In the 2nd Man Play (pictured below being perfectly executed by Queensland in State of Origin 1), the objective is to isolate a particular defender and attract him to the lead runner, before passing to the 2nd man (hence the name) and in doing so, create an overlap on the outside. Let’s break it down piece by piece.
Attacking with the 2nd Man Play
As mentioned above, the play is designed to isolate an individual defender. In this particular example, that defender is James Maloney:
The second rower, Matt Gillett, is Maloney’s defensive responsibility, and has his attention. To sell the play, he runs an unders line at the inside shoulder of Maloney. This is crucial. By attacking the inside shoulder of the target, he achieves two things. Firstly, he (hopefully) ensures that he won’t contact Maloney and risk being penalised for an obstruction. Secondly, an attacker coming back against the grain at the inside shoulder of a defender is a very difficult tackle to make, and as a result, if the target is too slow to recognise the play and release to the 2nd man, he’ll likely square his shoulders up to improve his position to stop the lead runner:
Once he’s squared up to the lead runner, the 2nd man (Darius Boyd) is now unmarked, and it’s a simple case of draw-and-pass to find the unmarked man on the outside.
Defending the 2nd Man Play
Now, this isn’t to say that the 2nd Man Play is undefendable by any stretch of the imagination. It simply requires quick decision making by the target defender to first check for the 2nd man, and then if necessary, release his original responsibility to cover him. When defended correctly, the play simply fizzles out, as shown here by the Storm defense against Brisbane:
The key to look for here is the body positioning of Blake Green:
Notice how unlike Maloney earlier, Green has made an early decision to release Gillett to be covered by the inside defender, and his hips are turned to the outside, sliding across with Boyd. However, this isn’t where the 2nd Man Play ends.
The Option: Hitting the lead runner
In the event that the target defender makes a good decision and releases to the 2nd Man, the ball-player should key off the target defender, and throw a short ball to the lead runner, forcing the inside defender to make the stop. If the inside defender isn’t paying attention to the play developing outside him, the lead runner will stroll through the line untouched, having been released (correctly) by the target defender. This is brilliantly executed here by Cooper Cronk and Kevin Proctor:
In this instance, Anthony Milford has made the correct decision to release Proctor and cover the 2nd man. However his inside defender, Jaydn Sua has inexplicably decided to rush out and put a hit on Cronk (likely due to having his attention drawn by the wrap-around with Jesse Bromwich), allowing an easy passage to the line for Proctor:
So, that’s how the 2nd Man Play works. If you have any questions, sound off in the comments below. If you’d like something else broken down, let me know and it might become the basis of a future post!