7 Oct

Game Stats: Springboks v All Blacks, Soweto, 6 October 2012
by Tracey Nelson
7 Oct 2012

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. Some notes on these stats follow throughout the article.

Numbers in brackets are the first half/second half breakdown for each TOTAL. An asterisk denotes a player that came on as a substitute. This week:

Team: Tony Woodcock, Andrew Hore, Owen Franks, Brodie Retallick, Sam Whitelock, Richie McCaw, Liam Messam, Kieran Read, Aaron Smith, Dan Carter, Hosea Gear, Ma’a Nonu, Conrad Smith, Cory Jane, Israel Dagg
Reserves: Keven Mealamu, Ben Franks, Luke Romano, Adam Thomson, Piri Weepu, Aaron Cruden, Tamati Ellison

Subs: Mealamu for Hore at 51 min, Romano for Retallick at 58 min, B Franks for O Franks and Ellison for Nonu at 62 min, Weepu for A Smith and Thomson for Messam at 65 min, Cruden for carter at 76 min.

Points Scored NZ Springboks
Tries 4 1  
Conversions 3 1
Penalties 1 from 3 3 from 7
TOTAL 32 16

Penalties/Free Kicks Conceded Pen FKs
NZ 11 1
Springboks 4 0
TOTAL 15 1

NZ Penalty Offences
Tackled player Read(2) 2
Ruck entry Hore, Dagg(YC) 2
RUck hands McCaw 1
Ruck offside McCaw 1
Offside general play O Franks, Nonu 2
Lineout Whitelock 1
Scrum Messam, Front Row 2
TOTAL   11

Springboks Penalty Offences
Tackler player 1
Ruck off feet 1
Scrum 2

Turnovers Conceded by NZ
Knock-ons Messam, McCaw, C Smith, Dagg, Read 5
Spill/pass McCaw 1
Lineout Not sighted 1
Ruck   1
Scrum early engage   1

Turnovers Conceded by Springboks
Knock-ons 10
Spill 1
Forward pass 1
Tackle 2
Ruck 1
Maul 1
Scrum 1
Maul 1

First Three to the Breakdown stats are looking for those players who are getting to the tackle/breakdown quickly and are also being useful by either cleaning out opposition players or setting up ruck ball. Anyone arriving and just leaning pointlessly on the side of a ruck isn’t included in these numbers.

First 3 to Breakdown Total Per half
McCaw 22 12+10
Whitelock 16 7+9
Retallick 12 7+5
Woodcock 12 3+9
Read 11 2+9
O Franks 10 5+5
Mealamu* 8  
B Franks* 8  
Hore 8 5+3
Messam 5 2+3
Romano* 4  
Nonu 4 2+2
Jane 4 1+3
Gear 3 1+2
C Smith 3 0+3
Dagg 3 0+3
Thomson* 2  
Ellison* 2  
Carter 2 1+1
A Smith 1 1+0

Ball carries and metres gained No of carries Metres
Messam 8 69
Read 7 50
McCaw 5 26
Whitelock 2 30
Romano* 2 10
Hore 2 5
B Franks* 1 3
Retallick 1 3

Completed Tackles means that player actually brought the ball carrier to ground (ie. as the Laws of the Game actually described the tackler), not assists in the tackle situation which are tallied separately.

Completed Tackles and Assists Tackles Assists
McCaw 16 (7+0) 2 (1+1)
Read 12 (6+6) 1 (0+1)
Messam 6 (3+3) 4 (3+1)
Whitelock 6 (1+5) 1 (0+1)
Carter 6 (3+3) 1 (1+0)
Retallick 6 (4+2 0
O Franks 5 (3+2) 0
C Smith 4 (3+1) 2 (0+2)
Romano* 4 2
Woodcock 4 (1+3) 1 (0+1)
Mealamu* 4 0
Hore 4 (3+1) 0
Nonu 3 (1+2) 2 (0+2)
Thomson* 3 0
Gear 3 (2+1) 0
Jane 3 (0+3 0
Ellison* 2 0
A Smith 1 (0+1) 1 (0+1)
B Franks* 1 0
TOTAL 93 15

Missed tackles also includes slipped tackles where the ball runner gets away. Most importantly, I do NOT included slipped tackles in the Tackles Made stats, it gets noted as a missed tackle. Either you’ve made the tackle or you’ve missed it.

Missed and Slipped Tackles
Carter 2
Read 1
Nonu 1
Mealamu 1
Weepu 1

NZ Line-outs Won From
First half 5 6
Second half 4 4
TOTAL 9 10

NZ Line-out Jumpers Won From
Whitelock 3 3
Retallick 1 1
Read 1 1
Messam 1 1
McCaw 1 1
Quick 1 1
Unsighted 1 1
Overthrow   1
TOTAL 9 10

Springboks Line-outs Won From
First half 9 10
Second half 6 7
TOTAL 15 17

NZ Scrums Won From
First half 2 2
Second half 7 7

Springboks Scrums Won From
First half 5 5
Second half 2 2

8 Jun

Test Season Starters: Review of Games
by WAJ
8 Jun 2012

Whilst the the motivation for the scheduling of the various tests throughout the Southern Hemisphere this weekend is the money, I admit to quite looking forward to test rugby, especially the AB/Wallaby/Bok games (Argentina are also playing Italy and Scotland must be lurking somewhere as well). It also gives the Blues players a chance to find form, the Chiefs and Crusaders to gather injuries, the Wallabies every chance to suffer further embarrassment and the Boks to start a total rebuild.

