Review: Cheslin Kolbe's Game At Flyhalf For Toulouse

Review: Cheslin Kolbe's Game At Flyhalf For Toulouse

Toulouse were forced to select Springbok outside back Cheslin Kolbe at flyhalf in their crunch clash against Racing 92 this weekend with the likes of Romain Ntamack, Antoine Dupont, Thomas Ramos and Zack Holmes all unavailable for the trip to Paris.

The extremely skilful Kolbe has featured mostly as an outside back throughout his career but has filled in at scrumhalf on occasion with his stints in sevens certainly aiding him at flyhalf on Sunday.


Kolbe put in a strong performance for Toulouse in the pivotal role while the likes of Pierre Pages, Pita Ahki and Maxime Medard certainly made his job easier.

One of Kolbe's biggest jobs on Sunday was organising the Toulouse attack and exits. Being a good communicator, he dealt with this reasonably well from the first whistle.


Finn Russell's kicked off just inside the Toulouse 22, Bezy played a runner to create a better angle while you can see Kolbe - in the top right corner, directing Bezy and Medard to the left where Medard makes the clearance into touch.


Racing do take the lineout quickly and attack to the right-hand side before Pita Ahki blocks the passing lanes when they look to spread it to the left and Racing's attack is stopped by a knock on at the resulting ruck leading to the first scrum of the game.

At the first scrum, Kolbe does line up as a flyhalf normally would at the set-piece but Bezy goes down the short side and plays Lucas Tauzin before box kicking a phase later.

Kolbe's next touch of the ball is from the return kick by Brice Dulin as he makes a simple catch in his 22 and passes to Medard who returns the kick.

 
 

In the 4th minute Racing start a driving maul from the lineout and attack the short side before a mix up between Louis Dupichot (14) and Donnacha Ryan sees the ball spill loose near the touchline. Kolbe picks it up under pressure, slips but regains his feet to fling it to Bezy who spreads it wide. It all ends with a penalty to Toulouse as they didn't make anything of the advantage from the knock-on.

 
 

Toulouse win a penalty at the five-metre scrum and gives Kolbe his first touchline kick of the game from the penalty.

Kolbe doesn't get much distance with the kick finding touch just outside the 22.

Toulouse are put under pressure from the lineout and Bezy eventually clears into touch for a Racing lineout in between the 10m and 22m line.

Racing were always going to attack the 10 channel from set-pieces when Kolbe was defending there and that is exactly what they did from this lineout.

The ball comes off the top of the lineout and is quickly whisked out to Russell who plays Henry Chavancy flat and straight into Kolbe.

Kolbe misses the initial tackle but recovers to make the cover just outside his 22 with Racing knocking it on a phase later.

 
 

Toulouse, as they have all season, counter from this turnover inside their 22. Guitoune times his pass perfectly to Medard who races through and chips ahead. Louis Dupichot gets back to cover the kick.

Kolbe does well to follow the play here and puts in a big hit on Dupichot driving the winger backwards and forcing the error giving Toulouse an attacking scrum after defending in their own 22.

 

His head coach, Ugo Mola, loved it! 

Toulouse would win a penalty from the scrum but Bezy would fail in his attempt to put his side on the scoreboard. Maxime Machenaud knocks the ball on while trying to take a quick 22 drop out gifting Toulouse a scrum on the 22. 

Kolbe had to fight some of his instincts in this game as well as his style of play for Toulouse. If you have seen Toulouse this season, you will have noted Kolbe's freedom for the side.

He often pops up in the midfield and at scrumhalf while on the attack. He goes in to act as a scrumhalf after a few phases from the scrum but realizes he must be there as the first receiver and quickly backtracks.

There are numbers outside of him as he receives the ball from Bezy but the Racing defence shoots up and he takes the right option to dummy and go to the line - taking three defenders with him.

 
 

This decision plays off some four phases later after a few pick and goes from the forwards, Kolbe receives ball on the drift and fires out a pinpoint pass to Pita Ahki who initially has a one on one with Finn Russell and beats on the outside before muscling his way over with Dupichot also trying to stop him. as well.

Bezy would take and slot the conversion from a similar point where he missed the penalty from earlier on but the kicking duties would go Kolbe's way later in the game.

14 minutes gone and Toulouse lead 14-0.

Kolbe's next action would take place from a Racing lineout in the 15th minute after Medard's clearance from the kickoff. He assisted Antoine Miquel with a tackle on Antoine Classen and bounced out a ruck a phase later as he looked to pilfer over the ball but realized Racing had it secured.

Although playing at flyhalf, Kolbe only seemed to defend in the position at set-pieces and spent most of the game defending in the more familiar role at fullback with Toulouse defending with 13 or 12 men in the initial defensive line with an outside back or two droppings back with Kolbe and Ahki defending in the line as a 10.

Racing continued to attack into the Toulouse defence before earning a penalty at the breakdown and Machenaud put them on the board before the clock hit the 17-minute mark.

This led to Kolbe's first kick off of the game, a skill he has natured from his time with the South African Sevens.

His first kick off really put Racing under the cosh. He went long and straight to fullback Brice Dulin. An unorthodox kick off that put Racing off somewhat as scrumhalf Maxime Machenaud was forced into the ruck and Finn Russell acted as a scrumhalf.

