28 Aug

Game Stats: Wallabies v All Blacks, Sydney, 22 August 2009
by Tracey Nelson
28 Aug 2009

Sorry folks, been away on holiday hence this article is a little late going up.

The usual analysis of the All Blacks game, being the First 3 to the Breakdown, ball carries, tackle stats, penalties conceded, turnovers, the lineouts, and scrums.

Please note Completed Tackles means that player actually brought the ball carrier to ground (ie. halting the movement and being the tackler according to the laws of the game), not assists in the tackle situation which are tallied separately. Missed tackles also includes slipped tackles where the ball carrier isn’t stopped. Most importantly, I do NOT call a slipped tackle a tackle, it gets noted as a missed tackle.

Numbers in brackets are the first half/second half breakdown for each total. An asterisk denotes a player who came on as a substitute.

Team: Mils Muliaina, Joesevata Rokocoko, Conrad Smith, Luke McAlister, Sitiveni Sivivatu, Dan Carter, Jimmy Cowan, Kieran Read, Richie McCaw, Jerome Kaino, Isaac Ross, Brad Thorn, Owen Franks, Andrew Hore, Tony Woodcock.
Reserves: Aled de Malmanche, John Afoa, Jason Eaton, Rodney So’oialo, Brendon Leonard, Stephen Donald, Ma’a Nonu.

Substitutions were: Nonu for Smith at 40 min, Donald for McAlister at 50 min, Afoa for Franks and So’oialo for Kaino at 65 min.

Points Scored NZ Australia
Tries 1 0
Conversions 1/1 0
Penalties 4/5 6/6
Total 19 18

Penalties/Free Kicks Conceded Pen FKs
NZ 12 2
Australia 10 2
Total 22 4

NZ Penalty Offences
Tackle Kaino(2), Hore, Cowan, Nonu, So’oialo 6
Ruck Kaino, McCaw, Hore, Rokocoko 4
Obstruction Kaino 1
Backchat Thorn 1
Total   12

Opp Penalty Offences
Tackle 3
Ruck 3
Offside 1
Lineout 1
Obstruction 1
Foul play 1
Total 10

Turnovers Conceded by NZ
Knock-ons 10
Spilled 1
Forward pass 2
In the tackle 1
At the ruck 3
Lineout 1
Total 18

First 3 to Breakdown Total Per half
Thorn 48 19+29
Hore 40 23+17
McCaw 39 20+19
Franks 33 23+10
Woodcock 31 16+15
Kaino 23 14+9
Ross 19 7+12
Read 17 6+11
Muliaina 8 0+8
Donald* 6  
So’oialo* 6  
Sivivatu 5 3+2
Smith 4  
Nonu* 4  
Rokocoko 4 4+0
Afoa* 3  
McAlister 3 2+1
Carter 3 1+2
Cowan 2 2+0

Ball carries
McCaw 9  
Read 8
Hore 7
Woodcock 4
Ross 4
Kaino 4
Franks 3
Thorn 3
So’oialo* 2
Afoa* 1

Completed Tackles and Assists Tackles Assists
McCaw 11 (5+6) 1 (0+1)
Carter 8 (1+7) 2 (1+1)
Read 7 (3+4) 0
Nonu* 6 0
Woodcock 6 (3+3) 1 (1+0)
Kaino 6 (3+3) 1 (0+1)
Cowan 6 (4+2) 1 (1+0)
Thorn 6 (2+4) 0
So’oialo* 5 1
Donald* 5 0
Franks 5 (2+3) 1 (0+1)
McAlister 4 (1+3) 0
Smith 4 0
Muliaina 4 (1+3) 1 (0+1)
Hore 3 (0+3) 1 (1+0)
Ross 3 (1+2) 0
Sivivatu 3 (2+1) 0
Afoa* 2 0
Rokocoko 1 (1+0) 0
Total 95 10

