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Analysis: Ireland's killer blow against the Springboks – The triangle double screen

By Ben Smith
The double screen running lines

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.

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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.

The triangle formation with Sexton, Scotdale and Marmion

Ireland will break through the midfield channel between Jesse Kriel (13) and reserve midfielder Francois Venter (23), highlighted in red.

The running lines of the double screen

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.

Marmion receives the ball on the wrong side of Ahki

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.

Ventor already has eyes for Henshaw while Pollard braces for Marmion
Francios Venter tackles Henshaw out of the play and Pollard is blocked from getting to Scotdale

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.



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Turlough 5 hours ago
Jean de Villiers' three word response to 'best in the world' debate

This ‘raging’ debate is only happenning in media circles and has never been a topic in Ireland (although SA media are interested). It makes the media companies money I guess. SA are RWC champions and #1 ranked team although Ireland are back within a point there. The facts point to SA. For a lot of 2021 France beat ALL their rivals and Ireland similar in 2022-2023. It is not wrong to say that on such form either can be deemed to be the current best team if they have beaten all their rivals and ranked #1. The ‘have to have won a world cup’ stipulation is nonsense. The world cup draw and scheduling has been tailored to the traditional big teams since the start. The scheduling also which sees the big teams sheltered from playing a hard pool match the week before has also been a constant. It is extraordinary that for example France have made so many finals. Ireland who were realistically only contenders in 2023 were in a Pool with two other top 5 teams and had to play one of them 7 days before a quarter final against France or New Zealand. Always going to be a coin toss. Scotland’s situation was worse. New Zealand had great chances in 1995, 1999, 2007 but they could not win a tight RWC match. The first tight match they ever won was versus France in the 2011 final, literally they lost every other tight match before that. Some of those NZ teams around that era were #1 surely?

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