Analysis: THAT Defensive Set

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The victory over Edinburgh last Friday was impressive for a number of reasons; to come back from 17-6 down, playing into the wind second half and the players picking themselves up after being on the wrong end of a number of disappointing refereeing decisions.

However, one thing stands head and shoulders above that, a mammoth effort in defence to secure the win with just a single point advantage for the last 10 minutes. There was help from a missed Edinburgh kick, but Cardiff gave up absolutely no ground, despite spending the entire last five minutes without any possession and camped in our own half.

Below is not even particularly an analysis as such, it’s just an excuse to re-live the, what I’ve counted to be, THIRTY SEVEN defensive phases that Cardiff put together in the dying moments to make the win seem deserved no matter would had gone on for the previous 77 minutes. So sit back and enjoy!

Phase 1 – Tackle: Garyn Smith


Edinburgh receive a 22 dropout from Gareth Anscombe, a kick which didn’t quite stretch across the halfway line due to the wind, and the home side set up base just inside the Cardiff 10 metre line.

Phase 2 – Tackle: Nick Williams


Phase 3 – Tackle: Steve Shingler with Corey Domachowski assist


Phase 4 – Tackle: Jarrad Hoeata with Scott Andrews assist


It’s all looking quite similar so far. Edinburgh are keeping the game fairly narrow, and Cardiff’s defenders are working hard to try and maintain a disciplined defensive line without infringing.

Phase 5 – Tackle: Garyn Smith with Tom James assist



Edinburgh look to put the ball through hands and out wide for the first time but a good drift defence from the Cardiff midfield means they make effectively no metres. The forwards are keeping the work rate up to form up again in the line.

Phase 6 – Tackle: Jarrad Hoeata and Scott Andrews


Phase 7 – Tackle: Steve Shingler with George Earle assist


Phase 8 – Tackle: Steve Shingler and Alex Cuthbert


A crucial phase as Edinburgh get quick ball but another tackle from Steve Shingler stops any break, before Alex Cuthbert does brilliantly to hold the ball carrier up and even momentarily rip the ball from him.

This breakdown kills 10 seconds, giving the defensive line time to setup and recover, as well as exemplifying the discipline shown by the players as Cuthbert resists the desire to use his hands on the floor, while both Matthew Rees and Corey Domachowski don’t risk entering at the side to recover the loose ball.

Phase 9 – Tackle: Matthew Rees and Nick Williams


Phase 10 – Tackle: Scott Andrews and George Earle


Phase 11 – Tackle: Matthew Rees with Steve Shingler assist


Edinburgh are into double figures of attacking phases and have had possession for over a minute now, but are yet to make any ground since receiving the 22 dropout.

Phase 12 – Tackle: Steve Shingler and Alex Cuthbert


Phase 13 – Tackle: Nick Williams with Macauley Cook assist


Phase 14 – Tackle: Jarrad Hoeata and Sion Bennett


Phase 15 – Tackle: George Earle and Scott Andrews


Phase 16 – Tackle: Corey Domachowski


Edinburgh begin to creep over the 10 metre line as the two minute mark approaches of this possession. Cardiff’s midfield defence is looking tired with hands on knees amongst the forwards, but the line remains solid as captain Lloyd Williams leads vocally from behind the ruck.

Phase 17 – Tackle: Jarrad Hoeata and Sion Bennett


Phase 18 – Tackle: Steve Shingler and Nick Williams


Phase 19 – Tackle: Alex Cuthbert


Phase 20 – Tackle: Sion Bennett with Jarrad Hoeata assist


The clock ticks over into the last minute of normal time and Edinburgh go through their 20th attacking phase, but still they have not made it over the 10 metre line. Cardiff’s defence is holding strong, and the workrate of the loose five forwards is massive as tackles push back the ball carriers each time, while the ruck is rarely competed to avoid penalties and increase the strength of the line.

Phase 21 – Tackle: Nick Williams


Phase 22 – Tackle: Corey Domachowski with Scott Andrews assist


Phase 23 – Tackle: Jarrad Hoeata


Phase 24 – Tackle: Garyn Smith


Phase 25 – Tackle: Scott Andrews


Phase 26 – Tackle: Jarrad Hoeata and Corey Domachowski


The clock ticks over into red as Edinburgh again makes move over the ten metre line, but there’s no panic from the Cardiff players who fight to maintain the defensive line. The injured man stays down for the remainder of the game, another crucial element to the shutout.

Phase 27 – Tackle: Garyn Smith


Phase 28 – Tackle: Jarrad Hoeata


Phase 29 – Tackle: Macauley Cook



Cardiff’s refusal to compete at the breakdown pays off dividends as Edinburgh over compete themselves through a few quick phases and end up leaving number eight Cornell Du Preez as a lone ball carrier with a standing start. Macauley Cook wraps him up for a loss of five metres.

Phase 30 – Tackle: Nick Williams


Phase 31 – Tackle: Steve Shingler and Garyn Smith


Phase 32 – Tackle: Steve Shingler


Edinburgh make a quick gain down the blindside and add some impetus to their attack as exhaustion really sets in amongst the Cardiff attack.

Phase 33 – Tackle: Garyn Smith with Jarrad Hoeata Assist


Phase 34 – Tackle: Sion Bennett with Nick Williams Assist


The effort is huge now though from Cardiff. A minute beyond the end of regular time and the line is still incredibly disciplined, while Edinburgh are fast running out of ideas. The 50/50 setup from Cardiff is excellent, especially given the circumstances, with forwards on both fringes and backs evenly covering the wider channels.

Phase 35 – Tackle: Corey Domachowski and George Earle


Phase 36 – Tackle: Sion Bennett, Nick Williams assist


Edinburgh leave one ruck unprotected and the chance is spotted by the Cardiff forwards…

Phase 37 – Tackle: Matthew Rees and Lloyd Williams


Matthew Rees jumps straight over as Edinburgh scrum-half Sam Hidalgo-Clyne juggles possession before eventually bringing the ball in high around his neck making it easy for the Cardiff hooker, assisted by Lloyd Williams, to hold him up.

The cavalry arrive for support to ensure the maul is secure and the ball is stuck inside and just wait for referee David Wilkinson to do the honours. An official total of 37 phases, and almost five minutes, after the attack starts, it is brought to an end just two metres to the left of where it began.

There were 12 players involved in making the tackles, but this was a whole team effort. Just two weeks after the loss to Connacht in a performance devoid of passion and desire, this was a return to the kind of commitment that the Cardiff Rugby jersey demands of the squad as players and men.

Credit must go to defence coach Graham Steadman, the World’s scariest looking man, for overseeing the defensive organisation and discipline on the training field, and also to Lloyd Williams for leading the team during the defensive set.

With Munster visiting the Arms Park on Saturday it’s going to take a similar shift in defence to keep the title chasers at bay, but the players should take huge confidence from the last five minutes in Edinburgh, and the win as a whole. There’s not long left in the season now, but there’s still time to make it a success, and last Friday in Myreside could go a long way to doing just that.




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