The Waratahs were long overdue to show how their rolling maul can be a scoring weapon against the Rebels in Sydney last Saturday, but at least they were not too late.
The challenge for them now is to show what they can do with this added element of their attacking game, starting Friday in Canberra against the Brumbies, who are masters of the rolling maul. That the Brumbies scored three tries off rolling mauls against the Highlanders last Friday, with flanker David Pocock nabbing all three, speaks volumes of its impact to the Australian conference leaders.
But that Waratahs No. 7 Michael Hooper scored off a rolling maul from a line-out nine minutes into their 18-16 win over the Rebels will have boosted the Tahs’ confidence to match them in that tactic. Waratahs prop Paddy Ryan says having an effective rolling maul will broaden their options in attack.
And he is not alone in that thought, with his Waratahs teammates sharing that view this week. Asked if the rolling maul could become a centrepiece of Friday’s game in Canberra, a smiling Ryan said: “There will be a bit of that.”
Ryan, who last week re-signed with the Waratahs to the end of 2016, believes that with both sides boasting strong back lines, “both teams will be looking to lay a platform with their forwards”.
But he did not give too much away as to how the Waratahs planned play off that platform, saying, “If that means rolling maul and scrum, then that’s what that means. If that means big carries in the middle of the field, then that’s what that means.
“But both teams have really exciting outside backs … it makes for a better game across the whole park. And the forward play will certainly be a part of that. That will include mauling and scrumming and running and rucking, but it will also include the elusive stuff out wide, which our guys love. I am sure theirs do as well.”
However, on Monday Waratahs second-rower Mitchell Chapman flagged the rolling maul as key to a game that could see NSW move into first on the Australian conference ladder with a win.
Chapman recognises the Brumbies strength in the tactic saying, “We can’t afford to be letting them score two or three tries off a rolling maul – that’s the game done there.”
On the Tahs’ use of it against the Rebels, he said: “That was our first rolling maul try for as long as I can remember … it is something in attack we haven’t been great at. We’ve defended it reasonably well. But the Brumbies are really good and when we played [them] in the first round [in Sydney] that was something we really targeted of theirs. It will be crucial.”
Waratahs No.10 Bernard Foley said having an effective rolling maul opens up their back play.
“If we can be dominant in that area then teams are going to stick numbers there, or extra resources to stop that. That hopefully opens it up for somewhere else,” Foley said. “That’s just having that extra knife in the pocket where we can hurt sides … just something for them to look at so we can hopefully exploit them somewhere else.”
However, Foley respects how formidable the Brumbies rolling maul can be, too. “They have been probably competition leaders in that … matching the South African sides in how well they go in that set piece and the rolling mauls,” Foley said.
“That is the challenge for us this week – if we want to be in this competition for the rest of the season we have got to be able to stop teams there.”