All Blacks v Ireland – I like the look of this AB XV – every one of them is in good form, with a question mark over Fred, but he is such a big match player that he will surly play a blinder. There are plenty of combos carried over from Soopa teams – C Smith and Savea, Fred, Guildford and Carter, 4 Crusaders forwards – as well as 6 of the 8 WC winning pack that the hope is this team should settle reasonably quickly. There is a question mark over Read/A Smith/Carter axis because they have not played together before, but hopefully we will see Smith focus on passing to Crter or the next forward up , just do the basics as he familiarises himself with test rugby. We should be fartoo strong for this Irish side which will be under huge pressure at scrum time where they have a pretty inexperienced tight 5 and we will have too many weapons out back against a set of Irish backs which would be classified as solid and nothing more. With weapons in Carter, SBW, Savea and Fred, the finishing ability of Guildford and the guile and organisation of C Smith this has the potential to be a night of great promise for the AB’s. They would expect plenty of high kicks to test Guildford and Savea, and yes there may be a question mark in that area, but then the counterattacking from Fred can equally bring huge rewards. So a typically tight first 20 – 30 minutes, and then it will probably open up.
All Blacks 13+

Wallabies v Wales – Deans is under huge pressure to get some wins on the board, a couple of losses in this series and it would be hard to see him keeping his job, even with O’Neill firmly in his corner. The Wallabies do not have a lot of time to put Tuesday behind them and get this XV gelling. The makeup of the XV is interesting with 7 starters from the Waratahs, the least successful of the Aus Soopa teams over the last 6 weeks!! How 7 of the worst team can make the team of the best players is puzzling to say the least. Wales have selected a very strong side – they are well rested and full of class, have a strong scrum, 3 good loosies and outside backs with size and pace. They won the Six Nations on the back of some really gutsy play, and never say die attitude and will really test this nervous Wallaby team. I find it very difficult to split them and can see a welsh victory 1st up.
Wales 1 – 12

Springboks v England – This is a very hard game to predict. A new Bok coach has picked a side with plenty of changes from the side that played in that WC quarterfinal, only 6 back up from the starting XV v Aus. And then only 2 forwards. The Boks will want to make a statement here and this game will be as ferocious in the opening 30 minutes as any for a while as this new set of Bok forwards endeavours to make its mark. How will the Poms respond – they have a few hard heads in the forwards themselves and won’t be taking a backward step. With Steyn Inc, Kirchner, even Capt de Villiers the Boks don’t come across as a team that is looking to play free flowing rugby,well when have the Boks ever done that of late anyway? So the Bok halves will be putting in frontof the forwards, use the likes of the Flash to chase the kicks down and dominate at set piece – yada yada yada. How the Poms get around, over or through this is their big question? They do have a more adventurous looking backline, plenty of pace and a big guy at centre who will need watching. Still a lot of unknowns on both sides and will be a game worth watching just to see how it unfolds.
Springboks 1 – 12

Regards Waj

18 May

Super 15: Round 13 Preview
by WAJ
18 May 2012

Hurricanes v Brumbies – we are now at the stage of the season where any loss is going to have serious consequences for thosestill in reach of the finals- most especially in the Aus conference where it is probable that only the winner of that conference will make the playoffs. So this is huge for the Brumbies. A loss here, with the Reds almost certain of 5 points against the Pussy Cats, and they are deep in it. They do it without the very influential Lealiifano, a big loss. But they have been a revelation this season, the coach gets the best out of them, they take a lot or right options, are real competitors and have not had a loss over 12 points which says a lot about theirresilience. A very good pack is the key to their success and the Hurricanes will do well to get parity here. The backs are a good match up – 4 very good wingers on display. But 2 new 1 5/8′s could be where this game is decided and fancy Pisi may have the edge. With very little between them over the years I think the home side will get up, with Shields to have a big one.
Hurricanes 1 – 12

Highlanders v Bulls – probably the game of the round for me. The Bulls are flying, and they strengthen their side this week to pose a real threat to the Highlanders. At the time of writingwe have yet to see the Highlanders line up, but that aside they look to be struggling a bit. They are another side who are teetering on the edge of the playoffs and really have to win here to stay in touch. But I think the Bulls will be too strong, they have shown remarkable resilience of late, and the way they scored in the last minutes of their game against the Waratahs last week was very impressive and showed why they are top of the table. Such a well drilled pack of forwards and the halves are both playing very well. And I’ll say it again, don’t give away penalties in you own half with Steyn as hot as all hell at the moment. I can’t see where the Highlanders are going to win this.
Bulls 1 – 12

