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Joe Schmidt delves deep into his bag of tricks for match-winning play

 

By Jonathan Bradley

Joe Schmidt is certainly a man for the big occasion.

In Twickenham, in the game that sealed the Grand Slam, he produced a sparkling off-the-paddock move that saw CJ Stander put over and was recently nominated for World Rugby's 2018 try of the year.

The Kiwi was delving deep into his bag of tricks again on Saturday for the sublime move that ended with Jacob Stockdale scoring the game's only try in the 16-9 win, the most crucial moment in Ireland's first ever victory over the All Blacks on home soil.

The so-called "mousetrap" play, designed to get backs running against forwards bunched together just after a line-out, has been on the rise in 2018 but switch plays have been a big part of repertoire throughout the Schmidt years.

Here, the way Sexton pivoted back - taking a late shot for his troubles - and released Aki allowed Stockdale to run at locks Brodie Retallick and Sam Whitelock, while Kieran Reid was left on the deck.

"I mostly steal them from other people," Schmidt joked of his training ground plays.

"I'm always on the lookout. I watch the Mitre 10 Cup, there's always some good ones there. It's hard to get patents on moves.

"We felt like we could get back down that short-side. Sometimes they work and sometimes they don't. It's always nice when they come off."

The try was remarkable in a different fashion of course, namely Jacob Stockdale's belief to go for the chip again having only narrowly avoided gifting New Zealand a try.

The execution of the set-move, and the 22-year-old's belief, left his captain Rory Best impressed.

"We prepare really well to make sure that we know we can execute things," said the skipper. "When they don't necessarily come off the first time, it does take a little bit of confidence to chip that over again.

"Jacob's a fantastic player and he got his opportunity. It was a really well-worked move, Bundee put him into a bit of space. I was outside him, probably not in as much space, and he put it over the top.

"He doesn't necessarily look the fastest until you try to keep up with him, with that big long stride. And as has happened over the last 12 or 18 months, the ball bounced his way, but I do think you make your own luck with those bounces.

"He's in the right place at the right time and it was very important for us. We knew we probably needed to score a try in the second half to win that game."

The timing was key too. Up to that point Ireland had been forced to make do with penalties at best on their multiple trips to the opposition '22'.

While Andy Farrell can rightly claim to having bust the myth that the only way to beat the All Blacks is to score tries, Ireland's three-point lead was a skinny return for how they'd played.

They badly needed some separation on the scoreboard against a side who as recently as last month against South Africa once again proved that they are never out of a game.

"It was really important," said Toner of the game's solitary score coming when it did. "Jacob really finished it brilliantly.

"We obviously decided to cut back down that side and to see him chip over and score... it was pretty good for us, anyway."

Toner - who incidentally enjoyed arguably his best game in a green jersey - is a relaxed sort. "Pretty good" is quite the understatement.

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