31 Oct

Game Stats: All Blacks v Wallabies, Hong Kong, 30 October 2010
by Tracey Nelson
31 Oct 2010

RedCardThe usual analysis of the All Blacks game,including First 3 to the Breakdown, ball carries, tackle stats, penalties conceded, turnovers, the lineouts, and scrums. This test loss to Australia has ended the All Blacks’ 15 match winning streak, and also ends their hunt for the world record of 18 consecutive test wins (bizarrely held by Lithuania).

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: Tony Woodcock, Keven Mealamu, Owen Franks, Brad Thorn, Tom Donnelly, Jerome Kaino, Richie McCaw(c), Kieran Read, Jimmy Cowan, Dan Carter, Ma’a Nonu, Conrad Smith, Josevata Rokocoko, Cory Jane, Mils Muliaina
Reserves: Hika Elliot, John Afoa, Sam Whitelock, Daniel Braid, Alby Mathewson, Stephen Donald, Isaia Toeava.

Substitutions were: Toeava for Jane at 51 min, Afoa for Franks and Donald for Carter at 60 min, Whitelock for Donnelly at 67 min, and Mathewson for Cowan at 72 minutes.

Points Scored NZ Australia
Tries 3 4
Conversions 3 3
Penalties 1/4 0/4
Total 24 26

Tries scored directly from set piece
New Zealand 0
Australia 2

Penalties/Free Kicks Conceded Pen FKs
NZ 13 2
Australia 7 1
Total 20 3

NZ Penalty Offences
Tackle Kaino(2), Thorn, McCaw/Mealamu, Mathewson 5
Ruck Nonu(2), Thorn, McCaw, Rokocoko, Muliaina 6
Offside Thorn 1
Scrum Woodcock 1
Total 13

Australia’s Penalty Offences
Tackle 2
Ruck 1
Lineout 1
Scrum 3
Total 8

Turnovers Conceded by NZ
Knock-ons 6
Forward pass 3
Spilled ball 4
Lineout 3
Scrum 2
Ruck 4
In the tackle 2
Total 24

Turnovers Conceded by Aus
Knock-ons 6
Spilled ball 1
Pass to opposition 1
Touch in goal 2
Lineout 2
Scrum 4
Ruck 2
In the tackle 1
Total 19

NZ Linebreaks
Nonu 3
Smith 2
Read 1
McCaw 1
Whitelock 1

Aus Linebreaks
Beale 3
Ashely-Cooper 1
Mitchell 1
Barnes 1
Cooper 1

First 3 to Breakdown Total Per half
MCaw 28 13+15
Thorn 22 7+15
Woocock 19 6+13
Read 16 10+6
Smith 14 5+9
Donnelly 13 4+9
Muliaina 11 5+6
Mealamu 11 2+9
Kaino 11 2+9
Franks 8 5+3
Jane 7 4+3
Rokocoko 5 3+2
Carter 4 2+2
Nonu 4 3+1
Afoa* 3
Whitelock* 3
Cowan 3 2+1
Toeave* 2

Ball carries
Read 12
Mealamu 8
Kaino 8
Thorn 6
McCaw 5
Woodcock 3
Franks 2
Afoa* 1
Whitelock* 1
Donnelly 1

Completed Tackles and Assists Tackles Assists
McCaw 14 (3+11) 5 (3+2)
Read 14 (4+10) 1 (1+0)
Thorn 10 (6+4) 4 (3+1)
Mealamu 10 (3+7) 2 (2+0)
Smith 10 (2+8) 1 (1+0)
Kaino 8 (4+4) 2 (0+2)
Nonu 7 (3+4) 2 (1+1)
Woodcock 7 (4+3) 1 (1+0)
Muliaina 5 (2+3) 1 (0+1)
Franks 4 (2+2) 1 (1+0)
Jane 4 n(2+2) 0
Cowan 4 (2+2) 1 (1+0)
Rokocoko 4 (3+1) 0
Whitelock* 3 1
Afoa* 3 0
Donnelly 3 (0+3) 1 (1+0)
Carter 3 (1+2) 1 (0+1)
Toeava* 2 0
Donald 1 1
Mathewson 1 0
Total 118 26