Crusaders v Blues – two pretty average performances from these teams last week. The Blues finally managed a few minutes of passable rugby to comfortably beat the Pussies but there was still plenty of dross as well, but some improvement at least – and they will need all of that and more to challenge what will be a fired up Crusaders.I imagine we will see a completely different Crusaders side in terms of game plan and execution this week. They have to start scoring tries again, the other parts of their game are in reasonable shape, they aren’t scoring enough points. Ellis and Fred are 2 huge ins and Slackbladder would be hoping to see Dan Carter bring Fred and Fruean into the play a lot more. But there are a lot of players in this game who don’t have a lot of form on the board, and that doesn’t augur well for a good game. The Crusaders have to get up, but there won’t be much in it I reckon between these 2 great rivals. From a Blues perspective I am looking forward to seeing how Luatua performs. And O Franks v Woody should be a beauty.
Crusaders 1 – 12

Reds v Lions – the Reds will kill the Pussies. The Burglar’s back, confidence rising and a real sniff of finals in the air, the Reds by a thousand.
Reds 13+

Cheetahs v Sharks – mmmm tough one this. Like the Cheetahs but they are one of those sides that always finds a way to lose, and are not the same team without Goosen. The Sharks keep plugging away and should get up here, they have a good record in Bloem and will bedesperate to stay in the top 6. Great match up at hooker, Bismarck du Plessis is some player.
Sharks 1 – 12

Stormers v Waratahs – another disappointing season for the Waratahs will see them out of finals contention after this game. They will battle but lack a killer blow and always fail to take the chances that a good team would turn into points.They are touting an attacking game here, all good and well but against the best defensive team they will want to get it right, and what is the bet that de Villiers or the Flash get an intercept. Foley has changed the team a bit, big Palu on the benchindicates perhaps what is wrong with this team – too inconsistent. The Stormers won’t vary much from the norm, percentage rugby, play for territory and convert the chances that will come from the pressure – well they are South African after all.
Stormers 1 – 12

Force v Rebels – Can’t win at home, thrashed away – the Force have turned into a real lame duck of a team. The real opposite of the boys from Melbourne! And how good were the mighty Rebels last week, Kurtley has them humming. Plenty of attacking options, set pieces have solidified, and best of all the defence has finally started tocome right.They finally look like a team. A repeat of the last fortnights form will see them win this pretty easily.
Rebels 13+

Regards Waj

25 Oct

Four More Minutes Boys
by Paul Waite
25 Oct 2011

mccaw-at-ruckThat’s what Richie McCaw might have been thinking as he got to his feet after effecting the final turnover in the Rugby World Cup Final. Four more minutes to suck out of the time-keeper’s clock. Four more minutes to hang onto that ball. Four more minutes to win the World Cup.

The image of the New Zealand captain crouched at a ruck with hands poised, deftly pushing the referee’s patience with the pick-up, will stay with me forever. It epitomised both the man and the moment. There was no panic or worry on his face, just an expression of complete concentration and faith in what he and his team needed to do. A certainty that he had the William Webb-Ellis trophy as firmly within his grasp as he did the ball.

For their part, the French had just spent a full five minutes in possession throwing everything they had at the New Zealand defence. The Black Wall had hurled them back, keeping them between half-way and the 10m line and denying them the territory they needed for drop-kick or penalty.

Rightly loath to kick the ball, they flung it wide from a scrum with a miss-out pass to Rougerie who waded through a Conrad Smith missile attack, and shrugged off Sonny Bill Williams for good measure, before the Black wave crashed down once again and McCaw drove through the final ruck with such force he caused replacement halfback Doussain to fumble.

That final turnover, to a New Zealand scrum four minutes from time was the last that the French saw of the ball.

The story of the final up to that key point was a much different tale than many fans had expected.

A lovely Woodcock try in the 14th minute, from the same lineout move they pulled on Australia a couple of seasons ago seemed to be just reward for All Blacks pressure and control of the game, but three misses with the boot by half-time from the normally reliable Piri Weepu had the worm of doubt working on the home fans.

That anxiety was only heightened at the half-hour mark when Aaron Cruden went down awkwardly in a tackle as he took on the French defensive line and limped off the field to be replaced by Stephen Donald.

For those unfamiliar with Donald’s history with the All Blacks suffice to say he has never impressed, and his appearance on the field with 50 minutes still to play in a World Cup final was probably not greeted with uniform optimism by the fans.

With both teams running off at halftime with only 5 points between them, it was still all to play for in the second half.

After two minutes of play France got the chance to get on the board with a penalty shot from wide, but Yachvili narrowly put it outside the right post. Two minutes later they conceded a much simpler chance to the All Blacks, and Stephen Donald strode forward to claim to ball. The TV cameras caught a rather huffy look on Piri Weepu’s face as he did so, but he had had his chances and time had run out. Donald wasted no time in knocking the ball through the sticks, and the fans breathed a little easier though nobody was relaxing at only 8-0 up, and of course nobody knew that those three precious points would win the World Cup for New Zealand.

