- Play of the Week looks at Jonathan Joseph’s late try
- Punchy phase-play and accuracy out wide sets up score
As Stuart Lancaster pointed out at the final whistle with typical honesty, Saturday evening’s match against France was lost before the final 10 minutes.
A 25-20 defeat was flattering for England, whose head coach bemoaned discipline and breakdown decision-making as two factors that contributed to an underwhelming result in Paris.
However, Jonathan Joseph’s try in the dying moments did two things. First off, it set up a grandstand finish during which his side almost delivered an unthinkable comeback.
Second, it showcased the most accurate, cohesive passage of phase-play attack England put together all evening. Take a look:
An old rugby adage states that a team must “earn the right to go wide” when in possession.
Such truisms can seem stale or ambiguous, but here we have cold, hard evidence of a side manufacturing space on the flank following a series of punchy carries.
Replacement Nick Easter made an extremely positive impact after joining the fray on 53 minutes and it is his nous that initiates England’s impetus.
As Danny Care snipes across field and is tackled by Alexandre Flanquart, Easter exhibits great mutual understanding with his Harlequins clubmate and good friend. The back-rower cuts an acute angle…
…catches Care’s offload skilfully as Rory Kockott threatens the ball:
Easter brushes off the challenge of the France scrum half...
and it requires two France forwards to bring him down, as Robshaw follows up in support:
Some textbook ball presentation on the floor allows England to recycle quickly with Dave Attwood joining the ruck:
Care can move the ball right once more, where Billy Vunipola comes back against the grain in a similar manner:
With Courtney Lawes on his shoulder, the Saracen sucks in three more Frenchmen – Remi Tales, Vincent Debaty and Bernard Le Roux:
Now England bounce back to the left. There is plenty going on in the below screenshot.
Attwood has returned to his feet and is in position to carry with Easter and Billy Twelvetrees on either shoulder, both offering themselves as options for a short pass left or right and set up to support the ensuing breakdown.
Outside these three, circled in white, are another group of England players organising for the next phase. Wider still, Jonathan Joseph is backpeddling towards the left touchline in a bid to offer as much width as possible:
Attwood trucks up strongly, while Easter and Twelvetrees resource the ruck. With more good ball presentation, Care has a nice platform...
...and can sweep away to George Ford, who has a loaded set of options to his left.
Debutant Jamie George and David Wilson are offering themselves on short lines, while Danny Cipriani is lurking further back with Mike Brown, Mako Vunipola and Jonathan Joseph in the wider channels:
Ford takes the ball to the line in order to draw French defenders onto him. Meanwhile, the presence of George and Wilson creates a concertina effect as Les Bleus bunch up in midfield.
A pass out the back to Cipriani therefore finds the Sale Shark in plenty of space:
The reverse angles brings a very clear demonstration of how this pattern opens up the France defence. Benjamin Kayser, who voiced his frustration at this try at the end of the game, is the key man.
He pinches in, leaving England with a four-on-two as Cipriani receives the pass:
From here, Cipriani calmly picks off Wesley Fofana, putting Mako Vunipola in space:
Mako Vunipola carries just long enough to hold up Gael Fickou’s drift and unselfishly transfers quite early to Brown, knowing the full back has more pace than him:
Though Fickou is not fully committed to Mako Vunipola, the pass sends Brown on an outside arc. The Harlequin transfers the ball, circled in white, into his left arm in order to fend off the would-be tackler:
Having beaten Fickou, Brown brings the ball back into two hands. He draws opposite number Scott Spedding and feeds Joseph, who is over for a fifth try in six Tests.
Notice that the Bath Rugby centre is approximately a metre from the chalk – making use of the entire field. David Wilson and Mako Vunipola are also charging through in support lines on the inside – reinforcing the fitness levels across Lancaster’s squad.
Of course, the title of this piece is somewhat misleading. The try will not have offered too much consolation, either to supporters or to the players, whose pride was stinging late on Saturday night.
Even so, this did bring a glimpse of England at their most clinical. More of the same is needed when Ireland arrive at Twickenham on 5 September.