The emerging star gives the already-potent Crusader backline a breakaway threat with ‘home run’ potential from any set-piece platform, which showed against the Chiefs as he clocked up 98-metres on two line breaks, six defenders beaten and two tries, one of which came directly from set-piece.
The Crusaders attack has been gradually increasing the number of misdirection plays they are running off these platforms, having players ‘scram’ in multiple directions to create initial indecision.
Their lineout plays in the red zone, in particular, have evolved into a bamboozling range of strikes using the hooker on a ‘swing’ route after the throw and employing misdirection concepts out of the maul to create a lot of confusing animation for the defence.
These ‘smokescreens’ are freeing up space for damaging threats like Will Jordan.
This stack play from a scrum uses a double-bluff to put Jordan in an ocean of space down the middle by faking left, going right and coming back inside to prey on the Chiefs’ understrength back row. It’s a clever misdirection play designed to get mismatches between a fullback and loose forwards, illustrated below by St Michael’s College in Ireland.
On this occasion, Richie Mo’unga is the first man in the stack to reveal his hand, pushing off to the blind side as Ere Enari (9) runs an 8-9 to the open side. Mo’unga’s dummy line will hopefully pull Chiefs halfback Brad Weber and members of the back row his way to create more isolation on the open side.
The stack causes issues with the pre-play defensive alignment of the Chiefs, with the first defenders on either side of the scrum defending space, not any particular man. On the open side, Damian McKenzie is positioned defending no one but space.
This can lead to two players taking the same man as they try to decipher which runners to take, which happens here as this play develops.
Only Lachlan Boshier (7) of the Chiefs has a decent break from the back of the scrum for the Chiefs. Taleni Seu (8) is still stationary which will create problems. As Boshier pushes wider in pursuit of Enari, he will only widen the gap for the incoming Jordan on the inside.
Boshier (7) and McKenzie (10) have both pursued Crotty while Jordan is able to explode onto the inside ball and expose the soft underbelly of the Chiefs’ back row.
He races away downfield before stepping inside the cover defence of Solomon Alaimalo and scores in the tackle of the next defender.
The damage Jordan can cause in open space was evident against the Queensland Reds on his starting debut, with his searing pace scorching the Suncorp turf in an impressive showing. The combination of his speed and line running nous adds another dimension to the Crusaders backline that has untold amounts of potential.
If there was a missing element to their backs, Jordan brings it. A hole-running fullback with burning speed, he will have a field day this season outside centre Jack Goodhue and playmakers like Richie Mo’unga when he is on the field.
He will have to compete in the rotation with David Havili, George Bridge, Manasa Mataele, Braydon Ennor, Israel Dagg, and Sevu Reece for game time, while 19-year-old Leicester Fainga’anuku and 20-year-old Ngani Punivai are age grade talents waiting to get a sniff in. The depth in the back three for the Crusaders is so good it should be illegal.
The Crusaders have gotten stronger this season with the introduction of their next generation of players, all of whom were produced through their system after being ID’d in various places. They all seem to have adapted to this level like fish to water, showing that this Crusaders’ dynasty still has a long runway ahead.
The addition of Will Jordan gives the Crusaders attack a dynamic fullback that increases the likelihood of any set-piece being a ‘one-phase’ strike, should they call plays with the intention of trying to score. With their shiny new toy in the 15 jersey, expect to see many more ‘home-run’ opportunities.
This is the last thing every other Super Rugby team trying to topple the back-to-back champions wanted to see, but the Crusaders have found new pieces to keep this team firing.
Brad Mooar ahead of Highlanders’ derby:
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