Hi guys. Today I want to take look at a interesting moment from the Sharks and Lions game from the weekend. It is the first try scored by the Sharks from a rolling maul. Now, many people hate mauls because they see it as legalise obstruction, but as we will see there is a lot more that go into them that meet our eye. And in this case, there was something especially interesting. Let’s go!
The Sharks call a six-man lineout after kicking to touch from a penalty. The Lions is now looking for signs of what is coming. Will the Sharks maul or will they pass the ball out? And if they maul where will they throw?
First hint is that the Sharks flank Philip van der Walt is standing in the scrumhalf position. This is usually a sign that the maul is coming because the flank will come in to bind on the catcher, rip the ball and get the maul going.
A second thing to look at is that the Lions has set up their men more in the middle of the lineout. The reason is that, for the attacking team, a middle ball maul is better than a front ball maul, because then you have a open side and a blind side to work with. And with a middle ball, it is harder for the defending team to push your maul into touch.
So the Lions is expecting a throw to the middle, leaving Orie, Marx and Cronje to deal with the Shark front pod of Beast, Jean-Luc and Tyler Paul.
Here is the throw. It is a bullet straight to Jean-Luc at the front with no lift. The Sharks has sacrificed the “better” middle ball because they have other goals.
It firstly have to do with maul defence. A maul maybe look like a Tupperware full of mincemeat, but it is actually a fragile flower.
Coaches will tell you the most crucial moment of a lineout maul is the first 1.5 seconds because that is when it can live or die. The defence want to get to the catcher hard and early, and the attack want to survive the first wave and then carefully get the maul going as if it is the last little red coal in the fireplace.
This maul variation is all about setting a very quick platform, and then staying one step ahead of the Lions, as we will see.
Above we start to see what the other goal of the Sharks is. The two “lifters” in the pod – Tyler Paul and Beast – immediately turns into support players because there was no jump. But if we look closer at their binding then we see the seeds of what is coming. It is subtle but crucial.
Tyler Paul bind onto Jean-Luc and that is what a support player will normally do. But Beast is still crouching and waiting. Can you see?
He is actually wait for Marvin Orie to join and then in a very clever way bind more on Orie than on Jean-Luc. It is legal because he is still in contact with Jean-Luc, but make no mistake his role is to actually hit the first arriving Lion player to help dictate what come next.
Above we see how much shape the Sharks already has and the set-up they have created, while the Lions is still coming in to bind.
With the new maul laws, the ball must be passed to the back of the maul and this is easy for the Sharks because they under very little pressure.
We can see Dan du Preez join at the back and he will shortly receive the ball. But what we more interested in is what Beast and Akker is doing on this near side… Beast have a strong bind on Orie and is actually pushing infield with the help of Akker. We can see that they want to wheel the maul.
For a moment, the Lions forwards manages to stop the Sharks drive. They do well to pile in with low body positions and hit in low and fast to stop it in the tracks. But look at the direction of the Shark shove. As we see with the set-ups of Beast and Akker, the Sharks intention is actually to wheel the maul. They not trying to get to the try-line.
And also look at Wright, the Sharks 9. Like any scrummie, he have a crucial role at the maul to communicate to his cattle and organise them. He have his left hand on Dan du Preez and with his right hand he will slap Van der Walt. He is pulling the trigger and we will see what the plan was all along.
The second that Van der Walt feel the slap, he hinge around and “open the door” for Dan du Preez who was carrying at the tail. Du Preez was waiting like a loaded torpedo, and now he can charge forward with almost no obstacles.
Marx get sucked in to make a tackle at the incorrect contact point and Dan have a free ride to get the try.
Above is the same moment from a different angle. We can see how effective the Sharks manage to wheel the maul around to free up Dan on the blindside. It seem like a simple or even ugly thing but when we look closer we see all the “nuance” and subtle things needed to make it work.
By not jumping, the Sharks buy a extra second to quickly set up their chosen platform in a technical way. The unexpected throw to the front meant the Lions forwards has to first peel around to come and join.
The speed of the set-up allow it to be solid and survive the initial Lions counter-shove. That free up guys like Beast and Akker to focus on the plan to wheel the maul. And when the time was right the Sharks could then execute the final step to launch du Preez for the try.
It can be that the Sharks do this because the Lions is the number one lineout poachers in Super Rugby, or it can just be a clever new weapon they have developed. Either way, I enjoyed seeing it and it was a nice opportunity to talk about the maul today!
DISCLAIMER: English is Oom’s third language, after Rugby and Afrikaans.