Missed and Slipped Tackles
Kaino 4
Thorn 3
Nonu* 2
Ross 2
Read 2
Woodcock 1
McCaw 1
Carter 1
McAlister 1
Smith 1
Total 18

NZ Line-outs Won From
First half 8 9
Second half 7 7
Total 15 16

NZ Line-out Jumpers Won From
Ross 4 5
Read 4 4
Woodcock 1 1
McCaw 1 1
Kaino 1 1
Quick throws 2 2
Overthrown 1 1

Australia Line-outs Won From
First half 6 7
Second half 2 2
Total 8 9

NZ Scrum Feeds Won From
First half 3 3
Second half 3 3
Total 6 6

Australia Scrum Feeds Won From
First half 4 6
Second half 3 3
Total 7 9

7 Aug

ANZC – Bring it On!
by Tracey Nelson
7 Aug 2009

Thank goodness for the Air New Zealand Cup competition. At a time when we are all feeling rather jaded after a few poor All Black performances and a less than satisfactory Super 14, it’s been refreshing to get back to basics with New Zealand provincial rugby.

Despite the looming cull of four teams from the Premier Division at the end of this season, the crowds have been good and the rugby has been of a far more entertaining and error-free standard than is usual for the start of our domestic competition. Interestingly enough, the television audiences for the opening round have been better than those for most of the S14 games – although if you bothered to watch any of the games (with the possible exception of the Southland v Waikato match) you could see why. None of the same-old same- old in this competition, instead we have many different styles of rugby on offer and what a breath of fresh air that has been.

From the Run It At All Times style of Counties-Manukau through to the good old fashioned forward play of the likes of Southland and Otago, there is something for everyone – and better yet, we get to see contrasting styles of rugby instead of the kick-fest that was Super 14 2009. Add to that the lack of TMOs for this competition, and suddenly we are seeing Assistant Referees actually moving to get into good position to make their rulings and giving the referee something other than a feeble shrug of the shoulders and a referral to the replay upstairs.

Of great interest in the first round was three of the five Super franchise bases losing their opening matches, with Canterbury going down by three points to Harbour, Waikato dipping out to Southland in Invercargill, and most tellingly Hawkes Bay giving Auckland a spanking in their first win over the Queen City boys since 1974. Hawkes Bay not only out-passioned Auckland, but comprehensively outplayed them in the contact area stealing ball at the breakdown almost at will at times, and showing far more organisation and accuracy on the counterattack.

Not only is contesting in the lineout evident in our domestic competition, but to everyone’s delight the rolling maul is still alive and well in New Zealand. Perhaps it’s time the All Black coaches got themselves back to grass roots because there are plenty of sides in this country that employ the rolling maul – they just don’t happen to be Super 14 sides.

I suppose it’s the David v Goliath factor that most endears our provincial competition to us, that and the tribalism – something you tend to forget about until it comes to this time of the year. But when you see supporters decked out in their team colours, especially the likes of the Bucket Heads from Manawatu, it fair strikes a chord deep down and you can’t help but cheer along with them. It probably helps that the rugby we are seeing is actually recognisable as rugby too, the way we used to know and love the game. So far it’s been great viewing, and judging by the crowds we’re seeing in the provincial centres the nation are sending the NZRU a big message. Long may our provincial competition rule supreme!

4 Aug

Get Carter!
by Paul Waite
4 Aug 2009

GetCarterNow here’s a hypothetical question for you. You have a problem with your back-line, and especially your first five-eighth, and The World’s Best No.10 is fizzing at the bung, fit and ready. Do you (a) pretend he isn’t ready, (b) shove your head in the sand and pretend Stephen Donald is doing a good job, or (c) pick him?

Not many people know this, because it’s a rather complicated concept, but if you have The World’s Best Player in ANY position in rugby, then you should pick him for your team.

Last night on the TV news we saw Dan Carter running around as of old, piling into rucks, tackling like a demon and generally giving a very good impression of being over his achilles injury. His provincial coach Rob Penney has overseen Dan’s re-introduction to the NZ game, and was emphatic that Dan was ‘ready whenever they need him’.