A darting run by Dagg floundered badly as All Blacks all left their feet at the ruck, allowing Rougerie to step through and hack the ball loose. Weepu then favoured the French attack by stabbing a toe and deftly chipping it right into Trinh-Duc’s arms, whereupon he set sail for the All Blacks line. A few rucks later the All Blacks were all behind the ball and seemed to have regained their composure but unfortunately Donald’s lack of time with the team told as he came up out of the line and marked the wrong Frenchman, leaving a large hole for outstanding French No.6 and captain Thierry Dusautoir to surge over the line and force by the foot of the right-hand post.

The conversion made the scoreline 8-7 to the All Blacks, with a further 31 minutes to play. With a one-point lead, and a French opponent now pumped and ready, everybody knew the All Blacks had a fight on their hands.

Obviously Graham Henry thought the same, and he sent in reinforcements, substituting Ali Williams on for Whitelock, and Andrew Hore for Mealamu. Piri Weepu took the restart, kicked it out on the full, and was immediately replaced by Andy Ellis. Although the two things were probably not linked it seemed that way, and marked the end of a poor game by Piri’s usual standards. After the game it was reported that he had suffered a troubling groin injury in his warm-up, which may go some way to explaining the lack of form.

The game turned into a gigantic arm-wrestling contest from that point onward, but the only real scoring chance that France had from there until the end of the game was a 45m penalty attempt in the 64th minute from right out in front, which Trinh-Duc missed handsomely.

From there the All Blacks simply backed their defence, as the French had a long period of posession and hung onto it greedily. There is always talk of how tiring it is to defend for long periods, as if the attacking team expend little or no energy themselves. That isn’t the case, and a well-drilled defence can sap the will of an attack if it can knock it backwards consistently. This happened to the French, as they tried everything to break though.

This final underlined what we always learn when we watch these Rugby World Cup Finals every four years. They stand apart, even from semi-finals, in terms of the level of mind-altering pressures brought to bear. Apart from 1987 when nobody really understood what a World Cup was, every final has produced this kind of concentrated grimly-fought rugby contest, and so it will probably always be.

The All Blacks deserved to win this World Cup, make no mistake about that. The single point of difference on the scoreboard was a fair reflection of the teams as they played on the day, the All Blacks were just that tiny bit better in defence and it gave them a win.

Only those teams strong enough in mind as well as body can win these contests, and in seeing it done by your own team, it gives you a new appreciation of the achievements of the Australian, South African and English teams which have won it in earlier years.

Congratulations to Richie McCaw, his All Blacks, and the coaching staff for bringing the Cup home!

All Blacks: 8
T Woodcock try, S Donald pen

France: 7
T Dusautoir try, F Trinh-Duc con

HT: 5-0

Paul Waite

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18 Oct

One Monkey Down, One To Go
by Paul Waite
18 Oct 2011

When the All Blacks defeated the Wallabies in the World Cup semi-final this Sunday just past, they ripped one monkey off their backs. This coming Saturday, in the Final, they have the opportunity to do the same with the other one.

Beginning with that humbling loss as defending World Champions in the 1991 semi-final to Australia New Zealand have built an unenviable reputation as ‘chokers’ in World Cups. In 1995 they choked again, poisoning rumours notwithstanding, against hosts South Africa in the final.

Come 1999 and they again looked to be the team to beat with some nice momentum going into the semi-final only to be dumped out of the competition by a fired-up French side which flicked that imponderable Gallic switch at half-time, and left the Blacks eating their dust.

Forward to 2003 and Australia once again were their nemesis as they out-thought the All Blacks by cleverly targeting their ball-carriers and half-back. Once again the form team going into the tournament they were kicked to touch by the host nation.

In 2007 the hosts, France, were again the All Blacks executioner in a controversial 18-20 loss in the quarter-final in which referee, Wayne Barnes made a series of questionable but crucial decisions against the men in black. Whether or not he was to blame for the All Blacks earliest ever World Cup exit is still hotly debated, but the record books stand.

Here in 2011, the planets seem to have moved into an alignment which is eerily similar to 1987. Once again we have a final in New Zealand between the All Blacks and France. Again the All Blacks campaign has been disrupted by injury to a key player, skipper Andy Dalton in 1987, No.10 Dan Carter in 2011. As a direct result of that in 1987 we saw the rise of David Kirk at halfback to lead the All Blacks to victory as skipper. In 2011 we have Piri Weepu at halfback stepping up to perform a similarly crucial leadership role.

Leaving aside all the touchy-feely astrological musings, the All Blacks undoubtedly have genuine World Cup momentum on their side. In contrast to the faux-momentum of all previous tournaments barring 1995. The strength and accuracy of the display from the forwards against Australia in the semi-final is emphatic proof.

This was no questionable victory based on some quirky refereeing decision. It was hard-as-nails rugby and as visceral as it gets. The All Black pack served up a peformance which was in keeping with the very best that the team has put together in its history. The way they stamped their control over the physical exchanges, took the Wallabies in a vise-like grip and never let go would have brought a smile to All Black greats such as Meads and Lochore. Sitting next to the latter in this test, I suspect even Fred Allen, perfectionist and most successful All Black coach ever, would have admired the way they went about their work.

