Rugby league great Billy Slater says this season has revealed a “real opportunity” for teams to use their kicking game to exploit 13-man defensive lines.
The legendary NRL full-back, who will take over coaching duties for the Maroons this year, highlighted in the fifth round how teams like the Roosters and Sea Eagles deploy their kicking game from an attacking position to counter the defensive lines of 13 men.
With more teams now using their back in the defensive line instead of sweeping behind the line, Slater said now more than ever that the attacking team’s playmaker should look to kick into space behind the defensive line.
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Identifying several moments from the round, Slater explained how Manly in particular took advantage of space behind the defensive line in their 30-6 thrashing of the Knights.
Billy’s Breakdown Round 5
“It’s harder to attack against a 13-man defensive line…but 25% of tries scored in 2022 ended in kicks,” he told Wide World of Sports. Billy’s breakdown.
“There is a real opportunity there, and you leave your team vulnerable if you [the fullback] jump into the defensive line.
“There were a few from the Knights game. Kalyn Ponga is in the defensive line and the ball goes to Dylan Walker, and there’s so much space behind it.
“Haumole Olakau’atu has a great relationship with his inner man, he (Walker) leads with a kick and he only thinks of a kick, and he (Olakau’atu) scores a try.
“There was another one with Daly Cherry-Evans – the ball is on the left side of the field and it creates a bit of structure. On that occasion Kurt Mann was the fullback and he was in the defensive line and then Morgan Harper leads for a nice kick.
“Obviously there was some communication between Cherry-Evans and Harper, but there’s so much space behind it. There’s a real try-scoring opportunity.”
Slater said Cherry-Evans of Manly and Sam Walker of the Roosters are the two best point guards in the game to take advantage of 13-man defensive lines.
“Sam Walker is another who can identify that,” Slater added.
“Those are probably the best two, I think Daly Cherry-Evans and Sam Walker can instinctively kick as they run.
“Adam Reynolds is another one with a great short kick game. He doesn’t have that connection yet with his men outside the Broncos, and I think the back rowers are the ones they can make that connection with.
“There are a lot of trials offered.
“These teams struggling to score points, go take a look at some of these tries and you might find something.”
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