Missed and Slipped Tackles
Thorn 5
Kaino 4
Muliaina 3
Woockock 2
Carter 2
Nonu 2
Toeava* 2
Mathewson* 1
Donald* 1
Donnelly 1
McCaw 1
Read 1
Smith 1
Rokocoko 1
Total 27

NZ Line-outs Won From
First half 1 4
Second half 7 7
Total 8 11

NZ Line-out Jumpers Won From
Donnelly 3 5
Read 2 3
Thorn 1 1
Kaino 1 1
Quick throw 1 1

Australia Line-outs Won From
First half 3 3
Second half 1 3
Total 4 6

NZ Scrum Feeds Won From
First half 4 5
Second half 2 3
Total 6 8

 

31 Oct

Duck Soup
by Paul Waite
31 Oct 2010

marxbrosThe basic story of the test reads: Rusty All Blacks concede 12 points, then right the boat, run in some tries and go in 17-12 at half-time. In the second half they get on top with the Aussies whipped and stuffed into a bag, but then Henry subs Stephen Donald (aka The Duck) for Dan Carter and he single-handedly loses a 12 point lead, and the game.

Let’s not beat about the bush, there was a lot wrong with this All Black performance apart from the end-game debacle brought about by the substitutions. In 2007 Graham Henry’s ideas about resting players from rugby back-fired on him big-time when they turned up to the World Cup way off the pace. It seems that nothing has been learned, and resting players after the recent Tri-Nations garnered us a similar result, if less important in the scheme of things.

The All Blacks took the field looking more or less the same as they did at the start of the season’s international campaign, playing in a loose disjointed fashion. All the usual culprits were there in their game, players getting isolated going to ground too fast providing easy pickings for the likes of Pocock, fumbled passes, poor passing in general, shonky lineout and so forth.

This reaped the reward of a 12-0 deficit in the first quarter, before they finally managed to get their systems firing on all eight cylinders again, and replied with a creditable 17 unanswered points to go in 17-12 at half-time. After the restart, the team started really putting it together. The forwards were doing some excellent work, especially Kaino and Read, aided by the ever-present McCaw. At scrum time the Aussies were also in disarray, the looks on their front row priceless as the referee was forced to penalise them several times. In the backs Dan Carter had the team humming and probing for gaps.

In this phase of the test the Aussies were a whipped force. The television cameras showed pained, beaten faces. Then, with twenty minutes or so to go Henry made some key replacements which were to lose us the test, just like that.

On came Toeava for an injured Cory Jane on came Stephen Donald for Dan Carter. John Afoa also came on in the front row. On the plus side Whitelock’s replacement of an out-of-sorts Donnelly at lock was a win.

Right away the subs had an effect, but overall it wasn’t the one Henry was looking for. From a scrum Genia spun the ball wide with a miss-out pass and Toeava, who was standing well out of position too far in-field was suddenly out-flanked. Turning he slipped, and a track the width of two bus lanes opened up down the Aussie left wing. Goodnight nurse. The seven-pointer brought the Wallabies within 5 points. A resurgent Australian outfit was sniffing a change in the wind.

They didn’t have to sniff very hard to catch that scent. The All Blacks were full of fight on defence, but there was one piece of the machinery which was misfiring. A foray up-field from some hard forward driving resulted in an Australian penalty infringment. A kickable penalty to take the points-margin to eight.

Now, many of us on these Aotearoan shores have despised the selection of Stephen Donald for this tour, ahead of up-and-coming Canterbury first-five Colin Slade. More on the whys and wherefors of that later, but one point his supporters were certain of was his goal-kicking. He might run an appallingly stilted backline, he might opt to do badly-executed grubbers and chip-kicks at inappropriate moments, but at least he can nail the goals.

