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The Anatomy of a Try: Richie Mo’unga (Barbarians vs. New Zealand)

The attacking fly-half scored the opening points at Twickenham. How did the try get scored?


The Barbarians are not a team you expect to put phase after phase together before they score a try. They are a select side that doesn’t have months worth of practices to hone those skills. Instead, most of their tries come from broken play. Their first try against New Zealand though was a little different. Let’s break it down and see how Mo’unga scored against his parent nation.

The Set Up

The Barbarians were awarded a 5-metre scrum just to the right of the centre of the park as they attacked. This is the perfect set up for an attacking play as the huge blindside gives the All Blacks defence two wide channels to defend. You can see Mo’unga lined up wide to the left as the first receiver, further stretching the defence. The Barbarians also keep the All Blacks honest by lining up their fullback to the right side of the scrum, giving a four and two attacking platform.



Whatever play the Baa-Baa’s initially had called is quickly waved off as they are dominated in the scrum. You can see that they have been pushed two metres backward and that the whole scrum has crabbed sideways so now they are almost directly beneath the posts. No. 8 Luke Whitelock did an outstanding job of controlling the ball until scrum-half Any Ellis (1) rescued the situation. You can also see that the scrum movement means that Mo’unga (2) is now far closer to the outside fringe than he wants to be.

Ellis is out of options, so he does the right thing and takes the ball to the line. His problem is that flanker Ardie Savea is off of the scrum in a flash and lights Ellis up, driving him further back and across the pitch. Mo’unga now goes from first receiver to first rucker into contact as the Baa-Baa’s have to work to secure possession before they can set a new platform to attack from.

The Recovery

The recovery phase of this try is initiated by Australian lock Sam Carter. Carter realizes that the Barbarians need to establish front foot ball quickly, so he picks and goes to the weakside, continuing to move the Baa-Baa’s to the left. Hooker Adriaan Strauss is the player that Carter drags with him, securing the ball and setting the next phase. At this point, the All Blacks defensive line is in good shape, and you can see T.J. Perenara working to control the flow of the defence across the pitch.



The Barbarians work the ball to the weakside twice more, with this pass from Ellis (1) to Strauss (2) being the last time they will move the ball to the left before breaking to the right. You can see Mo’unga (3) helping to direct traffic, but having no interest in getting the ball as he is content to let his forward pack work. 

You could make an argument that the Barbarians blow a try here though as looking at the New Zealand defence you can see it is stacked too heavily to the openside. The Barbarians have a four on two in the tight channel, but they don’t have the right ball handlers in position to exploit this All Blacks mistake.

The Mistake

It almost seems harsh to call a missed tackle on the 127kg Atu Moli a mistake, but at this level of fine margins, this miss gives the Barbarians forward momentum before their try. It is Scott Barrett who rushes up out of the line to hit Moli, but the big Chiefs’ prop bounces off of his Crusaders’ foe and drags more tacklers into the fray. It isn’t exactly a line break, but it is enough of an opening for the Baa-Baas to exploit.



Another quick pick and go later and suddenly the Barbarians are inside the All Blacks 5-metre line with the defence scrambling to get back into position. Faced with this attacking setup, Ellis (1) can choose to hit either of his two forwards flat to the gain line, but instead he passes out the back to Mo’unga (2). A big key is that inside centre Harold Vorster (3) drops back from the flat set up to take the ball from Mo’unga. His late movement in the attacking line leaves New Zealand one short in defence out wide to the right.

Vorster (2) quickly shovels the ball on to fullback George Bridge (1) who is a faster player and who is running a better line. Bridge has managed to fade wide and get outside rival fullback David Havili (3), which is the second big All Blacks mistake. If Havili can funnel Bridge back inside, then Beauden Barrett and the other cover defence (4) can shut down the attack. Winger Seta Tamanivalu is being held wide and out of frame by the presence of Julian Savea.

Bridge gets past Havili and is only stopped from scoring by an outstanding cover tackle courtesy of Tamanivalu a metre from the line (1). Havili is now out of position and struggling to get back (2) as Barbarians Vorster (3), Savea (4) and Carter (5), all fly to the ruck to secure the ball. With no All Blacks left to defend the new blindside on the right touchline, any quick ball will present significant problems.

Ellis arrives at the breakdown and at this point all the action is too his left. Nathan Harris (1) has managed to get all the way across the pitch to protect the blindside fringe and he is supported by Havili in a traditional post and pillar defence close to the line. Both though are watching nothing but the ball, worried that Ellis will have a dart to the line himself. This means they miss Mo’unga sneaking from openside to blind (3) and as he pushes wide to the right an out of shot Kwagga Smith also pushes to the blindside. 

The Baa-Baa’s suddenly have two players in a channel with no defence.

All it takes now is a simple piece of execution as Ellis skips Smith and hits Mo’unga inside the 5-metre channel. Havili does his best to push wide and stop the try, but the speed and angle that Mo’unga has taken gives the fullback no chance as the Crusaders fly-half dives in for the first score of the match.

 What do you think about how Mo’unga set up this try with crafty movement? Let us know in the comment section!

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Steve Wright

Rugby Union editor at RealSport.

Steve is a devotee to all things rugby union with writing being just one way of showing his love for the game. He also plays for the highly successful Wichita Barbarians during XVs season, before taking his talents South (in the style of LeBron James) to play sevens for the HEB Hurricanes out of Dallas, Texas.

When not writing or playing rugby, Steve is found playing or watching soccer, or watching any one of dozens of other sports as an admitted competition junkie. He also finds time to release his inner nerd as a lover of all things gaming (board and video.)

Track down more of Steve's work at websites such as HeroSports.com, RuntoftheWeb.com, and TheGamer.com.

The Anatomy of a Try: Richie Mo’unga (Barbarians vs. New Zealand)

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