January is always an interesting month in the English Premiership, because players know that the Six Nations is on the horizon and that it is the time to step up their game in order to force their way into the thoughts of the various national teams. That can lead to some cagey affairs on the field, with players trying hard not to make mistakes, but it also leads to some finding more chances to shine as spaces open up around the pitch.
One player who always stands out regardless of what stage of the season has been reached is Gloucester winger Ollie Thorley, and, in the Cherry and Whites’ game against Saracens, his hard work saw him nominated for and win January’s Try of the Month award, making him the second player from the club to win the competition. This try analysis will dissect what made his try in that game such a worthy winner, picking out the tactics involved in it and showing why Saracens were unable to prevent it from being scored.
Before getting into the try itself though, it is worth mentioning that the reason that Gloucester were able to score ultimately came from a good lineout exit on the far side of the field, with them securing possession in the air and moving the ball out at the first opportunity.
It might seem trivial to mention this, but so many coaches, writers and analysts will stress the need for a strong exit from set pieces and other situations on the field, and it really can be the difference between finding space and being forced back by the opposing side. Fortunately for Gloucester, it was the latter here, with the ball quickly travelling through the backs and across the field.
However, the key role is played by Scotland centre Chris Harris, who has so often been Gloucester’s most influential player on the field, and here he made sure that the ball kept travelling at the same velocity through his hands rather than slowing it down. Again, it might sound like a really small point to mention, but rugby is a game built on tiny details, and the fact that Ollie Thorley, in the yellow circle here, was able to run into Harris’ pass at speed shows how the Scotland centre played a key role in the build-up to the try.
As it was, Saracens didn’t seem to expect the ball to reach Thorley as quickly as it did, with them all caught flat-footed and winger Alex Lewington, who was the last player in the main defensive line, unable to attempt a tackle on the Gloucester winger, and that theme continued when looking at how Thorley evaded several tackle attempts, including here from Saracens scrum-half Aled Davies, on his way towards the try line.
However, Thorley does deserve credit for his well-timed changes of direction too, with him making it difficult for Saracens to get a hold of him until he was metres away. However, by that stage, he had built up enough speed to help him slide over the line and ground the ball, with fellow winger Jonny May and full-back Lloyd Evans (in the yellow circles) offering support just in case he was held on the ground before finishing his move off.
When looking at every part of this try, as this analysis has done, it is clear to see that it was not as flashy as some other tries that have been witnessed this season. However, scoring it came down to hard work and getting all of the different elements right, and the fact that Gloucester as a side did all that was what made this try a worthy winner of January’s Try of the Month.