All Blacks

Analysis & video: What really lost Eden Park?

Analysis & video: What really lost Eden Park?


There are a number of proposed reasons going around for why Australia, having started so promisingly, lost in Auckland. The Wallabies no doubt created the lions share of attacking opportunities, yet consistently failed to convert pressure to points.

Seeking clarity, I’ve gone back through the tape minute by minute, identifying those key moments in which Australia ceded  pressure – through territory and possession or points – and categorised the causes in the table below [see in full at bottom].

Discipline 29% (5) Penalty given away needlessly
Skill error 47% (8) Includes poor decision making
Ruck&Maul 12% (2) Opposition forces turnover at ruck or maul through numbers
Turn-over 12% (2) Single opposition player forces turnover at tackle

So what do the stats tell us?

First and foremost, Australia blew it, New Zealand didn’t win it. Wallaby skill errors together with indiscipline accounted for 76% of the pressure releases in the match, many of them doubly compounded.

Second, was that “the Wallabies got smashed at the breakdown” isn’t accurate. Having reviewed the entire match, here are the four breakdown turnovers I found:

No other breakdown interventions by the All Blacks (that weren’t penalised) significantly disrupted Wallaby ball or gained possession.  As you can also see, the first two ruck/mauls have question marks hanging over them anyway.

There’s good and bad news in this. What I believe we saw in Auckland wasn’t a Wallaby team overpowered or outclassed by their opposition, but rather a team that defeated itself – mentally. They thought they needed to push passes, kicks and the refs tolerance that little bit further, when they didn’t need to in reality.

So the question is – can the Wallabies overcome their biggest barrier; themselves?


1:20 Wallabies attacking lineout on NZ 40m line. Richard Brown penalised for closing the gap. Territory and possession lost. Score 0-0 [Discipline]

13:19 ABs put up speculative bomb on halfway, AAC knocks ahead to Moore who picks and is penalised for offside. Benn Robinson is then marched 10 for rolling the ball away, bringing shot within range. Donald kicks 3 points. Score 3-10 [Discipline]

16:31 Wallabies blow a 4 on 2 blindside overlap, with Conrad Smith and McCaw marking Burgess, Brown, Giteau and Turner. Burgess somehow passes into touch just inside ABs half. Probable try, territory and possession squandered. Score remains 3-10 [Skill error]

17:48 Smith charges down Donald kick on the AB 40m. Giteau gathers, offloads to Barnes who famously bombs the try by not passing to any one of five support runners (Mortlock, Smith, Palu, Brown and Mitchell out wide) with only Muliaina and Woodcock as cover. Try, territory and possession foregone. Baxter penalised at ensuing scrum. Score remains 3-10 [Skill error]

22:26 From own scrum on Wallaby 40m, Burgess tries a touchfinding kick from the base. It crosses at about the NZ 30m line, but lands directly out by 1m . This results in a reversal of territory and possession. Seven AB phases later they force Turner to take the ball into touch 15m out from a box kick, and score their try from the the ensuing lineout. Score becomes 10-13 [Skill error]

29:59 Horwill claims a short NZ drop out with great skill and lands into a maul just outside of the NZ 22. Depending on your point of view Tialata and Ross are either both woefully offside, or NZ gain momentum and win the maul. Regardless, Joubert awards possession to NZ who then clear downfield. Score remains 10-13 [Ruck&Maul]

34:38 From a lineout on their 40m line, the Wallabies have made 58m with ball in hand, going through 6 phases and moving the ball from touch line to touch line 3 times over. However, 2m short of the try-line, Richard Brown is penalised for hanging on. Score remains 10-13 [Turn-over]


40:58 NZ are stuck just inside Wallabies half. Defences are set. Sharpe, lying horizontally in the ruck, picks up the ball as it lays on the AB side, and then puts it down again, all the while looking up at the ref who is staring at him. Donald slots the penalty. Score becomes 13-13 [Discipline]

43:03 The Wallabies have clean ruck ball on half way in the middle of the field. Burgess sets off to the blind behind Moore who runs ahead into the AB defence. Penalty for obstruction. Donald slots. Score becomes 16-13 [Skill error]

50:17 Wallabies attacking on NZ 40m line (following penalty for Owen Franks messing Shmoo Mitchell’s hair). Burgess ruled to throw forward pass to Smith. From scrum Donald kicks to Corner on Wallabies 5m line. Score remains 16-16 [Skill error]

54:28 Wallabies scrum on NZ 30m. Joubert rules that Baxter is binding on the arm and penalises him, for the third time. NZ clear to half way. Attacking position and possession lost. Score remains 16-16 [Discipline]

57:08 Wallabies have attacking lineout on NZ 15m from Smith turnover penalty on Muliaina. Three phases later, Pocock knocks-on a Smith pass in contact at the NZ 10m line. Smith is then penalised for a deliberate knock down at base of the ensuing NZ scrum. Donald clears to NZ 45m. Possession and territory lost  Score remains 16-16 [Skill error]

59:37 Wallabies have static ruck ball on their 35m line. Burgess missfires a long pass back to Giteau who is charged down by Kaino. NZ recycles and gain a penalty from Smith for hands at a following breakdown. Score becomes 19-16 [Skill error]

64:19 Wallabies have static ball smack in middle of the field. Burgess is counter-rucked. Turner then picks and go’s. Despite the following ruck/maul advancing 2m towards the NZ goal line, Joubert awards a turnover to NZ for ‘going forward’. The Wallabies spend the next 6 minutes on their own 22 (including O’Connor’s knock on and pass to touch). Score remains 19-16 [Ruck&Maul]

71:14 Keiron Reid spills a kick from O’Connor. Finally the Wallabies are out of their 22 with a scrum on the NZ 30m. In the resulting backs move there is a mis-timing between Mortlock and O’Connor and the ball is knocked on. Weepu clears to the Wallabies in goal for a 22 dropout. Territory and possession lost. Score remains 19-16 [Skill error]

75:12 Wallabies on attack when Smith is turned over and Weepu clears, but over the Aus dead ball line. At the following scrum on the NZ 35m, Aus get a free kick and Palu takes the quick tap, but the ball never leaves his hand. Joubert reverses the scrum. Possession lost. Score remains 22-16 [Discipline]

79:11 From a lineout on the NZ 40m line, the Wallabies go through 6 phases before Mitchell is tackled out wide by Muliaina, who then stands up and legitamately turns the ball over in the tackle. Conrad Smith and Nonu are on hand to seal off the ruck and it’s game over. [Turn-over]

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Matt started G&GR just before the 2007 Rugby World Cup and has been enslaved ever since. Follow him on twitter: @MattRowley

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