This is causing us so much trouble getting the out of our own end. We have had stretches now in the past 5 or so games where we don’t touch the ball in the opposition half for up to 20 minutes from the end of the 1st half to start of the 2nd.
It gets to a point where we have:
1. Thompson/Watene-Zelezniak/Naiqama get the kick return, run along the field sideways, get cleaned up and have a slow play the ball.
2. After the slow play the ball another of these guys gets it and makes about 5-6m before being slowed down again at the PTB.
After that we have another ineffective hit-up, or on occasion Fonua will take a run and make 10m. It’s often not until 4th tackle that a forward gets their first carry of our set. Without our forwards getting involved, we can’t build momentum and we can’t get field position and as a result score points.
I understand the approach given it keeps the forwards fresher, but what’s the point of having fresh forwards if you aren’t going to use them?
Hopefully this changes when Mbye gets to fullback but we need our kick returners to run it back full steam, get on the front foot and let the next back to carry it make extra metres off the back of this quick play the ball. Then our forwards will be onside quicker and able to get involved earlier and instead of making a paltry 25m per set, we can be working the ball into the opposition half and building pressure.
The other major gripe I have with the back heavy approach is that it limits the effectiveness of us spreading the ball. When the backs are taking hitups, the defence can compress. We won’t make breaks through the middle from that and we won’t make breaks on the edges without wingers/centres being out there. Luke Brooks is effective when he can run in space and pick out holes in the opposition’s defensive line. When he’s got his winger outside him playing the ball after hit-up, if Brooks goes wide he’s going to have no space as there’s 1 less man to account for the defence.
I understand a lot of this ineffectiveness owes to the fact that Nofoaluma is injured and he’s one of the best in the game at doing it, but it’s something that’s been bothering me for a while. Why pay Packer & Matulino like marquee players so they can play 40 minutes and have a combined 8 runs between them?