The Crusader’s skills were so good in the first half against the Hurricanes, they may have sucked the attention away from the new tactics Scott Robertson and co. were quietly putting in motion. These tactics came in the form of dynamite strike moves involving players you would least expect, and an exit strategy that other teams wouldn’t dare use. Let’s analyse the Crusaders v Hurricanes tactics and uncover the Crusader’s evolution.

Crusaders v Hurricanes Tactics | the art of the line-out strike

The Crusaders pioneered some interesting line-out strike moves in this game. The goal of this one is to break straight through the Hurricanes line. Watch as the 3 players circled in Blue all make convincing runs, but none of them are the first receiver.

3 Crusaders players make dummy runs to pull the Hurricanes defenders into two tight bunches
3 Crusaders players make dummy runs to pull the Hurricanes defenders into two tight bunches

The Hurricanes defenders are pulled into the two areas in red circles, leaving room for Mataele to make a supporting run undefended.

Mataele makes a run, but the pass doesn't go to hand
Mataele makes a run, but the pass doesn’t go to hand

On this occasion, it doesn’t work out – but we can see what they were trying to achieve. The Crusaders have many more line-out moves up there sleeve, and even develop them from game to game.

Crusaders v Hurricanes Tactics | refining a strike move over two games

This is a great example of the Crusaders coaching staff (especially backs coach Ronan O’Gara) working on a move across two games. They first try this line-out strike against the Blues. Crotty (yellow circle) passes to Todd (blue circle). Todd then flicks a beautiful pass back to Mounga (green circle).

The Crusaders attempt a complex move
The Crusaders attempt a complex move

In this example, they try it all too close to the Blues defensive line, and the experienced Nonu shuts it down. As a no. 12, Crotty is used to attacking the line and gets too close before throwing the pass.

The Crusaders switch the players around when trying the exact move again against the Hurricanes a week later. They use their ace distributor Mounga to throw the first pass, with Crotty floating out the back.

The Crusaders switch Crotty and Mounga when attempting the move again
The Crusaders switch Crotty and Mounga when attempting the move again

Notice Todd is about to get the ball in much more space this time. Let’s see how this unfolds.

The move works a charm
The move works a charm

Mataele is successfully put through a gap. Matt Todd must be commended for passing like a centre while holding defenders.

It’s clear the Crusaders use Mataele as the ‘strike’ in these strike moves, and for good reason. If you would like to find out how the Crusaders set the stage for his magic offload in this game, check out the article below.

Crusaders v Hurricanes | The Epic Skills From The Crusaders Win

The final tactical evolution we will discuss is a tactic most coaches and teams would never dare try, and it makes for extremely entertaining rugby.

Crusaders v Hurricanes Tactics | no-kick exit plays

When we talk about ‘exits’ it’s usually about how teams set up a kick to clear the ball out of their own red zone. However, the Crusaders often decided to exit in this game by moving the ball into wide channels, looking for space and metres. The idea is that most teams will have 3 players (or more) in the backfield expecting a kick, and won’t be prepared to have their line tested.

Here the Crusaders test the Hurricanes line by moving the ball wide.

The Crusaders opt not to kick and try to break out from deep
The Crusaders opt not to kick and try to break out from deep

They continued this tactic deeper into the game. Below Havilli tries to cut inside and make a line-break, but the Hurricanes scramble and cover.

The Crusaders are still hunting for an overlap
The Crusaders are still hunting for an overlap

The Crusaders won’t give up on this approach and succumb to the kick, and they do end up finding an overlap for later on. A pop-pass from Crotty finds its mark and this time Havilli won’t be stopped.

The Crusaders achieve a no-kick exit
The Crusaders achieve a no-kick exit

Havilli then throws a majestic pass wide to Bridge and the Crusaders are away. A try soon follows, and it all started because they didn’t succumb to a kick and kept their composure.

The Crusaders are on their way to a try
The Crusaders are on their way to a try

This tactic was effective but it obviously carries extreme risk. Can the Crusaders back their defence if their reluctance to kick backfires? Will they be able to pull this off in a closer game? Let us know your thoughts.

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