Ok, we have a couple of weeks and then we have to face Australia in Australia, and a much more important trophy is at stake than the Tri Nations – The Bledisloe Cup. Colour me old-fashioned, but I don’t like the prospect of losing that to the Okkers again, ’cause it’s bloody hard to win it back. So playing our best XV might be a good idea at this point.

To those mis-guided enough to believe that Stephen Donald is doing alright at the helm of the All Black back-line I refer you to recordings of the past two tests in South Africa. Hell, have a look at all the games he’s played this season. He has no clue how to run a back-line. None whatsoever. It’s gone from being an attacking weapon feared Worldwide, to a disjointed, shuffling buch of muppets. The only problem South Africa had was to avoid falling into the trap of laughing too hard when they tried to run the ball, letting someone slip through.

Aside from that Donald, or ‘The Duck’ as we like to call him, can’t seem to receive and clear the ball without turning it over in his hands and reading everything written on it twice, shuffling his feet and then kicking it. Oddly enough this means he tends to have a wee problem with charge-downs. If it isn’t charged, then it goes striaght up in the air, or who knows where.

On the plus side, his defence isn’t too bad, and he has recently been place-kicking well. Sadly though the overall picture is one of mediocrity. He’s a Super Rugby journeyman, and nothing more.

If we get this ‘we’re not rushing him back’ shit from the selectors over the next few weeks, I’ll tear my hair out, I swear it.

Steve Hansen says ‘we’ve got what we’ve got’. Well yes Steve, and now Dan Carter is fit and ready.

So get him!

Paul Waite

Paul Waite

Haka editor-in-chief. Please do not feed.

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3 Aug

Dance of the Desperate
by Tracey Nelson
3 Aug 2009

staring_contest“We’re a work in progress” we were told a few weeks ago, and so far that progress seems to be in a backward direction as the All Blacks lost for the second week in a row to further reinforce the Springboks position they took from us the previous week as number one in the IRB world rankings.

It was a debacle. There’s no other word to describe the performance by the All Blacks in the second test against South Africa. From the opening minute when Stephen Donald knocked the ball on from a high kick, through to the dying minutes of the game when the All Blacks conceded yet another kickable penalty, the entire 80 minutes was riddled by handling errors, poor skill execution, lost lineouts, untidy scrums and a bloody-mindedness to play to a highly flawed game plan.

Despite acknowledging they have a team lacking in confidence, and several key All Blacks short of a gallop after coming back from injury, the coaches are unrepentent in sticking to their guns that they played the right game plan against South Africa. When queries were made as to why the All Blacks continued played high-risk rugby in front of their own goal posts, Wayne Smith pointed out “you kick long against this team and it relieves the pressure for about five seconds, two seconds maybe. Then it’s coming back at you in the air with great chasers after it”. Well here’s a thought – how about kicking long *and* into touch to relieve pressure when you’re parked in your own 22? Oh hang on, that would involve a lineout…

Yes, the lineouts. Last week we had claims the All Black lineout had been spied on, such was the accuracy of the Springbok opposition jumpers in Bloemfontein. But even a barbequed sausage could tell you where the All Blacks are going to throw the ball, as the make up and positioning of their jumping pods is fair telegraphed to the opposition and spectators. To all except the lineout throwers it would seem. As to why you would throw long when camped on your own goal line with your primary lineout caller in the sinbin is probably best left unaswered.

The ineffectual All Black lineout has become key to any opposition’s game plan against us – they know we seldom compete on their throw so it’s essentially secure possession for them. Putting a kick deep into All Black territory is almost a guaranteed gain in territory because we don’t attempt to kick for touch so the opposition only need to keep one sweeper back to cover and bring everyone else forward on defence. Equally them putting a kick into touch is also a better than even chance of regaining possession because our own lineouts are a complete lottery. But don’t worry everyone, Steve Hansen doesn’t think we have any major technical issues with our lineout, and that it’s “just a confidence thing”.