Well he couldn’t even do that. A nice, kickable penalty which would have relieved the pressure and more or less assured the win was missed. Still a 5-point margin.

Fired up by their good fortune the Aussies fetched the sink from their changing shed and hurled it at the All Black lines. The men in black toiled on defence. We were treated to more bad signs from Donald however. Let’s dwell on one of these, because it is instructive to study his methods. The All Blacks were defending in their 22m and got possession of the ball. With the Aussies all packed between the half-way and the 22m Donald looked up and had a decision to make.

Now, as an aspiring All Black test player what would you have done? Would you have hoofed it out into touch perhaps? Or maybe you would have gone to your support and taken it up into contact, to retain possession? Either of those options would have been sane. What did Donald do? Well, all things considered, he thought it would be best to stab a grubber out from the 22m so that the Australians could just pick it up and bring it right back at us. Unbelievable, but more was to come.

A similar situation arose a few minutes later. This time, presumably learning from his last mistake, Donald decided to hoof the ball. Only he kicked it right to a man wearing yellow who didn’t even have to move to catch it just inside his half and run it right back.

But these were just minor points. Indicators of something badly wrong. This all came to a head in the pivotal moment of the test. Once again the All Blacks were encamped on defence in their own 22m, right where Donald seemed to want them, and the Australians were slavering like a pack of rabid Dobermans trying to get the ball over the line. Heroic defence drove them back, and the pressure forced a turnover. It was the 79th minute, possession had been regained at a critical moment, and the ball was in Donald’s hands.

All he needed to do was hoof it into the stands out beyond the 22m.

But Donald’s brain seems to work on a frequency different from the rest of us. It’s the same band as Radio BOZO, which I’ve heard, plays nothing but static.

Instead of kicking a safe touch he kicked it upfield straight to an Australian who, surprise surprise, ran it back in what was the final wave of attacks which unsurprisingly brought a try which O’Connor converted for a two point victory.

Why all the Donald-bashing? The reason is simple – he shouldn’t be in the squad.

When Dan Carter was out last season recovering from his achilles rupture, we went through this process of trying Stephen Donald as All Black first-five replacement. He showed then that although he’s not a bad player at Super Rugby level, and might look godly to some at Provincial level, he has neither the skillset nor temperament for test rugby. He simply can’t think and execute in the timeframes that test rugby demands. I thought we’d asked those questions, and got the answers already.

But instead, as with poor lumbering Sione Lauaki who also kept being selected despite numerous games showing he simply wasn’t a test player, we are stuck with The Duck for a whole Grand Slam Tour.

To add insult to injury the lad who should be touring, Colin Slade, who came on for Aaron Cruden and did the business under severe pressure in the recent Bledisloe Cup winning test match and showed that maybe he does have what it takes to play test rugby, is languishing back at home playing in a Provincial competition.

What a waste. Slade is missing out on a key development tour which may have seen him rise to be the obvious backup for Dan Carter for 2011.

With Sitiveni Sivivatu out with injury there is a spare squad place. If Henry had any sense he would be giving Slade the call right now, swallowing his pride and admitting he and his other selectors got it wrong. With Cory Jane under an injury cloud he can even justify Slade’s call-up on utility value as he covers full-back and wing.

I’d rather watch a Marx Brothers movie than watch Stephen Donald trying to play test rugby again for the All Blacks. At least I’d be able to laugh at a parade of stupidity and ineptitude and feel good about it.

New Zealand 24 (Jimmy Cowan, Cory Jane, Ma’a Nonu tries; Dan Carter 3 cons, 1 pen)

Australia 26 (Quade Cooper, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Drew Mitchell, James O’Connor tries; Matt Giteau con; O’Connor 1 con)

Paul Waite

Paul Waite

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18 Oct

Over-cautious, or over Cruden?
by Tracey Nelson
18 Oct 2010

Have the All Black coaches just wasted a precious four months and nine test matches in re-selecting Stephen Donald ahead of Aaron Cruden, and to a lesser extent Colin Slade? Or is it a case of pre-World Cup jitters?

