Analysis Corner: Quins Refusal to Commit Costs Them Place in Cup Final
Sadly I missed last Friday’s LV Cup semi-final between Harlequins and Newcastle. Newcastle won 20-21 with a last play try (Check out the full match details here) I have just watched the highlights and the game looked like a real classic. Full credit goes to Newcastle for the way they defended and the sheer commitment they gave to the game.Newcastle made 157 tackles to Harlequins’ 70 and won only 49 rucks to Quins’ 116. It’s extremely rare that a team wins a game with statistics like that.
The biggest shock for me though was the ability of a team who have hardly won a game all season to show the nerve to score a last gasp winning try. I don’t wish to take any of the credit for this away from Newcastle, they were patient and composed, but a closer inspection of that final play shows that Quins were the architects of their own downfall.
Newcastle were allowed to build a patient, low-risk attack
The build-up to Newcastle’s winning try lasted for 1minute 45seconds, 13 phases of play. That's 12 rucks (an unbelievable 25% of the rucks they won all game). In 11 of those 12 phases Quins failed to commit a single man to the breakdown. I can only assume that this was a deliberate tactic, but frankly it was suicidal.
Quins had had little problem dealing with Newcastle in the previous 79 minutes of the match. They were also more than 3 points clear and so didn't need to fear conceding a penalty. In the end Newcastle had to do very lttle to score their try. They just creeped forward 1 yard at a time knowing that when the ball carrier was tackled they would get it straight back.
Here's the footage of the final couple of minutes of the game, notice how Harlequins don't commit any players to the tackle area.
I don't know who made the call to not compete at the rucks, but whoever it was made a massive error of judgement and in the end cost Harlequins a place in the LV Cup Final.