Attacking the Cage Rear:
Sometimes you may find that you end up with players behind the opposing team’s cage, usually after you perhaps ran players around after a deep kick off, or if you got a blitz turn on the kick off table. Usually it may be best to just run these players back to help with a eleven player defence, sometimes though you may see situations where you can create problems attacking the rear side of the cage.
The rear of a cage will usually have weaker players than the front and sometimes less supporting tackle zones. You might be able to blitz your way to marking the ball carrier from the rear, or just using corner marking for the rear players as I outlined on previous pages. If the rest of your team can cover the advance of the cage, then you might get a shot at the ball carrier in your next turn. It can also lead the other team to panic and they might try and run for it with a lone ball carrier, or with only a couple of players for support rather than a full cage.
You do need to be careful with this though as the opposing team might find an easier way to advance their cage through you lower number of defenders in front. They would be quite happy to leave their previous rear cage corners, now marking your rear defensive players and reforming their cage with alternative team mates. If they start overlapping your players then defending a cage from advancing becomes very tricky against a good coach. I think this is probably the biggest mistake that I see new players doing. I don’t often personally attack the rear of a cage, though the greater your speed advantage over the other team, the less of a risk this becomes.
Attacking Peripheral Offensive Players:
Attacking the exposed team mates of a team that is caging is another way to help defeat a cage without taking it on directly. If they are using five of their players to hold and cage the ball, that means you have eleven defenders against the other six players on their team. You will usually find that at least one of their team is left in an exposed situation not really contributing to their offence for that turn. You can look to pick on these players and hopefully get them off the pitch to get a numerical advantage.
Rather than looking to go on the all out defensive stall, look for opportunities where you can knock one of their players over and then gang foul them. If you have any fouling specialists then even better. Even if you just get a two player overlap this makes your life much easier. Do be careful about getting your players sent off though. This is especially important if you don’t have many reserves and/or if it is the first half of the game. Another way to get players off the pitch is to push them into the crowd. If you can segregate one of their players and get them off the pitch that way at the expense of them progressing the cage a bit, it might be worth it.
Once you have the numbers advantage, the opposing team will realise how hard it is to safely advance a cage when they have less players than the opposition. This can cause them to make mistakes, or just take risks leaving you with chance to get at their ball carrier. Should they have managed to get past your defence while you are picking on the peripheral players, they should realise that stalling with the cage is looking less likely and they may opt to score. If you manage to force them to do this, hopefully the players you removed don’t come back and even if they do, you may have enough turns to score yourself in the remaining turns of the half.
Maximising Blocks on Weaker / Fragile Players:
When facing the faster agile teams, they will usually have lower armour, if you can maximise your blocking opportunities you can start to outnumber their team if you get some off injured. If you look to mark up as many of their players as you can, you will then force them to do a lot more dodges. Doing this will either leave you plenty of blocks if they fail an early dodge, or hopefully just force them to use rerolls up.
It can be really hard to stop an agile team running rings around you, reforming their cage in another part of your half of the pitch. If they want to run the clock down against you then it really puts the pressure on you for your own drive. The best way to make this harder for them to to get a numerical advantage so you can better mark their players and cover more of the pitch. If they also use up their rerolls that can create an opening for you, or make their defence harder if you get them to score early enough.
If you can get get enough of their players off on their drive if they start to stall, then you can perhaps consider scoring earlier in the second half in order to go for the win. This is still risky as Elves can usually score even when down on players, but it is something to consider.
More on page 7…