Ladies and Gentlemen, I did not expect this. Wales were brilliant today. Fast, full of endeavour, their handling was crisp, their timing of their runs on point, their lines good and their alignment; Oh, their alignment was something else. Something very special.
They still forced things, but not to the level they were forced in the Autumn.
Now, these injuries have added a dynamic to this Welsh team. Later this week, the Wales series will be released (much the same as the English and Irish series’). The individual skills in the Autumn, and over the course of last year left much to be desired. This is reflected in the series. The lines were crabby, the distribution and offloads forced, the timing not on point. However, these problems did not exist during this game. Two weeks in camp, as good as that is, is not enough to cover up these fundamentals.
I attribute the quick turnaround, to the collective skills and understanding, amongst the Scarlets.
Scotland did not perform well in this game. Their defensive structure was appalling. But, it cannot take away a brilliant performance from Wales. This won’t be an analysis, but we will look at areas where the traits of the Scarlets sent Wales through the roof for this game.
A lot of the good things that Wales did came from their alignment. The Scarlets, are a flat playing team. and they are comfortable being in the faces of their opposition. Ten of the team was made up by this franchise and as such, they presented a new dynamic that I have never seen in the Gatland era.
Their layers of attack ran flat to each other. It was beautiful. Gareth Davies was scooting to hold the fringe D to create space on the wings. The passes from Patchell were so flat and so varied to receivers already at the line, the Scots couldn’t react in time. This does not make up for some very poor defending. But this variety and alignment is exactly what Wales have been missing. Biggar, for all his skills, does not possess this. Seeing how well the Welsh system works with the right players, Wales may want to think about keeping Patchell at 10.
They played both sides of the ruck and switched. Hadleigh Parkes stepped into 1st receiver on multiple occasions and he will become a key player for Wales. He offers that 12 physicality Gatland likes, but, his hands and rugby intelligence are very subtle and very astute. Scott Williams also found himself at 1st receiver multiple times. This offers a very good 10-12 axis. The fact it can be perfected at the regional level is an added bonus. So much so it should be encouraged and is a huge reason to continue with it.
Flat to the line
Look at the above. They take it static, which is a criticism I have laid bare in the upcoming series. But, and this is a huge but; look at how flat they are, interesting the defence for a rush. On top of that, Navidi (number 7, red dot) is not flat enough so he can remain an effective decoy and behind him, Patchell (red dot) is at a depth that he can assess his options and get the pass away without being smashed.
The Forward pod gets the pass away to Patchell (red dot behind Navidi). Patchell uses his instincts of playing 15 to take the ball to the line.
The next slide is beautiful. Absolute poetry in motion.
When, have we seen that from Wales?
Look at that pass, and how flat it is. On top of that look at the two layers of attack (yellow and blue dots) and how flat they are to each other, to increase the chances of getting around a drift. Patchell has options in both. Even with more defenders, this is a huge gain on the gain line. He has taken the ball to the line and shot a lovely miss pass to a player literally a metre behind him. This player takes the ball in two hands creating more defensive questions. The result of his break and pass takes Wales to the 22. It is beautiful play!
Here we have the 1st 3 pod. There’s nothing much on here. They take it static. And go to ground.
Quick ball is generated and the ball is fired out to the 2nd 3 pod. Whom though flat, are running hard and have options behind. We can see Wyn Jones highlighted as the 1 pod option.
Parkes and another forward join Wyn Jones to make a 3 pod, the receiver passes out back, again, to a ballplayer in Scotttt Williams. It must be said, that this is poor Scottish defence; but credit must go to Wales for identifying the space though.
Williams fires the ball out to a beautifully flat line. The try is scored by Leigh Halfpenny, who had a great game.
The beauty here is they ran the ballplayer behind the 3 pod in the Autumn. But the alignment was all wrong (as you will see in depth in this week’s Welsh series). Here, however, it’s perfect. The Scarlets are happy playing this flat, which has translated over to the national team. This does not always happen, but when translations like this occur they can be devastating for the opposition.
Forward play and switching the point of attack
The Forwards intent at the pods was so much better. So much better than the Autumn. They were fast, running onto the ball and the interplay between the pods and backs was brilliant. However, they have incorporated switching the point of attack into their pods as well. It will not work as well against constricted defences like Ireland or England but this shows their intent brilliantly.
The ball is passed to Alun Wyn (yellow dot, circled in red), who sees the dogleg forming. The dogleg is being formed by the defender (purple dot) rushing out of the line.
A quick pop pass and his outside carrier is through (in the direction of the arrow). Quick thinking from Jones in the moment (who is circled and being tackled by the man who created the dogleg). This nets Wales a 5-10 metre gain.
Poor defence from Scotland. But good thinking and hands.
One phase later Patchell passes and sets up his 2nd 3 pod (circled in red). He passes late and flat, and as such, the pod run onto the ball flat.
Lee, at the top of the pod, having committed men pops the pass straight to Moriarty (running in on the arrow).
The Scottish defence in this game was not the best. But the Scarlets and their play into the Welsh gameplan, has taken like a duck to water. Is this the best Welsh team? Too early to say. But with the right players for the roles the system is looking good.
Author: Conor Wilson
Recently retired from the Military, Skydiving and rare Steak Enthusiast and Player of the beautiful game of Rugby.
Joe Schmidt, Will Greenwood and Rod MacQueen are my heroes, and my proudest moment was putting Jason Robinson in for a try at a promotional Rugby day. It was truly beautiful.