Rugby Insight: Grayson's Play of the Week

Former England fly half and Rugby World Cup winner Paul Grayson analyses Saturday’s loss to Scotland and picks out his standout England play.  

My IBM TryTracker Play of the Week is Owen Farrell’s second half score, a perfect example of executing a two-play strike move and taking advantage of when the opposition defence found themselves in a vulnerable place.

Yet again Farrell is the right man in the right place at the right time for England. Staring down a 16-point deficit at half time, England were desperate to get the first score of the second half to pull them back into the game and give them a shot of winning the match.

This is a play England would have run in the week, and during half time analysis, realised could work if given the opportunity.  

Mako Vunipola (circled blue above) pierces the Scotland defence, running at Tommy Seymour (circled red), effectively taking him out of play. A clear out follows generating quick ball for England, who disguise going right and opt to attack left.

Instead of a pass from the base of the ruck, Danny Care (circled blue above) picks and draws in two Scottish defenders (labelled 1&2) which is crucial; if he doesn’t entice them, they can drift out and potentially hamper the attack.

Care resists the temptation to overdo it, and allows the running lines of Courtney Lawes and Dylan Hartley (circled blue outside him) to attract another two Scottish defenders (labelled 3&4), and at the perfect moment zips a pass across the front of them.

Farrell (circled blue) has identified the mismatch and space, and runs a bolt straight line trusting that Care is going to put the ball out in front of him. He is far enough outside the last forward, but not close enough to Greig Laidlaw (circled red) – who is in no man’s land unsure whether to take Farrell or stay wide for Jonny May – taking the ball at pace to make it through the gap, and accelerate unopposed to the line.

The play isn’t dissimilar to the way they opened up Italy in the first round of the Championship, but this one is purely targeting the disconnect between the four forwards on the blindside and Laidlaw. It was one of those moments where things came together perfectly, and at that point it looked like it might have been the spark England needed to get back into the game.

England were able to penetrate the defence here because they caught Scotland in a vulnerable place. Generally in the game, Scotland’s defensive display was immense and England threw plenty at them but just couldn’t expose those weak spots as accurately as they did in this play.

Sometimes you have to tip your hat, and on this occasion, England were not quite firing and Scotland got everything right. But in a frustrating 80 minutes, where England found it difficult to get their attack in full flow, this was an example of what they can do when they get it right – my Play of the Week.