On the road, it's tackles and defence that wins matches
We scored some great tries that day but that did not win us the game. We won on the back of a staggering defensive performance from the wonderful players I was privileged to coach a decade ago. I leant that away from home, your offense scores the points, but your defence wins you games.
I have told you this before, but it is worth restating, that to win in Clermont, that Leinster team made over 225 tackles. That number is staggering. I have never seen a number like it before or since. It remains the best “D” performance I have every witnessed from an Irish team. I take no credit for it. Those men who performed that day were truly heroic.
Here lies the simple key “coachable moment”. When on the road, away form home, get your “D” correct and the rest, as they say, is “a jam sandwich”.
Compared to attack, “D” is easy to coach. It takes much less skill to defend than to attack. But, and it’s a big BUT, it takes buckets of courage, staggering physical commitment and sheer bloody-minded toughness to defend Clermont for a win at Stade Marcel Michelin.
Here is the next coachable moment. To make the play-offs, it is essential to get a big win away from home.
An example of the “D On the Road,” theory is Ulster. They made 129 tackles in their excellent away victory while Northampton made only 46 tackles. Ulster now have one foot in the play-offs.
Saracens made 84 tackles in Limerick, compared to Munster’s 64, but Saracens missed 17. Once you miss more than ten tackles in a match, you mostly lose.
Conversely, Biarritz at the Sportsground, made a measly 69 tackles, compared to Connacht’s 93. The Basques were in culture shock, having to wipe the dog poo from their boots, after crossing the greyhound track, but the men form the west simply wanted it more than their famous French counterparts and richly deserve the win.
Yesterday’s engrossing battle at Stade Marcel Michelin did not change the coaching mantra. Leinster were brave in defeat, tactically smart and, as always under Joe Schmidt, totally committed. While the number of tackles yesterday was not a key factor, the game was handed to Clermont in the soft, kickable penalties Leinster gave away in the tackle contest.
Once again on the road, within the tackle and its aftermath, lies victory or defeat. Teams that implement the theory will make the play-offs, those that dont will have early holidays. Perhaps to visit France.