As a coach, there are lots of things to worry about but all fall into the single category of things you can control. The ref’s and their decisions aren’t one of them so post-game analysis has to focus on two things "what did we do well and what can we have done differently"?
Koroibetes no try against England, while a highly debated and controversial decision, is in fact a fantastic example of where analysis can really help players understand the impact of their action in both a positive and negative way. Despite it resulting in a no try it was a fantastic piece of play by Australia and I think breaking it down into a little more detail would show that.
So the first thing I want to look at is the Australian strike move that splits England’s defensive line. We join the game around the 68-minute mark with an Australian Lineout just inside the English half.
Here it is:
If we go back to the start we can see Australia play off the top ball and Genia hits Bernard Foley who brings the ball to the line.
The first thing we can see is how well England have done to get up and over the gain line. The dotted white line denotes the gain, the solid white line shows an approximation of how far they have travelled, if we accept that England started 10m behind it they have made over 15m in the time the balls taken to get to Foley.
It’s very aggressive defence but it is in fact exactly what Australia wanted England to do. When people talk about bringing it to the line it’s often confused with getting to the gain line.
Of course that’s one part of it. You can play to the gain line, get up and over it and on the front foot. The other way is to play under pressure on the tackle line, committing defenders and looking to break the line rather than just bend it, which is what Australia do here.
There are some key points to consider here:
The first is Foley has brought the ball to the line and Kuridrani has run a hard line to hold the 10 channel and inside transition defence of Robshaw and George. Meanwhile Beale, who’s lined up at 12 for this move, with Hunt at 15 drifts out the back taking the back-door pass from Foley. We can see both Genia and Koroibete are running tracking lines.
This means essentially England have to defend 5 attacking options – Foley, Kuridrani, Beale, the inside pass to Koroibete and Genia and the wide pass from Beale to Hunt who’s tracking from 15 exposing the isolated winger, Daly.
Because Foley and Kuridrani have pushed right up onto the line and we can see that England’s midfield has turned shoulders in. This gives Australia weak shoulders to attack. If they hadn’t the chances are Foley would have played short to Kuridrani and they’d go again off the next phase. However with the defence turned in he hits Beale out the back who takes over the attack pattern.
Most attacking lines run out the back like this would be looking to isolate the outside centre. However one of Beale's real strengths is the way he straightens the line when attacking. Which he does here, isolating Farrell to create a simple 2vs1 which he exploits by playing the inside ball to Koroibete.
It’s a lovely bit of play, if he’d drifted out looking to fix Joseph before playing inside then Farrell would have had a chance to adjust and might have made a chop tackle on Koroibete, instead he goes for Farrells inside shoulder and Koroibete only has to worry about opening up Fords channel. Which he does bursting through untouched save for Robshaw's flailing tackle. Wonderfully executed strike move and Koroibete is through and it’s a case of finishing.
Unfortunately for Australia, this is where things now breakdown as having made the break Koroibete has a couple of options.
Option one: Faced with both Watson and May he cuts in towards May looking for support which is struggling to get there. The problem is that this line brings Farrell, Youngs and Watson back into the game (we’ll come back to that).
The other thing this line does is bring the entire English pack back into the game, not on this chase down but it allows all these players to get back to the breakdown crowd it, influence it and begin to resource their defensive alignment off it.
Option Two: If instead of cutting in Koroibete had perhaps stepped out and attacked Watson's channel he might have been able to link up with Hunt and Hodge creating a 3 vs 1 with Daley and Joseph chasing back slightly behind.
For me, this would have been the better option. Regardless he takes on May and offloads to Foley who is in turn scragged by Youngs five metres short.
Let's take a moment to admire how good a tackle that is from Ben Youngs.
It’s try-saving hit and he comes up on the Australian side of the tackle and, legally, Youngs is getting in Genia's face buying a valuable second for his teammates to scramble and set. Additionally, the work rate by England means they get a huge number of bodies back in and around this breakdown. Its phenomenal defence by England and whilst Australia’s review of this sequence will focus on the good and bad of the attacking play, England's will be focused on the good and bad of their defensive play.
So after a superb tackle, we have a breakdown from which Koroibete crashes over for what looks like a superb try only to have it, rightly or wrongly, disallowed for obstruction.
Interestingly if we take an overhead view we can see that it likely wasn’t actually mean for Koroibete at all but was actually a pass for Moore to run onto.
Much as he did against Wales, Genia picks and goes attacking the defensive fringe and looking for a short runner hitting a gap but rather than Koroibete I think the pass is actually meant for Stephen Moore who's coming on a hard line.
We can see Farrell has been pulled in and that Moore would likely have been able to go over if he’d taken the pass from Genia. Maybe it’s inexperience or a simple lack of communication but Koroibete gets in the way plucking the pass out of the air and colliding with Moore who in turn hits Robshaws right shoulder spinning him out of a clean hit and the ref rules obstruction.
It’s a disappointing end to a frankly superb bit of play from Australia and they never really recover from the decisions. However, if it is or isn’t obstruction is ultimately beside the point because as we can see it could have been avoided if certain decisions had gone a different way or if one of Koroibete or Moore had held their depth on that final pass. Whilst that may seem overly critical of Koroibete it's worth noting this is one small thing in an otherwise superb game by him.
Players make decisions on so many factors in a game it's sometimes impossible to tell what may or may not have been but if we roll the clock back a week we can see a remarkably similar move in play with a very different outcome resulting in a try for Rhys Ruddock in Ireland’s hammering of South Africa.
Ireland’s approach work to the line break is slightly different, they play O’Brien in the Half Back position, with Marmion executing the Foley role and Sexton the Beale role. Regardless it results in a clean line break for Stockdale who manages to link up with Conway on the right.
Granted the flow of the move and the defence lends itself to attack to the right but even so though Ireland are stopped short because the SA defence is having to race across the pitch on the chase down rather than backwards we can see as Ireland recycle they are attacking a stretched defence rather than the congested area Australia found themselves in. They recycle twice and crash over for a fantastic try.
Of course these are two very different games, albeit with lots of similarities in how the final score was built, but I think by looking at two very similar tries with two very different outcomes we can at least get a good sense of what may have been.