With just under ten minutes to play in their test match at Aviva Stadium, Ireland held a 17-3 lead over South Africa.
The Irish had worked into a dominant position in the match, but needed to land a knockout blow. With this smart play, they opened up South Africa’s Boks with this beautifully constructed move off quick lineout ball which led to their match-sealing try.
Attaching the blindside winger as an inside option off the playmaker and using a ‘screen’ or ‘block’ play to open up the hole is becoming a trend this international rugby season, as we highlighted last week.
Ireland became the latest team to find success with it, disguising Stockdale’s line well by adding more complexity to the movement – a double screen to confuse South Africa’s defence.
In the lineout setup, Ireland openside Sean O’Brien (7) positions at halfback. This allows reserve halfback Kieran Marmion (21) to join Jonathan Sexton (10) wider in a triangle formation with Jacob Stockdale (11). Stockdale is the boot man and will stay on Sexton’s hip. As the line out unfolds, reserve prop David Kilcoyne (17) peels off the front of the lineout into halfback, pushing Sean O’Brien wider.
Ireland will break through the midfield channel between Jesse Kriel (13) and reserve midfielder Francois Venter (23), highlighted in red.
The Irish midfield is going to running decoy lines (highlighted green) that will draw their opposite defenders in with them. In Aki’s case, his extreme angle will pull his opposite Handre Pollard (22) as far as he can before running into South Africa’s flanker.
Ireland will run two screen passes with the Irish halves sliding in behind each decoy. Marmion will receive the back door behind Aki (12), and Sexton will receive the back door to Henshaw (13), before Sexton feeds the unsighted blind winger Stockdale on the inside.
Marmion’s execution on the first screen is a little bit off, he receives the ball inside Aki and risks an obstruction call. Pollard was sucked in by Aki and is attempting to pull up when Marmion runs behind his second five.
The next screen pass is executed perfectly by Marmion, and Henshaw’s decoy line is the key. Francois Venter is fixated on Henshaw at the bottom of the screen below.
Venter takes the cheese and commits to Henshaw out of play, and Ireland now have Jesse Kriel isolated.
Henshaw’s line also prevents Pollard from getting across to make a play on Scotdale, giving an extra second in which the gap will be open which is a key design feature of this play. It’s essentially legalised obstruction.
Kriel has a split second to make a decision, and despite Sexton giving early ball to Stockdale on a no-look pass, Kriel decides to take Sexton. The gap is too wide to cover and he’s also caught on Sexton’s outside shoulder. Stockdale streaks away downfield.
Two phases later Ireland score as South Africa cannot reset their defence following the massive breach. The killer blow is landed taking Ireland out to a 22-3 lead with less than eight minutes remaining.