held their width on account of the pace on the outside and left the defense in the middle isolated and vulnerable.
USA is clever in attacking the midfield weakness with some simple short passing. This forces the outside defender to turn in, and a simple draw and pass gives Perry Baker all the space (which isn’t much!) he needs.
Baker puts the hammer down. Now frightfully behind the speedster, the All Blacks all turn shoulders and run toward the corner flag to cut him off. Baker whacks in two right footsteps and easily beats the over chasing defense.
It is a great example of a well-worked team try.
Whilst the ability of Baker is obvious, the ability of the team to understand how to create space for him is excellence. There was plenty of opportunity for the USA to break pattern and go off as individuals. They didn’t. This is a great team try full of composure and game understanding.