This article is the first in a series that will take a quick look at eye-catching strike plays off lineouts and scrums during this year’s World Cup. As the title suggests, our first analysis will look at Samoa’s third try in their Pool A opener against Russia. Without further delay, let’s begin.
After Kane Le’aupepe tackles Russia’s Vitaly Zhivatov into touch, Samoa start their strike play by setting up a lineout maul just inside Russia’s 22.
Samoa throw the ball to the back of the lineout in order to engage Russia’s backrow and in particular, Russia’s star man insofar at this World Cup, no. 7 Tagir Gadzhiev.
When looking to set up strike moves off lineouts initially, teams try to tie up the opposition’s best defenders and as the GIF above shows, Samoa succeed here initially.
However, as the next image reveals, Gadzhiev-circled-manages to pull himself away from the maul and become a tackling option for Russia again.
Having set the maul, Samoa commence phase two of the strike play. As the following clip shows, Samoa’s no.21-Melani Matavao-taps the Samoan player at the back of the maul and moves left to indicate that Samoa are looking to attack on that side.
Russia’s defenders react accordingly and follow Matavao to shut down any potential attack.
The main players that Samoa want to get the attention of again here are previously highlighted Gadzhiev and Russia’s no. 6, Vitaly Zhivatov. As this other angle below shows, Zhivatov-circled in yellow-gets drawn away by the Samoan scrum-half’s run. What this does is give Samoa’s attackers another split second to attack the space on the other side of the maul, which Gadzhiev in the 7 jersey is now defending on his own.
With Zhivatov and the majority of the Russian fringe defence now distracted, Samoa trigger the third and final phase of their strike move.
Having initially ‘hidden’ on the far side of the maul, Samoa’s hooker Ray Niuia races to the far side of the maul, taking the ball with him. With blindside Zhivatov on the wrong side of the maul, Niuia then expertly draws Gadzhiev to preserve the space and pops a delightful no-look pass for Ed Fidow to race in and score.
As a side note, Samoa do get a little luck here with potential tackler Stanislav Selskii getting held in to the maul by his own teammate.
However, Fidow still shows outstanding pace to burst through the despairing tackles of the Russian defenders and cap off what is an excellently devised team move; perfectly executed.
It’s worth pointing out the delight in the coaching box too, with coach Ben Afeaki appearing to be the man credited with devising Samoa’s strike play on this occasion.
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