Add to that a smattering of genius from Dagg setting up that early try to Ma’a Nonu, and you have the perfect recipe for Wallaby a la Creme (Creamed Wallaby).

There were so many areas in which the All Blacks improved as compared with the last few months, that you would almost suspect them of hiding their light under a bushell. Take the aerial dominace as an example. Cory Jane and Israel Dagg were imperious at the back fielding the high kick. At the breakdown the numbers were tremendous, whereas previously they had been light. You can always tell when the All Blacks are on song by watching that Black Wave crashing over the opposition like a tsunami and continually blowing them off the ball.

Graham Henry, Steve Hansen and Wayne Smith are also due a lot of praise for their strategies in this campaign. Watching the semi-final unfold one of the most telling stories was the way the All Blacks continually targetted David Pocock, running the ball at him thereby involving him in tackles rather than leaving him free to forage for turnover ball. As well as that the general tactical approach, keeping the Wallabies pinned in their own half, using the forwards to drive the ball rather than fling it wide too often, go for the odd drop-kick, and force penalties. The whole package was designed to beat Australia in this one-off test, and it worked perfectly.

The monkey on the backs of the All Blacks placed there by two semi-final losses to the Wallabies in World Cups is now gone.

The remaining monkey is the one which comes from the two defeats by France in the World Cup knock-out stages.

To use a quotation from that most famous of all New Zealanders, Sir Edmund Hilary, let’s hope the All Blacks can knock the bastard off!

Paul Waite

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10 Oct

The Southern Quarters
by Paul Waite
10 Oct 2011

Southern_HemisphereThe Sunday quarter-finals bill was headlined as ‘The Clash of the Titans’ starring Australia vs. South Africa, featuring supporting act ‘The 4N Audition’, starring Argentina vs. New Zealand.

A classic sunny Spring afternoon in brilliant sunshine and a full house of noisy fans greeted South Africa as they ran on to the Caketin field to defend their World title against Australia.

What ensued was nothing short of seige warfare, for the most part, but it was begun by Australia at a pace that South Africa couldn’t initially adjust to, and this opened up a 5-0 lead when Horwill crashed over from a ruck in the 12th minute.

From the kickoff Australia looked, as is so often the case with them, as if they had been playing the game for 10 minutes already, they hit the ground running so hard. The South Africans were bamboozled on defence, and bested at the ruck on attack. Genia was buzzing about like an angry bluebottle, and they were finding holes to run through everywhere.

A minute later yet another clean break saw Beale through and the Springboks only managed to stifle it 5m out from their line, and in the end a ruck penalty out in front of the sticks gave Australia an 8-0 lead at the 15 minute mark.

There was only one team out there which looked as if it was playing to a well-drilled gameplan, and that was Australia. South Africa were simply defending like daemons, and on attack just making stuff up as they went along. They were rattled, and looked vulnerable every time Australia ran the ball at them, but held on regardless.

After the half-hour mark the Boks had regrouped somewhat and were managing to hold onto the ball and mount some pressure on the Wallaby line. Towards half-time one of these forays resulted in a penalty, and the teams retired to the sheds with Australia leading 8-3.

The second half saw a reborn South African team. They tore into the rucks and the Aussie defence with redoubled force, hung onto the ball well and mounted wave after wave of attack. By the end of the game the stats showed Australia made 150 tackles, more or less three times the Boks total.

By inches the pressure told, and it started in the 53rd minute with a Steyne penalty for offside at a maul, to make it 8-6.

Pressure on the Australian halves also had first five-eighth Quade Cooper back to his blooper best. He had kicks charged, fluffed clearances, and was generally a liability for the men in Green and Gold.

In the 60th minute the Boks showed how useful a classy No.10 who isn’t panicking is when Morne Steyne slotted a nice drop-goal to put South Africa in the lead for the first time by 9-8.

By this stage South Africa literally owned the ball. Australia were simply defending and hoping for the best. South Africa ran in a try but it was (rightly) disallowed for a forward pass, Lambie narrowly shaded a drop-goal, and all-in-all the Springboks looked the most likely winners of the tie.

In the end it was a penalty which swung the game back in Australia’s favour when Roussouw was judged to have tipped Samo up at a lineout near the Bok 10m line. O’Connor showed nerves of stell to slot the penalty kick making it 11-9 with 10 minutes left on the clock.

History will show that the Boks came close, but by this time they were as tired as the Wallabies, and creating plays when tired is sometimes more difficult than just reacting in defence.

Either side could have won this, but for my money South Africa deserved it more than Australia due to playing most of the attacking rugby. The Wallabies dodged yet another Rugby World CUp bullet, as is their habit.

Australia 11
James Horwill try
James O’Connor 2 pen

South Africa 9
Morne Steyn 2 pen, drop goal

HT: 8-3

The second quarter-final up at Eden Park was expected to be another convincing win for New Zealand over Argentina, but the reality was far different. To be fair, although a win was expected from All Blacks fans, the other main interest was in how Colin Slade would fare as replacement No.10 to Dan Carter, and how the team looks in general, coming to the sharp end of the tournament.

