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Do you really need a plan to close out a game?
One score ahead and going into the last ten minutes. Should you have a plan “to close out the game” or should you be doing more of the same?
WHAT IS CLOSING OUT A GAME?
Though there’s no definitive explanation, closing out a game can only happen in the last section of the second half. You are ahead by more than one score yourselves, so that period is about the amount of time that the other team can reasonably score twice. That’s enough to just win the game and then make it safe for them.
We have to assume that most teams don’t have a Dan Carter ready to slot over a long-range penalty. We can also assume that most teams won’t be able to win by a drop goal. Just ask the All Blacks and Australia after their drawn game in 2020.
Therefore, if they score once then you are not closing out the game, you are hanging on. As you can see, quite of a lot of how you approach it will be psychological.
YES, HAVE A PLAN
Have a plan so players don’t panic and are focused their roles in that plan.
It’s weather dependent, but most teams don’t score from their own half. Why not plan to kick the ball to them the ball, get them to attack from deep and back your defence to be strong. In your half, kick long with a measured chase. That means a good line coming forward without gaps. It’s best to kick behind their forwards and in front of yours. Contestable box kicks into that area are good.
Don’t overcommit to rucks. This reduces the chances of penalties. Have a rule of only sending one player in as well as the tackler.
When in possession in their half, keep the ball within 15m of your forwards. Don’t attack wide unless you are within 10m of their line.
But, most importantly, play to a plan you’ve already practised in training before. All the players need to buy-in and know their roles. The plan reduces the risks you take, but also the potential rewards.
NO, KEEP DOING WHAT YOU’RE ALREADY DOING
Your normal mode of play should be to prevent other teams from scoring, so why change what you are doing.
A change in plan might stop you exerting the same pressure as you were before, allowing the opposition more opportunities to retain possession and score points.
Instead of changing plan, why not encourage the players to maintain and up their intensity. In the end, it will come down to whether your side miss tackles or not. In the last part of the game that is often due to tiredness or lack of focus.
Whether you have a plan or not, you will need to keep focused on three areas in the last section of the game:
- Maintaining defensive pressure. It’s better to be narrow in defence and force the opposition to go wide.
- Securing set-piece ball. Especially in the lineout, go for your banker ball even if they will compete.
- Not looking at the scoreboard. The players should keep themselves in the present by working out what to do in the next play. If they are constantly asking how long to go, you know they are losing focus.