There was no shortage of fine performances from a Scarlets side who dispatched a disappointing Bath with ease at the Rec on Friday night in the fifth round of the Champions Cup.
Wayne Pivac’s team were reminiscent of the side which stormed to the PRO12 title last season, playing a superb brand of rugby centred around a wide, running attack and heads-up play in addition to a relentless work-rate in defence – the triple tackle on Bath’s Zach Mercer in the second half to prevent a certain try highlights this fact perfectly.
However, it was Tadhg Beirne, the former Leinster Academy player, who stood the tallest amongst his peers to produce a remarkable performance which yielded a superb first-half try which will live long in the highlight reel.
A look at some of the statistics which Beirne produced gives an insight into the dominating influence he had on this game – 15 carries, 38 metres, 16 tackles – 0 missed, three offloads, two defenders beaten and one line break.
Statistics can often be misleading but in terms of his defence, Beirne is one of the most powerful second-rows out there over the ball. Even in such circumstances, where you would expect Beirne to be bested in contact, he has an uncanny ability to slow the ball or hold his opponent up – case in point, Beirne winning a turnover against Bath’s 19 stone loosehead prop, Beno Obano.
From an attacking perspective, Beirne has a lot in his armoury, much more than your run of the mill lock who may be used as a direct, straight-running ball carrier. In this regard, it’s Beirne’s intelligence and awareness of where to be on the pitch which stands out. With this in mind, let’s take a look at the move which yielded Beirne’s first-half try.
Rhys Patchell picks up the ball after an excellent turnover from the away side. The full-back evades two tackles before eventually being brought to ground by the industrious Sam Underhill. Patchell offloads to David Bulbring (circled red) and it’s when Bulbring has the ball that Beirne makes his first contribution to a move which sees him dot down just 40 seconds later.
As Bulbring (circled red) receives the ball you can see Beirne (circled white) back into Luke Charteris who is attempting to get to his opposite number in order to make the tackle. When you see the move played at regular-speed, it might seem insignificant but it gives Bulbring the time and space to complete the pass which sets Scarlets on their way up the pitch.
Hadleigh Parkes then receives the ball and he makes a scything linebreak before offloading to the supporting Scott Williams (circled red) who in turn floats a pass to Paul Asquith (circled white) who is busting a gut up the wing to be an option to receive the pass. Beirne is currently out of shot but as you will see in the next frame, he is making his way up the pitch to be involved in the next, crucial phase.
Once Asquith is brought to ground, he offloads to James Davies who in turn passes to Bulbring who is tackled and a ruck ensues.
It’s at this moment that Beirne is back in the frame and the Kildare man positions himself in midfield. Gareth Davies, who had a superb game, releases the ball to Dan Jones from the ruck and it’s now Beirne (circled white) who offers himself as a dummy runner. There is no doubt that Bath are aware of the Irishman’s threat with ball in hand, the defence set themselves up for Beirne to carry but Jones pops the ball out the back door to Parkes (circled red) who now has greater momentum and is able to get over the gain-line as a result.
It’s a fairly innocuous carry but it maintains the go-forward momentum from the away side which sets themselves up nicely for the ensuing try. Beirne (circled white), knowing that Bath’s defence is on the backfoot, is keen to keep the move going so he offers himself as scrum-half and pops the ball to Asquith (circled green) despite Davies (circled red) looking to conduct his half-back duties from the base of the ruck.
The ball then comes to Aaron Shingler who makes a great line break to bring play up to the Bath 22. Beirne then places himself in that familiar midfield position once again but this time, he does receive the ball and scores as a result.
The ball comes to Asquith (circled red) who rather than passing to the onrushing Beirne (circled white), runs direct, takes the tackle and then offloads to the supporting Beirne who breaks through the line.
The red arrow in the next image indicates the tackle area just as Asquith offloads to Beirne (circled white) with Watson only between him and the try line.
Finally, with ball-in-hand, all Beirne has to do is evade a British and Irish Lion, and he does so with this step.
In conclusion, what was most impressive about Beirne’s performance, in addition to the impressive statistics he posted, was his involvement in the try which began with a turnover in Scarlets’ own 22 and just 40 seconds later, resulted in Beirne dotting down for the game’s first try.
From utilising the dark arts to slightly impede Charteris, to the work-ethic shown to get into position for the next phase of the attack and the sheer urgency he showed to keep the pace of the overall move going when he acted as scrum-half – the 26-year-old displayed all the attributes which will surely make him a huge hit at Thomond Park and Irish Independent Park next season.
And sure, the step at the end wasn’t bad either.
Trademark @scarlets_rugby 🙌
"From one side of Bath to the other!"
That's one of the tries of the season 👏 pic.twitter.com/qh21sN88Vy
— Rugby on BT Sport (@btsportrugby) January 12, 2018