New Zealand started hard and fast, hitting rucks and tackles trying to blow Argentina away in the opening minutes by shear force and speed. But the Argentines were up to the task, rebutting the forays with staunch defence and clever return kicks, sending the New Zealanders back into their own half each time. After 5 minutes you could see from the All Blacks’ faces and body language that they realised they were up against a foe which wasn’t about to be gobbled up as easy-meat, and would have to work for their win.

After 11 minutes Argentina were whistled up for man in front of the kicker, and who should step up for the kicking duty but none other than Piri Weepu, to make it 3-0. In fact Weepu took the restarts, put the ball into touch from penalties, took the place-kicks, and generally performed all the duties of both a halfback and first-five, leaving Slade to shovel the ball on to the outside backs, and make the odd tactical kick.

Sadly Slade still didn’t look at all happy. He behaved as if the weight of the World was on his shoulders, and gave a good imitation of ‘choking’.

He dropped passes cold, made some silly tactical kicks straight to the opposition, and his passing was lack-lustre, slow, pass-it-on stuff. Hardly a viable replacement for Dan Carter.

So when he took a knock in the 17th minute, and was then eventually replaced by Cruden in the 32nd, quite a few fans could be forgiven for silently offering up a prayer of thanks. I was one of them.

In the 18th minute a nice move down the left touchline saw Read in the corner but the try was disallowed due to a foot grazing the chalk briefly before the grounding.

In the meantime the Argentine defence, for all it’s staunchness, was largely founded on ruck, scrum and other infringements to slow the All Blacks ball down to a crawl, and in the 24th minute Piri Weepu knocked over another penalty to make it 6-0.

Then, at the half-hour mark, and somewhat against the run of play a defensive error from Kieran Read saw the Argentine No.8 take a gap off the back of a scrum at halfway, to storm upfield and create a try for No.6 Cabello which was converted by Contemponi to make it 7-6 to Argentina.

With Cruden replacing Slade Weepu still took the goal-kicks and nailed penalties in the 35th and 38th minutes to bring New Zealand to 12-7 at the half-time break.

The second half saw more of the same hard-fought play, but the opening penalty went to Argentina for a ruck infringement making it 12-10 in the 47th minute. Another brace of Weepu penalties took it to 18-10 by the 58th minute and referee Owens also sent an Argentine forward to the sin-bin for his activities defending his line as the All Blacks mounted pressure right on it. McCaw then had a try attempt disallowed by the TMO.

In the 68th minute New Zealand finally got the try they had been searching for and it was Read finishing off in winger’s style down the left again after he received a lovely miss-out pass from Kaino. The move was initially started by a great burst from Ma’a Nonu up the middle. Weepu missed the conversion from out wide, but at 23-10 the match seemed safe.

Three minutes later Weepu made his last kick of the game before being subbed for Cowan, putting another penalty through the sticks bringing it to 26-10.

Finally just before time, a lovely piece of work from Jane on the right wing saw him keep the ball in when everyone though he’d stepped into touch, and then Brad Thorne surged the last 8m to score. Cruden added the extras to make the final score 33-10.

This was a hard-fought but well-deserved victory to the Men in Black. For their part Argentina acquiited themselves well, showing that well-known resolve in defence, and flashes of that famous South American flair in the form of individual skills with the ball in hand. They should be a great addition to the Tri-Nations next year.

For New Zealand the problems still remain for the No.10 jersey. Given the form issues Slade is obviously having, Cruden simply must start against Australia next week, with Weepu the backup option. But the backline is still bound to be disjointed without Carter, and therefore less able to break deadlocks against a determined defence – a fact all too well revealed in this test.

Put baldly, looking at the relative performances this weekend, Australia must go into next week’s semi-final as favourites, since they have a settled team which is hitting peak form just at the right time. The All Blacks, by contrast, are still trying to adjust for the loss of Carter, and so far it isn’t going well.

New Zealand 33
Kieran Read, Brad Thorn tries
Piri Weepu 7 pen, Aaron Cruden con

Argentina 10
Julio Farias Cabello try
Felipe Contepomi con, Marcelo Bosch pen

HT: 12-7

Paul Waite

Paul Waite

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7 Oct

RWC Quarter Finals – what do the numbers tell us?
by Tracey Nelson
7 Oct 2011

Colin_SladeRugby World Cup history tells us that, with the exception of RWC 1987, penalties rather than tries tend to be the main means of scoring once we reach the knock out phases of the tournament.

There has only been one occasion when the team that scored the most points in pool play has gone on to win the cup, and that was back in 1987 in the inaugural tournament when New Zealand won. But since that time all the winners have been within the top five for defence at the end of pool play.

So if history repeats and games will be won on defence and by those who have the best goal kickers, let’s take a look at the numbers and see if that helps predict who may or may not survive the first round of sudden death in the quarter finals.

