The Sunwolves made history in Round 3 of Super Rugby 2019, picking up the first away win in their history. We will uncover the tactics of the Chiefs v Sunwolves clash that made this upset possible. And show that this match was not just a one-off win. The Sunwolves were tactically excellent on the road against a Kiwi side, and they provided a Blueprint for other sides to follow. It all starts with their work at the ruck.

The Sunwolves killer ruck tactics | Chiefs v Sunwolves

Here the Sunwolves use their 3 defenders perfectly. They commit two of them to the ruck, using a team tackle to keep the Chiefs from making any metres after contact.

The Sunwolves use team tackling
The Sunwolves use team tackling

Now the third defender can come in for a perfectly timed jackal

Helu grabs a turnover
Helu grabs a turnover

This happens here again. The Chiefs look to be perfectly set up for ball retention with their two pods of 3 in midfield.

The Chiefs set up a predictable structure
The Chiefs set up a predictable structure

They probably should have considered a tip-pass to find further space, as their move is too predictable. The Sunwolves pounce. Again they use two tacklers followed by one man looking for a jackal. Manu grabs another turnover in this case.

The same scenario unfolds
The same scenario unfolds

The Sunwolves were also intelligent in their rucks on attack. Watch here as they again work as a pair to clear Retallick out of the ruck in textbook fashion.

Retallick doesn't stand a chance
Retallick doesn’t stand a chance

This present clean, quick ball for their no. 9. Something the Chiefs couldn’t get for the majority of the game.

Shigeno gets the ball on a platter
Shigeno gets the ball on a platter

Now let’s look at the all too familiar indicator of a win. Metres after contact.

How the Sunwolves ate up metres after contact to win | Chiefs v Sunwolves

Metres after contact is a metric we have spoken about before, most notably in the France v Wales clash at the start of this year’s 6 Nations. You can read about that below.

France v Wales | How France Blew A 16 Point Lead

Let’s look at just how devastating the Sunwolves were in this area. Watch below as Thompson goes into contact.

Thompson takes contact
Thompson takes contact

Now let’s see how far he gets.

A huge dent is made
A huge dent is made

These metres are basically bonus metres for the Sunwolves. This would happen over and over during this passage of play alone and the Chiefs are now backpedalling. They can only react to the Sunwolves instead of proactively shutting them down. Burleigh takes the ball into contact during the next phase.

The Chiefs are now backpedalling and are about to concede more metres
The Chiefs are now backpedalling and are about to concede more metres

Again, the metres gained after this initial contact are very high.

Burleigh makes good ground after contact and gets a pass away.
Burleigh makes good ground after contact and gets a pass away.

The Sunwolves are now on a roll. Matsuhashi carries them to near Chiefs 5m line. Remember, this whole move started with contact outside the 22. Tackles are being made, but metres are being made as well. The Sunwolves successfully snowballed a good initial dent into an extra 8+m gain. And they would continue until they crossed the try-line.

When the Sunwolves couldn’t make metres like this in other areas of the game, they instead used smart passing and angles to find gaps. Let’s look at two of those moments now.

The dangerous tip-pass | Chiefs v Sunwolves

The Sunwolves must have done their analysis coming into this game on how the Chiefs defend against pods. On both occasions, the Sunwolves tight head prop Yamashita was launched into a gap. Here’s how they did it.

Watch here as the two Chiefs players, Retallick and Ross, become disconnected in defence.

A tiny hole appears in the Chiefs defence
A tiny hole appears in the Chiefs defence

Yamashita runs a great angle to burst through into space.

Yamashita suddenly finds himself in acres after a great angle
Yamashita suddenly finds himself in acres after a great angle

Here again, the two Chiefs players are disconnected. The Sunwolves are alert to this straight away, and Yamashita is sent on a mission through that gap once more.

The Sunwolves work the exact same move again
The Sunwolves work the exact same move again

These moves show that the Sunwolves did their homework on how the Chiefs like to defend, and used tip-passes within their pods to find those gaps. Hats off to Tony Brown and his coaching staff. How far can the Sunwolves go this season? We would love to hear your thoughts below.

1 COMMENT

  1. Hi guys, i watched the full game
    my personal feeling is that the japanese side was very effective for fitness, which means more basic running from one ruck to another, and physicality, which stands for the real will to take on the fight
    the chiefs were simply bullied by a much more motivated and healthy opponent, besids the effective tactis used

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