Folau Fainga’a hovers near the top of the Super Rugby try-scoring list this year, almost solely off the back of the Brumbies’ rolling maul formed from a lineout.
It is their go-to move when camped in the opposition half and in 2019 has generated great returns.
But is it legal?
If the Sharks want a real shot at knocking over the Brumbies in Canberra this weekend, they are going have to find a way to either effectively shut down this part of the ACT game, or ensure the referee is primed to look out for this now well-practised manoeuvre.
Referee Nick Briant took a seriously strong line against this tactic in the Highlanders vs Brumbies game in Invercargill in 2016, penalising the away side three times in early order for illegal formation of the rolling maul from a lineout.
With this taken away, the Aussie side forgot about how to play wet-weather code, and the Highlanders – with a mere 25 per cent possession and territory – picked their pocket for a 23-10 win.
It is perhaps the only time I have seen a referee go after this tactic on such a consistent basis, and you can be sure someone pointed this out to him prior to kick-off.
The following video demonstrates the tactic.
What we are looking out for is the lifter driving past the jumper as the ball is coming down, getting himself in front of the ball before the maul is set.
This stops the jumper being sacked immediately, making it harder for the defending side to go through the middle after the ball to hold it up. Perhaps more importantly, it provides a bigger fulcrum point in the middle of the maul, which allows the attacking side to roll either left or right more easily than the defenders can.
Lots of extra advantages for a formation which is already hard enough to defend under the current laws of the game.
The Sharks need to look for the ‘lock lifting lock’ trigger at the lineout and make sure the referee doesn’t miss it.
This Brumbies side has plenty of other ways of hurting sides, so this alone is not going to be enough, but it’s a good place to start for the visitors.