The second playmaker is something that’s discussed ad nauseum on most rugby forum. Scroll through twitter, or a comments section, and every other rugby related post will be about how a certain team needs a 2nd play maker.
So what exactly is a second play maker and what does he do? Well it’s an open answer question because some people think of the 2nd distributor as the 2nd play maker, some think of a player filling traditional fly half duties in broken play. In my opinion a 2nd play maker depends on the teams brief.
Owen Farrell for England is a great example of how a second play maker, he carries the ball effectively, he can kick but he doesn't exactly unlock defences with his passing. He certainly doesn't fit the Giteau, Hernandez or Darcy mold. He fits the purpose he's there for, I guess he brings control to Fords creativity.
Personally I’m a fan of Henry Slade at 12. Whilst he’s clearly a superb 10, I like the freedom he’s given at 12, to roam get into the second wave and use his passing, kicking and pace to set runners free or take on defenders makes him incredibly rounded and complete player, as well as an extremely dangerous player.
But it shouldn't be forgotten how as that play maker he slots into and relies on a unit that functions incredibly well around him.
It’s the main reason I chose this try for a long over due “Anatomy of a Try”, even though there were a good few other more spectacular tries in the 4th round of the premiership, I just felt this try encapsulated everything good about Exeters attacking game, and also demonstrated perfectly Slades capacity as that 2nd ball player and how his and Steensons decision making is so in tune, almost symbiotic.
Slades clearly not the only 2nd playmaker in English Rugby, we have Goode at Saracens, again i mention Farrell for England and, though perhaps not so obvious, Danny Cipriani at Wasps. That may seem like an odd statement considering Cipriani plays 10, but with Gopperth able to step into the first receiver slot, and full filling he traditional 10 duties we see a lot more of Cipriani just roaming where he feels there is space and if you scan back through Wasps opening few games you’ll repeatedly see Cipriani popping up in the wide channels making breaks with his pace and that wonderful ability to get the pass into that no man's land behind the defender in a way we never quite saw at Sale.
Importantly they all fill different roles within their teams.
But back to Exeter, and the structure Exeter use is all about keeping the defence moving around at varying paces – pay close attention to how they first stretch them wide, then make the midfield go static by holding them with lead runners and screen passes only to then accelerate over the gain line at a frenetic pace.
Patience is also an important part of their attack strategy, no one forces the pass (for convenience sake we'll ignore Turner almost butchering the movement with a poor pass to Woodburn at the end).
With an 8, 9, 10, 12 axis of Waldrom, Chudley, Steenson and Slade, Exeter have a phenomenal set of decision makers at the core of their game and I think that becomes very clear when you watch a try like this and see all of them making excellent decisions under pressure and playing prominent roles throughout the move.