Tac­ti­cal tweaks make for in­trigu­ing game on rugby’s re­turn to ac­tion

More ef­fec­tive maul­ing, de­coy moves among the backs and mid-air ac­ro­bat­ics to keep the ball in play led to a re­fresh­ing Premiershi­p restart

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Sport | Rugby Union - By Char­lie Mor­gan

Jack­allers were able to in­flu­ence games but some ref­er­ees were less strin­gent on tech­nique

Maul­ing is a po­tent weapon again

Of the 29 tries scored across six matches this week­end, 14 came within two phases of a driv­ing maul. Nine pushover tries, helped by big penalty counts, punc­tu­ated the round.

Two fur­ther five-point­ers scored by Ex­eter Chiefs, both in­sti­gated by Luke Cowan-Dickie’s quick taps, ar­rived af­ter their line-out had squeezed close-range penal­ties out of Le­ices­ter Tigers.

Bath’s maul­ing looked par­tic­u­larly pow­er­ful, yield­ing three tries. A re­cent ref­er­ee­ing di­rec­tive has de­creed that dummy jumpers should al­ways move to the out­side of the line-out rather than fill­ing the tun­nel be­tween the teams.

Usu­ally be­gin­ning in a “six-plu­sone” set-up, with Sam Un­der­hill at scrum-half, Bath use this to load up their maul for­ma­tion as quickly as pos­si­ble.

A short throw from Bris­tol Bears caught Sara­cens off guard and led to a penalty try – one of three in round 14, all of which brought yel­low cards to de­fend­ing play­ers – that de­cided mat­ters at Ash­ton Gate.

Worces­ter reg­is­tered a con­so­la­tion against Glouces­ter with a trendy faux-drive. Sam Lewis, ini­tially in the same role Un­der­hill adopts for Bath, spun away from the pack and fed scrum-half Fran­cois Hougaard, who slipped a pass in­side to blind­side wing Scott van Breda.

It was no co­in­ci­dence that Har­lequins, no doubt steeled by new line-out coach Jerry Flan­nery, won on Fri­day night af­ter stunt­ing Sale Sharks’ maul and scor­ing a pushover of their own.

When done well, the first-phase strike moves we have seen de­ployed are dif­fi­cult to con­tain

In­no­va­tor: Glouces­ter’s Danny Cipri­ani set up a try with an in­tel­li­gent cross-field chip

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