Confidence that has well and truly gone out in the window in more than just our lineouts. The 15 handling errors by the All Blacks on Saturday night were the stuff of nightmares, with Joe Rokocoko and Sitiveni Sivivatu contributing 10 of those between them. Then there was the total brain fade by Rokocoko when he inexplicably chose not to ground the ball in-goal for a 22 drop out but instead opted to run the ball out as a wall of Springbok defence descended on him. The All Blacks scrambled back on defence, but when the ball was cleared the first receiver standing in-goal was Ma’a Nonu who didn’t manage to get the kick away and conceded a 5m scrum. A situation made all the more ridiculous when Stephen Donald was standing just outside him and the ball had been secure enough at the back of the ruck to give them time to swap places and allow Donald to clear our line.

It was all too easy for South Africa to target our wingers with the high ball and their good chasers. Time and again the high kick went up and either Habana or Fourie belted up the field to put pressure on in the air. Yet whilst our wingers were mishandling their way around the field Cory Jane, who has excellent skills under the high ball and is no slouch in running it back on the counter attack, was left languishing on the bench. Piri Weepu came off the bench and yet again proved that he is a super-sub, for the opposition that is. Continuing on from his headless chicken passes that cost the All Blacks a chance of winning in Bloemfontein, this time his repetoire included clearing the ball directly into touch from a defensive ruck on our goal line.

The forwards weren’t exempt from idiot maneouvers either. Tony Woodcock was penalised for inexplicably continuing to advance when well upfield from an All Black kick, Isaac Ross chose not let discretion be the better part of valour with the team on a warning for penalties at the breakdown and came from an offside position to fly kick the ball (which yes, was out of the ruck but he was offside) and land himself in the sin bin as well as giving away a very kickable penalty. Jerome Kaino needed two penalties against him to remember to stay bound to the scrum until the ball is out. The only sensible penalty – if there is such a thing – was when Rodney So’oialo chose to dive on the ball from an offside position after it had been knocked on. A decision that gave away three points rather than the very possible converted try that was in the offing for the Springboks.

This Springbok side isn’t that great, they seem as incapable of scoring tries as we are yet they had 56% possession and 72% of the territory. The All Black defence was good enough to keep them from scoring tries, but the discipline was not good enough to prevent Morne Steyn kicking eight penalties. What allowed South Africa to win this game was our game plan which saw us camped in our own half attempting to run the ball out, and a far superior kick-chase game by them which our backline was simply not up to fielding nor countering. The few times the All Blacks made it into the Springboks 22 (which was a mere 4 minutes out of the 80), they scored points. Compare that with the 15 minutes the Springboks totalled in our 22, most of which was spent just waiting for us to make the mistakes. And they didn’t usually have to wait too long.

3 Aug

Game Stats: Springboks v All Blacks, Durban, 1 August 2009
by Tracey Nelson
3 Aug 2009

The usual analysis of the debacle that was the All Blacks game this week, being the First 3 to the Breakdown, ball carries, tackle stats, penalties conceded, turnovers, the lineouts, and scrums.

Please note Completed Tackles means that player actually brought the ball carrier to ground (ie. halting the movement and being the tackler according to the laws of the game), not assists in the tackle situation which are tallied separately. Missed tackles also includes slipped tackles where the ball carrier isn’t stopped. Most importantly, I do NOT call a slipped tackle a tackle, it gets noted as a missed tackle.

Numbers in brackets are the first half/second half breakdown for each total. An asterisk denotes a player who came on as a substitute.

Team: Mils Muliaina, Joesevata Rokocoko, Conrad Smith, Ma’a Nonu, sitiveni Sivivatu, Stephen Donald, Jimmy Cowan, Rodney So’oialo, Richie McCaw(c), Jerome Kaino, Isaac Ross, Brad Thorn, Owen Franks, Andrew Hore,Tony Woodcock.
Reserves: Keven Mealamu, John Afoa, Jason Eaton, Kieran Read, Piri Weepu, Luke McAlister, Cory Jane.

