Rugby league great Billy Slater says this season has exposed a “real opportunity” for teams to use their kicking game to exploit 13-man defensive lines.
The legendary NRL fullback, who this year will take on the coaching duties at the Maroons, pinpointed over round five how teams like the Roosters and Sea Eagles are deploying their kicking game in attacking position to counter the 13-man defensive lines.
With more teams now using their fullback in the defensive line as opposed to sweeping behind the line, Slater said now more than ever the attacking side’s playmaker should look to kick into the space behind the defensive line.
READ MORE: Barrett’s passionate defence of Flanagan
Pinpointing several moments across the round, Slater explained how Manly in particular took advantage of space behind the defensive line in their 30-6 thrashing of the Knights.
Billy’s Breakdown Round 5
“It is harder to attack against a 13-man defensive line… but 25 per cent of the tries scored in 2022 have come off kicks,” he told Wide World of Sports’ Billy’s Breakdown.
“There’s a real opportunity there, and you’re leaving your team vulnerable if you [the fullback] do jump into the defensive line.
“There were a couple from the Knights game. Kalyn Ponga is in the defensive line and the ball goes out to Dylan Walker, and there’s so much space in behind.
“Haumole Olakau’atu has a great relationship with his inside man, he (Walker) leads with a kick and he’s only thinking kick, and he (Olakau’atu) scores a try.
“There was another one with Daly Cherry-Evans – the ball is on the left-hand side of the field and he creates a little bit of structure. On this occasion, Kurt Mann was the fullback and he was up in the defensive line and then Morgan Harper leads for a beautiful kick.
“Obviously there was some communication between Cherry-Evans and Harper, but there’s so much space in behind. There’s a real opportunity to score some tries.”
Slater said Manly’s Cherry-Evans and Sam Walker from the Roosters are the two best playmakers in the game at taking advantage of the 13-man defensive lines.
“Sam Walker, he’s another one that can identify this,” Slater added.
“They’re probably the two best ones, I think Daly Cherry-Evans and Sam Walker can instinctively kick on the run.
“Adam Reynolds is another one with a great short kicking game. He hasn’t got that connection with his outside men at the Broncos just yet, and I think the back-rowers are the ones they can build that connection with.
“There’s plenty of tries on offer.
“Those teams that are struggling to score points, go and have a look at a few of these tries and you might come up with something.”
For a daily dose of the best of the breaking news and exclusive content from Wide World of Sports, subscribe to our newsletter by clicking here!