Points conceded Total Tries conceded
South Africa 24 2
England 34 1
Ireland 34 3
Wales 34 4
Argentina 40 3
Australia 48 4
New Zealand 49 6
France 96 9

Penalties conceded Total Av per game
England 48 12.00
Wales 43 10.75
Argentina 43 10.75
Australia 41 10.25
New Zealand 40 10.00
Ireland 40 10.00
France 37 9.25
South Africa 37 9.25

Average penalties per game by referee
Steve Walsh 22.75
Craig Joubert 21.50
Bryce Lawrence 20.25
Nigel Owens 19.25
Tournament av 21.15

Goal kickers kicking percentages
Weepu (NZ) 100
Parra (Fra) 90
Priestland(Wal) 89
O’Gara (Ire) 84
Steyn (SA) 83
Yachvilli (Fra) 81
O’Connor (Aus) 78
Flood (Eng) 77
Hook (Wal) 67
Slade (NZ) 63
Contemponi (Arg) 50
Cooper (Aus) 50
Sexton (Ire) 50
Wilkinson (Eng) 45

20 Sep

RWC – Stats at the midway point
by Tracey Nelson
20 Sep 2011

Who has the best attack, best defence, has conceded the most penalties? Some quick stats from the tournament at the halfway stage of pool play.

Please note that these stats include the game played between Italy and Russia on Tuesday 20 September, so that all four pools have had five games played to make up the first 20 of the overall 40 games of pool play.

Team Points For Tries Points Against
New Zealand 124 19 17
France 93 10 40
South Africa 66 8 19
Italy 59 9 49
Samoa 59 7 29
England 54 7 19
Fiji 52 6 74
Argentina 52 6 21
Scotland 49 4 30
Canada 44 4 66
Australia 38 4 21
Ireland 37 3 16
Namibia 37 3 98
Wales 33 2 27
Tonga 30 3 66
Romania 29 3 77
Japan 28 3 130
Russia 23 3 66
USA 23 2 28
Georgia 16 1 56

Pool Total points Tries
A 319 39
B 203 21
C 180 21
D 247 27

Pool Penalties Cards
A 115 0
B 115 3
C 102 0
D 106 2

Team Penalties con Cards
Romania 28 1
England 27 2
Australia 27 0
Canada 26 0
Argentina 26 0
New Zealand 25 0
Japan 25 0
Samoa 25 1
Namibia 22 1
Russia 21 0
Fiji 21 0
Tonga 20 0
USA 20 0
France 10 0
Ireland 19 0
South Africa 19 0
Wales 19 0
Georgia 18 0
Scotland 16 0
Itlay 15 1

Referee Penalties awarded Match Av
Alain Rolland 53 26.5
Steve Walsh 51 25.5
Bryce Lawrence 39 24.5
Jonathan Kaplan 47 23.5
Craig Joubert 42 21.0
Nigel Owens 41 20.5
Alan Pearson 41 20.5
George Clancy 36 18.0
Wayne Barnes 33 16.5

20 Sep

Cup Balls: Kev & Nev’s View
by Paul Waite
20 Sep 2011

Kev and NevFollowing the surprise announcement of their robot ref, Kev Dagg and Neville Shepherd have been invited back by Haka to share some of their views on the coming week of exciting Rugby World Cup action.

Nev: We’re betting that, if you’re an Aussie fan, you’d be as sick as a dog that fell in the sheep-dip after seeing your team tipped up by Ireland like that.

Kev: Humbled.

Nev: Steady Kev. You ever seen a humble Aussie?

Kev: Good point. Anyway Genia and Cooper got done up like a dinner and a lot of folks this side of the ditch are saying ‘about time’. Looks like our Aussie cousins are going to meet South Africa in the quarters and to be honest I don’t fancy their chances there.

Nev: Could be dog tucker.

Kev: But never write those underarm bowlers off. If they get Pocock back, get the Doc to extract Digby’s thumb from his backside, teach O’Connor to kick, and really put it together they could win that and no mistake. Trouble is, a pack which couldn’t out-scrum Ireland has to get the wood on the Bokke tighties.

Nev: About as much chance of that as England players understanding The Laws. Did you see that rubbish with Georgia – what was that Kaplan joker on, valium? How many ruck penelties did he need before fishing the yellow plastic out?

Kev: Yeah that was slack. You had to admire those Georgia lads though. Hard yakka turning out to play the Poms four days after the Jocks eh? But they got stuck in alright. Some sore Pommie bodies after that one even if they did win.

Nev: So we reckon that, as usual, the Poms will play like the brown stuff on my milking shed floor but win their pool. I see in the papers they’ve already had their traditional crisis meeting where they ask each other what the bloody hell is the go with all the penalties, and then remember it’s because of the intentional cheating.

Kev: And having cleared that up they’ll come out and cheat at international standard instead of club standard and get through to the quarters and then the semis.

Nev: But that’s looking a bit too far ahead. The match of the round this week is going to be Scotland v Argentina without a doubt.

Kev: Yes it’s a do or die game this one. We fancy the Jocks to shade the Argies and put themselves in line for the pool runners up spot there.

Nev: Yeah they’ve banned bagpipes and lumped them in with those.. what’re they called Kev.. vulvazeelas?

