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24th Mar 2015

Analysis: Ireland barely break a sweat in taking apart Scottish scrum

Cian Healy was dominant on his return to the side

Neil Treacy

This was not a contest.

As we mentioned in our Scottish preview last week, the only worry for the Irish scrum would be whether Mike Ross and Marty Moore would handle Scotland’s strong options at loose-head. With Ireland’s tight-heads holding their own, it allowed Cian Healy to cause havoc.

Obviously, Scotland were dealt a big blow losing Euan Murray and Ryan Grant in the opening half, and while Alasdair Dickinson proved the strength in depth they have at loose-head, Geoff Cross simply couldn’t cope with Healy’s incredible power and technique.

Going by the stats, Ireland were perfect. They retained the ball on each of their 10 put-ins (two of which were uncontested), and won a penalty from one of the two scrums on Scotland’s feed.

There were minor issues though. Ireland needlessly risked penalties with their crooked feeds, and Rory Best’s pre-hooking, and on another day Marty Moore could have been penalised for a poor bind, but equally, there were a handful of potential penalties that Ireland could have been awarded themselves.

The first of which came in the opening scrum of the game, when Euan Murray cynically pulled down Cian Healy’s bind as soon as the ball was fed.

We can see below how the Scottish tight-head has a short bind on Healy’s arm, they key indication being how his own arm is pointing straight to the ground.

1 initialAnd as we can see in the gif below, as soon as Ireland feed the ball, Euan Murray pulls downwards, and causes it to collapse. Ireland retain possession at the back of the scrum, but in reality it should have been a penalty.

With Murray already under pressure after the first scrum, his broken nose soon after only made things worse, with Cross brought in to replace him.

Healy instantly went after the 32-year-old, and had him on his knees at the scrum.

Cross showed good technique, but couldn’t live with Healy’s power. Here we see how they lined up before the second scrum of the day. Watch how the pair have an almost symmetrical technique, and also note where Cross is binding, a much safer and more legal bind compared to Murray’s above.

2 initialHover, all the technique in the world couldn’t stop Healy. Once he begins to drive, Cross has had it.

Watch how the Irish prop is perfectly square, straight and parallel to the ground as he forces Cross backwards, and ultimately onto his left knee.

2 Healy goodBefore further pressure sees him drop onto his right…

2 knee downWith Garces on the other side of the pack it goes unseen, but the Frenchman’s touch judge weighs in on the next scrum to award Ireland a deserved penalty.

After getting driven back that time, Cross pulls his bind much shorter onto Healy’s arm, as you can see below.

3 Cross bindAnd when the scrum inevitably collapses, Ireland deservedly have the penalty.

3 Cross collapseWith Ireland so dominant at the scrum, risking free-kicks and penalties when under no real pressure from the Scots was downright foolish.

Twice in a row Best clearly lifted his leg up for Conor Murray to feed the ball behind, and Ireland were very lucky it wasn’t spotted by Jerome Garces.

Here we can see the scrum just after the engagement. Note how the front-row channel is clear.

4 initial

But as Murray gets ready to feed the scrum, watch the boot of Rory Best appear in the channel, for the scrumhalf to put in. With Garces directly beside it, it’s inexplicable how it wasn’t spotted.

4 leg up

Once the ball is in, the Irish dominance continues. Again, Cross pulls his bind onto Healy’s arm…

4 bindBefore he collapses onto his knees once again.4 Cross dropsOver the last six weeks, we’ve seen plenty of flankers illegally sliding up the scrum to try force the opposing prop to collapse, but Adam Ashe’s original effort on the next scrum was borderline comical, such was the lack of subtlety involved.

After another raised leg and crooked feed from Ireland, Healy once more puts Cross under pressure. Sensing his prop is in trouble, Ashe simply places an arm onto Cian Healy’s shoulder, before pushing him into the ground.

Watch in the first photo how he reaches out…

5 adam asheAnd in the second photo, where he pushes downwards.

5 ashe 2Unfortunately, we’ve reached a stage in the game of rugby where something this cynical can go unseen and unpunished. Have a look at it in gif form, and marvel at how little effort Ashe puts into hiding his crime.

An early push from Scotland brought to end a miserable half for their front rows, and it got even worse in the opening scrum of the second half, when substitute Moore dismantled the usually solid Dickinson.

We’ve had to zoom in because of the camerawork, but you can see that as Ireland are driving square and forwards, Dickinson is driving his side of the scrum in at an illegal angle.

7 DickinsonOnce the camera gives us a proper view we can see how the Irish scrum has continued to move straight and forward, with the Scottish players who haven’t either collapsed or detached, driving almost perpendicular to the Irish pack, and a second Irish scrum penalty follows.

7 penaltyCross’ sin-binning meant that the next two scrums went uncontested, and by the time he was back in the front row just over ten minutes from time, Ireland had taken their foot off the gas.

In this scrum we see a slow and inevitable collapse, with Moore and Dickinson sharing equal blame.

Watch how they both get their angles all wrong. Both players have their head below their hips, and as a result, they slowly drive towards the ground.

10 Scrum downWhile Moore’s bind above looked a little short, it was certainly illegal on the next drive, as he held Dickinson by the arm, and pushed him into the ground.

11 Scrum down bindMoore was much better though on the final scrum of the day, correcting his bind and improving his body position.

Here we can see how his angles are much better, with his back level with his hips, and his bind is much longer, on the jersey of Dickinson.

12 good bindWith Scotland just five metres out from goal, Dickinson has a real go trying to move Moore back, but the tight-head doesn’t budge an inch, retaining his position and allowing Conor Murray to get the ball in and out without difficulty.

All in all, we’ve seen more positives than negatives from the Irish props over these five games. At loose-head, Jack McGrath has established himself as a world class scrummager, while we’ve seen that Healy is arguably the best in his position at the set piece.

Tight-head doesn’t look as dominant, but Mike Ross and Marty Moore both performed solidly, aside from one struggling display against France.

Ross came into the tournament under a world of pressure, but flourished when emphasising the fundamentals of scrummaging, proving that his inclusion in the World Cup squad is a must, while Moore’s improvements have been marked week-by-week, and looks likely to be wearing No.3 more often than 18 for Ireland’s title defence in 2016.

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