Substitutions were: Mealamu for Hore and Weepu for Cowan at 44 min, Read for So’oialo at 59 min, McAlister for Donald at 61 min and Afoa for Franks at 66 min. Hore came back on for Mealamu in the 77th minute.

Points Scored NZ SA
Tries 1 1
Conversions 1/1 1/1
Penalties 4/4 8/9
Drop goals 0/0 0/3
Total 19 31

Penalties/Free Kicks Conceded Pen FKs
NZ 13 0
SA 6 4
Total 19 4

NZ Penalty Offences
Tackle Muliaina, Woodcock, Sivivatu, So’oialo 4
Ruck Mccaw(2),Ross(YC),Mealamu 4
Scrum Kaino(2), Afoa 3
Offside Woodcock, So’oialo 2
Total   13

SA Penalty Offences
Tackle 1+YC
Ruck 2
Offside 1+YC
Scrum? 1
Other 1
Total 6

Turnovers Conceded by NZ
Knock-ons 15
Spilled ball 2
Pass to opposition/intercepted 2
Pass into touch 3
Forward pass 1
In the tackle 2
At the ruck 2
Lineout 3
Scrum 2
Total 32

First 3 to Breakdown Total Per half
So’oialo 28 14+14
McCaw 28 9+19
Thorn 27 9+18
Franks 25 14+11
Woodcock 21 11+10
Hore 17 16+1*
Kaino 13 10+3
Read* 11  
Mealamu* 10  
Muliaina 9 5+4
Smith 9 3+6
Nonu 8 3+5
Afoa* 7  
Weepu* 4  
Sivivatu 3 2+1
Rokocoko 3 1+2
McAlister* 1  

Ball carries
McCaw 8  
So’oialo 5
Kaino 3
Ross 3
Mealamu* 2
Thorn 2
Woodcock 2
Hore 2

Completed Tackles and Assists Tackles Assists
McCaw 16 (5+11) 1 (1+0)
Kaino 10 (6+4) 2 (0+2)
So’oialo 9 (3+6) 1 (1+0)
Weepu* 7 0
Thorn 6 (3+3) 2 (1+1)
Franks 5 (4+1) 1 (1+0)
Smith 5 (2+3) 1 (1+0)
Read* 4 0
McAlister* 4 0
Hore 4 (4+0) 0
Woodcock 4 (3+1) 0
Donald 4 (2+2) 0
Rokocoko 4 (1+3) 0
Mealamu* 3 0
Ross 3 (1+2) 1 (1+0)
Sivivatu 2 (1+1) 2 (1+1)
Nonu 2 (1+1) 1 (1+0)
Total 94 12

Missed and Slipped Tackles
Franks 3
Woodcock 1
Kaino 1
McCaw 1
Cowan 1
Sivivatu 1
Total 8

NZ Line-outs Won From
First half 3 5
Second half 1 3
Total 4 8

NZ Line-out Jumpers Won From
Ross 3 3
Thorn 1 2
Quick throw 1 1

SA Line-outs Won From
First half 2 3
Second half 3 4
Total 5 7

NZ Scrum Feeds Won From
First half 5 7
Second half 3 3
Total 8 10

SA Scrum Feeds Won From
First half 4 5
Second half 11 12
Total 15 17

2 Aug

Embarrassment
by Paul Waite
2 Aug 2009

It was like watching your best friend going up on stage in front of the school to collect a prize, only to see him wet his pants and start crying. What should have been a strong All Black reply, one week after an awful losing performance, ended up as another embarrassing loss.

Like many All Black fans I’m struggling to find any comparison in recent times, after say 1980, for the kind of incompetence at the basics of the game we are seeing now. Maybe some older fans can recall a pre-1980 team which showed the same kind of schoolboy bollocks we witnessed yesterday, but I wouldn’t put any money on it.