The All Black touring squad for the Hong Kong Bledisloe test and tour of the UK was announced yesterday, and despite having spent most of 2010 experimenting with new talent at 1st 5 to back up Dan Carter, the All Black coaches appear to have succumbed to nerves and have gone back to the previously discarded Stephen Donald. Having taken a punt at the start of the year in selecting Aaron Cruden, they then proceded to have him ride the pine for the majority of the June-September test matches – giving him one sole start in the dead rubber against the Wallabies in Sydney last month.

Having had limited chances in the Super 14 for the Hurricanes Cruden yet showed enough on-field skill – and more importantly the on-field communication skills – that prompted the All Black coaches to name him in their first squad of the year. The hope was that under the guidance of Wayne Smith and Dan Carter, Cruden would be able to build on his game and gain valuable skills in the All Black environment. But with only 1 start and just 60 minutes played, and a total of 61 minutes off the bench in the other 8 test matches, there were limited chances to gain any significant experience. Playing 121 minutes of rugby over two months is never going to provide form either.

Cruden’s opportunities at All Black level were also partly thwarted by Piri Weepu being first choice back-up goal kicker to Carter this year. You can’t help but feel Cruden’s chances to go on the end of year tour were dealt a death blow by the horrific ankle dislocation and break suffered by Weepu in Wellington’s ITM Cup game against Taranaki on Saturday night.

Suddenly the coaches were faced with their second choice goal kicker being out of all rugby for 6 months, and the additional worry that Dan Carter would not be fit to play the Bledisloe test match in Hong Kong after undergoing ankle surgery in September. With Cruden’s goal kicking stats only sitting around the 70% mark and his lack of starts this year, the need for a proven reliable goal kicker became paramount. Despite having selected Colin Slade as 1st 5 cover for Cruden in Sydney, and he certainly performed in the 20 minutes he had on the field, nerves have obviously won the day and Stephen Donald has been re-called.

There is no doubt Donald has been playing well for Waikato in his come-back from a lengthy injury break, but he has been tried before at All Black level and wasn’t considered the answer. Yes he is a good goal kicker (excluding the one appalling S14 game he had this year), but as we look to the Rugby World Cup next year is he going to be the back-up to Carter? The question that needs to be asked is, if the unthinkable happened and Carter suffered a serious injury that put him out of the World Cup, just who would we want running our backline?

There seems to be a little too much juggling with the options at the moment, and basing current form on the ITM Cup is not really a good measure of how players will perform at international level. Should Donald fail on this end of year tour, we are left with the Super 15 campaign to decide who will be Carter’s back up for the World Cup. The coaches said they toyed with taking three 1st 5s but decided against it as with only 5 tests it would mean one player would not get much game time. Perhaps thinking outside the square and playing Carter off the bench to allow his understudies some desperately required game time may have been an option.

The full squad for the end of year tour is:

Backs: Daniel Carter (Canterbury), Jimmy Cowan (Southland), Stephen Donald (Waikato), Andy Ellis (Canterbury), Hosea Gear (Wellington), Cory Jane (Wellington), Alby Mathewson (Wellington), Mils Muliaina (Waikato), Ma’a Nonu (Wellington), Joe Rokocoko (Auckland), Sitiveni Sivivatu (Waikato), Conrad Smith (Wellington), Isaia Toeava (Auckland), Sonny Bill Williams (Canterbury).

Forwards: John Afoa (Auckland), Anthony Boric (North Harbour), Daniel Braid (Auckland), Tom Donnelly (Auckland), Hikawera Elliott (Hawke’s Bay), Ben Franks (Tasman), Owen Franks (Canterbury), Andrew Hore (Taranaki), Jerome Kaino (Auckland), Richie McCaw (Canterbury, captain), Keven Mealamu (Auckland), Liam Messam (Waikato), Kieran Read (Canterbury), Brad Thorn (Canterbury), Sam Whitelock (Canterbury), Tony Woodcock (North Harbour).