Kev: Something like that. That’s like waving a tartan kilt at a jock that is. We think that’ll fire them up enough to get them through, whilst at the same time we do appreciate the absence of strangulated cat noises on the terraces.

Nev: England are facing off against Romania which should knock a few more dents into them. Those Romanian forwards are big units and that’s a fact. A tight first half and a Pom win by 3-4 tries by the end on that one we reckon.

Kev: The boys are playing France but we’re picking the Frogs to play it coy as usual. They’ll keep their powder dry, field a weak team, lose handsomely and not care a jot because they were always aiming to go through second so why get their perms in a tangle.

Nev: What about our lad Zac? Hung out to dry for having a few too many after the win in Auckland and the loss in Brisbane.

Kev: Would never have happened in Pinetree’s day.

Nev: Though I think most of the others might have got dropped for not drinking enough.

Kev: There is that.

Nev: Just to wrap it up, the rest of the games are pretty much business as usual stuff as far as results go, but we’ll be expecting more good footy to be played in all of them.

Kev: Yep, that’s one thing we’ve been served up plenty of this World Cup!

Thanks to Kev and Nev for that interview, and we’ll be back to hear more of their thoughts next week.

Paul Waite

Paul Waite

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20 Sep

RWC Summary and Predictions
by Paul Waite
20 Sep 2011

Let’s have a look at the story so far in the pools at RWC2011, and then have a quick look at what might (or might not) lie ahead as we zero in on the knock-out phase.

The 2011 edition of the Rugby World Cup continues to deliver more cracking games as compared with 2007. The first weeks of pool games are normally a succession of thrashings delivered with appropriate hauteur by the ‘tier 1′ teams to the ‘minnows, with the occasional evenly contested minnow-vs-minnow encounter. Not this time around!

In fact the term ‘minnow’ is now officially defunct. Inappropriate. There are no teams at RWC2011 which deserve that condescending label, and the people who, after 2007, were suggesting we revert to the 16-team format are thankfully being shown up for the short-sighted idiots they are.

Even the All Blacks’ 83-7 rout of an under-strength Japan falls into the same perspective, given the 145-17 stomping in 1995. The Brave Blossoms competed for the full 80 minutes and were not daunted, just over-matched.

There were other examples of the massive increase in global playing standards by the tier 2 teams. England vs Georgia was a classic. Georgia were playing a team which has won the Rugby World Cup once, and been finalists twice. To say they competed is an epic understatement. Georgian forwards, most of them looking like Popeye’s nemesis, Bluto, fired themselves into the English defensive line like missiles, and their heroic efforts earned them a close 10-17 deficit at halftime. They eventually went down 10-41 as they tired and leaked points in the second half, but given they were being forced to play only FOUR DAYS after their previous pool game against Scotland (a hard-fought 15-6 defeat), that was unsurprising. England left the field looking battered by the encounter, and still utterly confused by the Laws of the game.

The game of the round was undoubtedly Australia vs. Ireland played at a rainy Eden Park. Leading up to this Ireland had suffered through a forgettable August of World Cup build-up games losing to Scotland, England and twice to France. But it was a fired-up team of Emerald-isle men who really took it to the jaunty Aussies in Auckland. Though the damp conditions probably helped, it was mainly the shutting down of play-makers Genia and Cooper which delivered the surprise 15-6 result. That and a ton of Irish passion.

To say that the Aussie World Cup plans are now derailed is over-stating it, but they have undoubtedly been severely dented. Ireland still have to make good on their leg-up, but victories over Russia and Italy would seem to be well within their scope. If that happens then Australia will come second in the pool, and probably meet South Africa in the Quarter-final. An early exit therefore looms for one of the Southern Hemisphere giants. The Wallabies need to be very worried about this as the Boks, historically, have been well suited to beating them in this kind of pressure-cooker encounter.

All the other pools seem to be on course for the following probable quarter-finals in the knock-out phase of the cup:

QF1: Ireland vs. Wales
QF2: England vs. France
QF3: South Africa vs. Australia
QF4: New Zealand vs. Argentina or Scotland

QF1 does offer Samoa an outside chance of getting there ahead of Wales, but Wales have Namibia and Fiji to play, whereas Samoa have Fiji and South Africa, so it will be very difficult.

With QF4 Argentina are 3 points behind Scotland but Scotland has yet to play England which may well result in a zero points haul and Argentina has Georgia which should get them at least 4. So the Scotland vs. Argentina pool game next week should decide which of them goes through to the knock-out stages.

Looking too far ahead is dangerous, but we love danger so let’s throw the clich├ęd (and boring) ‘one game at a time’ rule out of the proverbial window.

In some parallel universe, the above quarter-finals will produce these semi-finals:

SF1: Wales vs. France
SF2: New Zealand vs. South Africa

And, being an All Blacks supporter, and a lover of symmetry I can’t help but predict that the 2011 Rugby World Cup final will be the same as the inaugural World Cup held in 1987 in this country:

Final: New Zealand vs. France

And the result of that will obviously be a New Zealand victory by 29-9.

Eh bien!

Paul Waite

Paul Waite

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

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