In general there are 3 different ways to beat a defense.
Most teams will major on one and perhaps meddle with another.
Really good teams are able to switch through elements of all 3 within the changing dynamics of one match.
Over: Kick for territory and pressure defend for mistakes.
This is useful in wet weather and on those occasions when your attack is struggling with ball in hand.
But isn’t this giving the ball away? How can you call this attack?
Many teams thrive on this form of territorial game, especially when your opponent’s have an inferior set-piece and counter-attack and you can smother them in their half and force knock ons, pressure passes and relieving kicks.
Not the most entertaining rugby, but it is effective if your defense is disciplined and fit enough to hard press, for 3 or 4 continuous phases. Doubly effective if you have a opensider/hooker who can poach. Triply effective if your line out & scrum is dominant.
Most pro teams will play this way when they are anywhere within their own 40 meter line.
Into: Bigboys bashing it up, seeking contact.
This is useful if you have massive units and superior athletes.
Heavy use of the pick & go and 9-ball game to accumulate meters and intimidate the smaller players.
A lot of teams will try get their bigger ball carriers to purposefully seek out the opposition playmakers to make contact with.
Do you even run at space bro? Nope but I destroyed their flyhalf….
Used phase after phase this gets very attritional on your ball carriers especially over a long season.
This schoolboy mentality of physical dominance over gainline effectiveness is counterproductive to playing best possible rugby.
The best use of a big ball carrier is to get him over the gainline, sucking in 2 defenders by going between them, off of a “1 pop” shift pass rather than at them as a 1st receiver.
This setup also makes him a possible decoy runner for someone out the back.
Most pro teams will play this way when they are within 10 meters from the try line.
Through & Around: Moving the ball into space, avoiding contact.
This is the hardest and riskiest of the three methods because it requires players to 1) take responsibility to be in the right place at the right time, 2) make decisions, and 3) execute those decisions under pressure.
This is where the joy of coaching, playing, and watching rugby is found.
To see a line break or an overlap happen in real time is to witness the visitation of eternal freedom upon mortal man.
The elements required to pull this method off are a manipulation of defensive units, and a coordination of attacking patterns, over successive phases.
If you watch most pro teams long enough, you will pick out deliberate attacking patterns that they use in specific situations, and often over 2 or more phases. They rehearse these patterns over and over until every player knows what they should be doing and when/where they should be doing it.
Phase 1, three forwards take a 9-ball crash to suck in 2 defenders, get the defense to back track, and set up quick recycle ball.
Phase 2, the flyhalf gets the ball with 4 options:
a) pop to the two forwards running a punch line into the 10/12 channel.
b) pass behind the two forwards to the 12 sliding out into space.
c) pop inside to the blindside wing.
d) show and go to attack the space himself.
Phase 3, quick recycle into a 3v2 style drill where there are two quick draw-and-passes to exploit the short side defense. Some teams like to use this middle-field ruck to switch the play the other direction, hoping to catch the defense napping.
These are just two examples of the endless ways to stack attacking patterns to manipulate a defense over successive phases.
If you want to take your attack to the next level, you will want to master the basic attack style that best suits your player group (“Over” or “Into”), and then begin to build into a simple multi-phase attacking plan.