 
 

The tactic almost led to a try as a phase later, Ben Volavola went into scrumhalf to pass to Russell to clear but Bezy charged down the Scot and almost scored but clashed heads with Dupichot with both player's ultimately leaving the field injured an unable to return.

The result was a scrum 5 to Racing, which they won a penalty from and cleared their lines.

 
 

From there an abundant of penalties against Toulouse eventually saw Racing drive over the line from a maul.

Kolbe used a similar kick to restart hanging it high for Alban Placines to chase and make the hit.

This time Racing were able to control it and clear into touch near halfway.

The resulting lineout would lead to Toulouse's second try of the game with Kolbe playing a massive role in the led up to it.

Ahki crashes it up from the Kolbe pop before Kolbe cross kicks to the opposite side of the field.

While the kick looks aimless, any coach will tell you a kick is only as good as it's chase and Kolbe's was excellent.

 
 

He charged down the kick and after a few tap backs Toulouse come up with the ball. 

A phase later he acts as the scrumhalf as Toulouse attack to the left before he carries to the line taken two defenders with him.

That carry creates space out wide and reserve scrumhalf Pages gets the ball to wide and into the hands of Lucas Tauzin who screeches through the defence to score a fantastic try.

 
 

This is where we see Kolbe's fantastic kick from the touchline, his first attempt at goal.30 minutes gone Racing 14-10 Toulouse.

Racing were penalised at their lineout after Pita Ahki ran the ball from his own 22. Kolbe did far better with his kick into touch finding touch outside the 22 of Racing 92 making 40 odd metres.

A string of penalties put Toulouse into the 22 with a lineout 5m from the try line but a knock-on meant Racing had the defensive scrum.

They were not let off as Toulouse earned the penalty a few phases after the scrum which Kolbe lined up and slotted.

 Ben Volavola did well from the resulting kick-off to regain possession before a knock-on near the line gifted Toulouse possession back.

The play would come back for the scrum but not before Kolbe showed off some of his slick footwork before clearing with his weaker foot.

A few minutes later Toulouse were given a penalty at the scrum with the camera's not catching Kolbe's kick to touch but it did go out on the Toulouse 10 metre.

Racing turned the ball over a few phases after the lineout and a brilliantly delayed pass by Finn Russell lead to a try for Dorian Laborde with Machenaud levelling the scores for half time.

Kolbe continued with the restarts in the second half. Racing dealt with it well with Machenaud box kicking back to Toulouse.

Kolbe then went on one of his trademark short runs after Finn Russell shot up in the line looking for an intercept from a long pass. Kolbe held onto the ball before beating a few defenders and being dragged to the ground.

The ball was knocked on a few phases later for a scrum to the hosts.

 
 

The two sides traded kicks thereafter with Kolbe claiming one in the air and avoiding a collision with Dulin.

Racing got a penalty soon after with Machenaud converting.

 
 

His service from 10 was on the whole excellent illustrated perfectly by these two passes in quick succession.

 
 

It was an otherwise quiet start to the half for Kolbe until he got his easiest kick at goal in the 51st minute after Sofiane Guitoune picked off a Finn Russell pass in his own 22 to score with Kolbe on his shoulder for the entire run.

The attempt was right in front of goal and he did not miss.

 
 

Later in the half, he evaded Finn Russell and offloaded nicely with a kicking duel ensuing thereafter.

Medard would send one over the dead-ball line later on for an attacking scrum to Racing on Toulouse's 10m line.

Finn Russell looked to combine with Ben Volavola from the scrum but the Scot knocked the ball and Kolbe looked to pounce but just couldn't regather the ball.

Toulouse were awarded a penalty for offside in this action and Kolbe got his first attempt from distance from 48 metres out.

 
 

He turned immediately after a sweet strike but couldn't help but look back just in case. 

Kolbe did have a few sniffs at the breakdown but didn't come up with any turnovers while also weighing in on defence with 9 tackles - most of which were assisted tackles.

While Medard and Pages were used on most exit plays, on occasion, he was asked to clear like from this scrum in the 63rd minute. 

A kick he wasn't too happy with it but a solid one nonetheless.

It didn't all go Kolbe's way on Sunday despite the man having a strong game.

 
 

Into the final 15 minutes of the game, he got a good strike on the ball from turnover but probably should have tried to get a bit more of an angle on it as it found grass and just rolled over the touchline and dotted down for a 22 metre drop out for Racing.

 
 

He also got the trajectory wrong on this one firing it into the face of an onrushing Racing 92 player.

His kicking woes from hand did not continue as he took a fantastic catch from this low hard hit from Teddy Iribaren kick and returned it with a wonderful banana kick that bounced out just short of the 22 of Racing 92.

This kick could have been the turning point for Toulouse as from the resulting lineout Teddy Iribaren cleared long and Toulouse countered well into the 22.

There they won a penalty that would have made it a 7 point game if it were to go over.

Kolbe had not missed at this point and captain Joe Tekori backed the makeshift flyhalf to slot the kick from a similar angle that he slotted his second kick from.

However, this one was wide from Kolbe and Racing managed to go from the 22 dropout, with the help of a few penalties, to eventually score in the corner. 

Should Kolbe have kicked to the corner and got the Toulouse pack to wind down the clock 5 metres away from the try line and possible score? 

Hindsight is 20/20.

Either way, Kolbe overall had a strong game at flyhalf for Toulouse and may just start in the same position in the game next week against second-placed Lyon.



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