4 Sep

All Blacks v Samoa, New Plymouth, 3 September 2008
by Tracey Nelson
4 Sep 2008

There were a few positives to come out of the mis-match of the All Blacks’ 101-14 win over an understrength Samoa side last night – in that the people of New Plymouth got to see the All Blacks play on their patch, and the All Blacks themselves got a physical hit out after no rugby for almost four weeks. No major injuries is probably another positive, but that’s about where it ends.

At halftime Graham Henry was asked how he thought the game was going and his response was “Good and bad. I think we did some really good things and scored some good tries. But the scrum is unstable at the back and we’re not clearing from the scrum”. He was not happy about the try the All Blacks conceded in the first half, stating that it was a soft try from a lineout and “you practice defence from that sort of thing so it’s a little bit irritating”. The coaching trio were also annoyed that a couple of times when tries had been on players hadn’t passed the ball, and so in the second half were looking for stability at scrum and first phase along with clearing out well at ruck time.

So did they get that ? At times yes. But for the most part this was a shabby display where the All Blacks did not exhibit accuracy with the ball in hand, demonstrated poor option-taking on numerous occasions, did not play with structure or control when it was called for, and more alarmingly some of the problems we thought we’d eliminated in Auckland crept back into the game. The inability of the All Blacks to consistently win the ball when receiving from the restarts, particularly when there is no pressure from the opposition, must surely be driving the coaches to distraction. Crooked throws to the front of the lineout and inaccurate long throwing were also back like an annoying squeaky floorboard.

When pressure was put on at the back of what was a ridiculously dominant All Black scrum, there were fumbles and poor clearing by captain of the day Rodney So’oialo. Both tries scored by Samoa were borne of the All Blacks’ inability to scramble quickly on defence, the Samoans benefitting from a fragmented All Black attacking line being at sea defensively when the ball was turned over in the tackle and a blindside attack was mounted. Indeed, the accuracy and timing of the Samoan passing to score this try put most of the All Blacks’ efforts to shame. Again, not what I’d imagine the coaching trio would have been wanting to see.

However, Henry stated after the game “The guys stuck to the game plan pretty well and were professional in what they did, and that’s what we wanted them to do”. Quite what the game plan was I’m not sure, but I find it hard to believe the team were told to go out and play festival rugby as their lead up to Brisbane. No doubt Mr Henry would point the finger at me for concentrating on the negatives, but frankly there were more negatives than positives in the way the All Blacks played this game and whether it truly was more than just an opposed training run is certainly still up for debate.

For the record the All Blacks won the game 101-14, the halftime score being 47-7.

Quick stats:

Restarts received by NZ Won From
First half 3 6
Second half 6 7
Total 9 13

NZ Line-outs Won From
First half 6 7
Second half 0 1
Total 6 8

NZ Scrum Clearances Cleared From
First half 5 7
Second half 3 4
Total 8 11

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