It started as it finished, and the middle was no different. Passes thrown to somewhere between the ankle and knee, passes dropped, passes thrown directly into touch, high-kicks bouncing off shoulders and chests instead of being caught, passes thrown to the opposition, dumb-ass kicking for ‘territory’ serving only as an attacking launchpad to the opposition, failure to know the Laws and not force in-goal but try to run it out as in Rugby League, halves taking an age from catching the ball to kicking from hand, failure to put pressure with the chase on our high kicks. The list goes on. All basics.

The start was inauspicious and an echo of the previous week. Stephen Donald recieved the Springbok kickoff and, under little pressure in test match terms, coughed the ball cold. Straight through his arms onto his chest and back out for a knock on. I’m a great believer in beginnings and although one mishap can’t unravel everything and everyone, a series of them definitely can, and that first fuck-up from a key player set the tone. These things can become ‘viral’ (to use a fairly prevalent term these days) and spread the infection throughout the whole team. Whether it did or it didn’t, it certainly looked that way because very soon other players were making similar errors. It undermines the faith that fellow players have in their mates to nail the tackle, catch the ball, make the pass and so on. It gets so that players are closely watching their own, expecting a mishap or fuck-up, rather than making play in combination and that results in a disjointed performance across the team. Little psychological issues, all created by those first screw-ups.

Not all players were infected with it. Conrad Smith, and young Isaac Ross seemed to be immune for example and had good games. Likewise Kaino and McCaw. But once again the major problems were exemplified by the bumbling performance from the backs. The high ball was absolutely a nightmare all day. It was coughed up several times and once again TV shots showed the marked difference between the teams’ execution of the high kick. When South Africa kicked our players were receiving the ball then the man a fraction later. When the All Blacks kicked the South African defence received the ball alone. Not that this excused the coughed ball. Not one ioata. I am going to nail my colours to the mast here and say that I think most, if not all, of our problems in the backs stem from the pivot, currently Stephen Donald. He simply can’t drive a backline with any fluidity, and doesn’t have basic skills at the level required for test rugby. I believe that this is throwing the rest of the backs into the disjointed mess we are seeing, and gradually eroding any self-belief they have in the process.

In the continued absence of Dan Carter I think another chance has to be taken with McAlister in the hope he has thrown off his early poor form, foresaken the throwing of the gift intercept pass, and can bridge the gap to the re-appearance of Carter. Donald is simply not test material.

Watching the All Blacks trying to mount pressure on South Africa was like watching a bunch of people blowing up balloons, with one of their number always poking a pin into it just as it was going up. Frustrating rubbish was what it was.

I have the distinct impression that the All Black coaches don’t focus very much, if at all, on basics like the technique of running and passing/catching the ball. Why not? It was something that Fred ‘The Needle’ Allen swore by for his All Blacks. And the evidence that it is sorely needed has screamed at us twice in two tests from the TV screen lately.

That and other basics: catching the high ball, lineouts, how to straighten the attack, kicking from hand. These are all the bedrock from which you make play. If you don’t execute them well, there is no chance of winning a test match, end of story.

Not having heard the after-match interviews, I’m sure Henry was lamenting the mistakes and lack of accuracy from his team. If so, he’d be right, but what are they going to do about it? Because that was the problem last week as well and no improvement at all was evident. In fact it could be argued we played worse this week than last.

The players need to put up their hands for the lamentable mistakes they made – some of them mistakes that the Under-10′s teams playing on Saturday afternoons around this country would be embarassed to make. But the coaches also need to take some of the heat because they have had the whole week to work on these issues and get rid of them. Their team is playing like a poor Super-14 franchise, all froth and no good rugby backbone.

I never thought I’d say that I was embarrassed to be an All Black fan, but I’m saying it right now.

Paul Waite

Paul Waite

Haka editor-in-chief. Please do not feed.

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