Both Glasgow and Edinburgh racked up away wins in Round One of the new Guinness Pro 14 rugby season. That wasn’t the only thing they had in common.
Defence wins the day.
Both victories were based on a robust defensive effort.
Firstly let’s look at Edinburgh. Improved defence is no surprise for me. It’s an easier fix to improve your defence. I’m not saying they are the finished article but increase intensity and aggression and your defence will improve. New Head Coach Richard Cockerill has highlighted these areas, and they are easy to fix if the player’s commit. Add in former Scotland 7s Coach Calum MacRae as the new defence coach and you can expect progress. Having worked under him in my final year with the 7s, I know he is incredibly detailed. I have no doubt he will continue to add layers to this defence to make Edinburgh a real challenge to breakdown.
Glasgow also have a new defence coach. I’m sure Kenny Murray will be delighted after the success in Connacht. The main consideration for Glasgow was the weather. Such horrendous conditions create opportunity for aggressive linespeed. With wind and rain like they had in Galway, it is very difficult to catch and pass. You have to fully concentrate on the catch before thinking about passing. When passing, your hands need to stay on the ball longer to ensure it is directed to your target and doesn’t slip out of your hands and along the floor. Add in that underfoot conditions make it more challenging to side-step. Suddenly potent attacks become one paced and one directional. Therefore you can increase your linespeed, narrow the width between defenders and look to smash the opposition behind the gain line.
Key issues become discipline and completing your tackles. You still need to defend together and read the defender inside you. No matter how bad the conditions, a dogleg will be exploited by the attack. Glasgow could narrow their defence because conditions made it hard to put width to the game. And if Connacht tried to attack wide, it takes longer to catch and pass a wet ball so Glasgow could adapt.
Now we can see Dave Rennie’s influence. Post tackle notice how quickly Glasgow were trying to get back on their feet and return to the defensive line. This is so they could be part of the next phase. Rarely were there any Warriors on the ground. Coupled with this Glasgow only had one or two in any breakdown. This gave them plenty of opportunity to hit Connacht behind the gain line and force errors and turnovers.
Moments of magic to score their tries.
The first try for both Edinburgh and Glasgow looked incredibly simple, however it was down to well executed, well rehearsed moves. Not often to teams score from first phase. So whilst Cardiff and Connacht will be questioning their defence, let’s look at how Edinburgh and Glasgow made it look so easy. There are many similarities between Kinghorn’s try for Edinburgh and Price’s try for Glasgow.
- Ball Carrier has Time. Sam Hidalgo Clyne for Edinburgh and Adam Hastings for Glasgow were given time to engage and manipulate the defence. Both did this well by keeping their heads up and keeping the ball in two hands, therefore not telegraphing what they were going to do. Defenders don’t like attackers running at them with the ball in two hands.
- “Short Line” runs at space. Often we see somebody running close to the ball carrier as a decoy to
try and hold a defender. Too often they are ineffective. Both Blair Kinghorn and Pete Horne ran with intent at a space between defenders. This caught defenders out and they struggled to react.
- Sill Execution. Hidalgo Clyne and Hastings showed their ability by engaging a defender, timing the pass perfectly and executing a perfectly weighted pass. As mentioned, Kinghorn and Horne timed their run to allow the ball player to ask a question of the defence. They changed their line late, running inside their defender to leave the defence flat footed.
- It was done on the Gain Line. Both passes were very flat which meant that defenders could not “double defend” (hold in position for one attacker and then have time to move onto defend the next attacker). It also meant the defender couldn’t react to the late change of line from Kinghorn and Horne.
- Stable Setpiece. Neither try would happen without the forward providing the platform to allow Hidalgo Clyne or Hastings the opportunity to run at the defence.
- Finishing. Kinghorn had the strength and pace to finish off the Edinburgh score. Horne had the vision to use the quick Ali Price on his inside to ensure a linebreak became a try.
So: a solid set piece; a ball player with time to manipulate a defence; multiple options running with intent; and, picking the right option. Do all this and rugby can be a simple game.
Both teams scored an excellent second try. Patience to go through 12 phases followed by a quality offload by Kinghorn proved crucial to Edinburgh crossing the whitewash. Whilst the vision and execution of Ali Price asked a question of the Connacht defence they couldn’t answer. Fair play to Sarto and Jones for having the evasion and patience to finish it off.
Attitude to Close Out the Win
Edinburgh took the lead before Cardiff came back into the game. They then showed excellent resilience to wrestle the game back from Cardiff and secure a hard-fought victory. Is this the Cockerill effect beginning to work on Edinburgh?
Glasgow played into a vicious wind in the first half and going in 9 – 3 down was a good outcome. Once taking the lead they ensured Connacht didn’t have an opportunity to get back into the game. Primarily through that aggressive linespeed mentioned previously.
A positive start away from home. Both teams play at home this weekend against Welsh opposition. Games I expect them to win.
*Colin is a rugby analyst for BBC Scotland. You can listen to Edinburgh v Dragons in Round 2 of the Guinness Pro 14 Rugby from 18:30 on BBC Radio Scotland, Friday 8th September.
Image from http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/rugby-union I encourage you to watch the highlights available on the BBC website. They give a far better illustration than the image in this post.