USA vs Tonga: Tackle Sequences and Attack Width the Key to Victory

USA vs Tonga: Tackle Sequences and Attack Width the Key to Victory

Analysis point 1: Width of attack and defen­sive pres­sure leads to Tongan scores.

*To begin with we will define some of the met­rics used in this analysis: 

A.Tackle Sequence: is the abil­i­ty to a team to make tack­les in succession.

    B. Attack Map: Is the lat­er­al dis­tance from the source of pos­ses­sion that a tar­get is set by the attack­ing team. The flat­ter the line on the graph, the more width and vari­a­tion a team has on attack.

    Tonga’s tack­le sequence of 9.9 is rel­a­tive­ly high and place defen­sive pres­sure on the Americans. (The over­all aver­age tack­le sequence for the match was 7.4). This togeth­er with the ter­ri­to­ry enjoyed by Tonga is a major rea­son that forced the USA to start a kick­ing game which led to Tonga scor­ing 2 tries from the pos­ses­sion gained from receiv­ing kicks in strong attack­ing posi­tions on the pitch. 

    The below attack maps pro­duced by Rugby Analytics through Hudl Sportscode show first­ly Tonga shows that the aver­age width of attack from rucks for Tonga was 11m com­pared to the 8m for the USA, show­ing Tonga cre­at­ed more oppor­tu­ni­ty by attack­ing in wider channels. 

    Tonga attack map showing a key a stat of wider width of attack of the ruck compared to the USA (see next image).
    USA attack map showing a narrower width of attack off the ruck as well as a higher percentage of kicking the ball vs passing compared to the Tongan team.

    Conversion of opportunities

    USA showed an abil­i­ty to score from a nar­row­er attack set­up by being able to trap between 6 – 7 Tongan defend­ers with­in 15m of the field and then going wide on attack. Mike Te’o’s first half try in right hand cor­ner was an exam­ple of this and the set­up of play can be seen in the Hudl game analy­sis draw­ing below. 

    USA attack setup is narrow but having previously drawn in the defence tight through a previous lineout maul. The try was scored one phase later in the far corner.

    Analysis point 3: USA los­ing struc­ture and Tonga thriv­ing in the bro­ken field. 

    USA were only able to have a 35% return to play (tack­ler back on their feet with in 2.5sec) of their tack­les Made and Tonga a 44% Return to play hav­ing made 135 suc­cess­ful tack­les with and 89% com­ple­tion rate com­pared to the USA’s 79% Successful Tackles with a count of 151. 

    USA how­ev­er got lured away from their struc­tured play and start­ed to play more of a kick­ing game witch played in to the hands of Tonga han­dling the kick­ing game and unstruc­tured counter attack­ing sit­u­a­tions bet­ter than USA on the day. 

    Tonga cap­i­talised on the kick­ing game scor­ing four kick involved tries, two from kick return sit­u­a­tions and two from their own kicks. The last being a grub­ber from a scrum sev­en metes form USA Goal Line in the 81st minute of the game when full­back Telusa Veainu dot­ted down to seal the victory. 

    Ultimately one could say that Tonga stuck to their guns and kept play­ing the same game­play and mix­ing it up between their kick­ing and run­ning game with a 130 Ball Carries made in this game.

    This forced USA to make 151 Tackles with a tack­le sequence of 5.1. It also didn’t help them that 38% of tack­les missed came form kick returns from Tonga. 


    This match was a key exam­ple of best­ing an oppo­si­tion by forc­ing them to play out­side of their desired game­plan. Or at least forc­ing a team to play to the oppo­si­tion strengths. On a base lev­el, Tonga’s high tack­le sequence forced USA into pres­sure sit­u­a­tions and have to kick more than would have want­ed, which in turn allowed Tonga to counter from bro­ken field sit­u­a­tions off the kick return. 

    Even though USA’s con­ver­sion per­cent­age in scor­ing when enter­ing Tonga’s 22 was high­er, the abil­i­ty to counter attack made sure Tonga could mount attacks from range.

    Strong Tongan defence pin­ning the USA deep and bril­liance in bro­ken play brought home the win on this day.

    To learn more about how Hudl is pow­er­ing the mod­ern game click here, or check out our rug­by case stud­ies from French Top 14 rug­by side Stade Rochelais and Premiership Rugby’s Leicester Tigers.