5. Finish

Definition. The final stage of the tackle process.

Taking the ball-carrier to the ground in a dominant and controlled manner and preparing for the next decision within the contact relating to the team’s defensive strategy and the situation faced, for example:

  • finish tackle and roll out back to feet immediately
  • finish tackle and return to strong base over ball-carrier, to compete for the ball
  • finish tackle and drive through to win the space over and past the ball-carrier.

The tackler should always finish strongly, working to ensure that the ball-carrier does not have an opportunity to regain forward momentum, and continue to play. By maintaining dominance within the tackle, and with an effective finish, the tackler will accomplish their primary objective of stopping the ball-carrier and subsequent attacking play.

The Key Performance Indicator (KPIs) below cover the key factors that will enable and develop Finish skills. Coaches should consider them when developing Finish skills within their coaching programme.

1. Ability to reshape and regrip.

Tacklers going to ground may feel it necessary to release their grip to put a hand down or to change their body position to prepare for contact with the ground. The tackler must not compromise their technique during the tackle but instead reshape and regrip while continuing to establish better body position all the way to the ground. This ensures the best finish possible, maintains dominance and preparing for the next decision within the tackle contest.

2. Tighten the clamp and grip (no space, no daylight).

When a ball-carrier loses their base of power on going to ground, the tackler should look to re-enforce their dominance by tightening their arm clamp and grip. When done correctly, there should be no space between the tackler and the ball-carrier e.g., “hit and stick”. When the tackler and ball-carrier go to ground – it should look like one mass, not two separate bodies.

3. Dominate to the ground.

The tackle is not complete until the ball-carrier has been brought to ground (or momentum has been stopped). It is not good enough to win the connection or point of contact, the tackler must dominate the ball-carrier all the way to the ground, then try to give their team the best chance to steal the ball, or slow the attacking momentum within the tackle contest.

4. Finish on Top.

To complete the tackle in full control, the tackler should try to finish on top of the ball-carrier. This should mean the tackler has dominated the ball-carrier and moved them into a position that is best to slow their momentum and enhance the opportunity to steal the ball. This may mean that the ball-carrier is taken backwards, or to one side, taking them away from their support.

For roll tackles, the tackler should endeavour to rotate to finish in a strong dominant position, stopping the potential to be trapped underneath the ball-carrier within the tackle contest.

5. Tackler / Legal Exit

Once the tackle has been completed, the tackler has the following responsibilities:

  • Tackler release: Tackler must release and move immediately to allow the ball to be played
  • East / West roll: The tackler must roll away East or West – and not block attacking players entering the tackler contest
  • Pinning/taking the space: Tackler is not permitted to pin ball carrier on their backs or hold them to hinder their presentation. Tackler is also not permitted to stand on the attack’s side of the tackle contest i.e., “taking the space”
  • Tackler release and counter: Tackler must release the ball carrier. They must be on their own side and on their feet to attack the ball.