Aviva Premiership 2018 Final – Exeter Chiefs vs. Saracens.
Exeter have been finalists for the last three years in a row, winning in 2017, and finishing eight points clear of Saracens this year in the league.
Exeter is where I was born and my heart was completely with them to retain the title this year.
My head (ruled by my experience as a Rugby Union and Rugby League coach) gave this year’s final to Saracens by 10 points. The reality was they won by 17 points. But I know why it was a win by 17 rather than 10 points.
I also know how Exeter could have turned the result around.
Since the match, last Saturday, I have contemplated several times dropping an email to Rob Baxter, Director of Rugby at Exeter Chiefs, and putting on my best Yosser Hughes accent, stating ‘Gis a job – I could do that!’.
Early in the second half, the Chiefs pushed the ball wide from the left side out to the right – a common enough set play, getting the ball out to the far 15m channel and working against slow middle field defenders, and then going the opposite direction trying to catch slower defenders out of position.
However, Saracens were already moving three defenders out into that 15m channel, even before the ball got there. This slowed down the recycling of the ball and allowed the now midfield defenders to get organised. It sounds simple, but the exhaustion on the Saracens pack showed how hard they were working to accomplish this.
The solution for Exeter? As the ball travelled left to right (or vice-a-versa) the attacking line needed to stand a little flatter and attack through the mid-defenders, who were spread wide and racing to fill gaps for the next phase of play. Whilst the Saracens three defenders charged to the 15m zone, a flatter attacking line would have allowed the Chiefs to exploit the gaps between centre field and the 15m line.
As soon as Exeter pulled another try back, I’m sure the fatigue Saracens were suffering would have turned the tide.
Have I said anything which the post game review hasn’t spotted? Probably not. But what I do know is I can spot these kind of things during the games.
So where does that leave me?
Hey Rob! Gis a job – I could do that!
But in the even that Rob Baxter doesn’t read my blog, I guess I will have to find another way of sharing my expertise.
How about you? What skills do you have that are going underused? And how can you change that?
Identify the skills and find your platform!