New Zealand and Uruguay play their last pool game of the RWC. New Zealand needing a bonus point win to guarantee their place in the quarter finals and Uruguay playing more for pride, but also hoping to go out on a high. Ian Foster had made a number of changes from the team that demolished Italy and stated that for some of them this was their chance to push for a regular place. Now I don’t care who you are, or how experienced you are, or even how much you play for “the team”, when the coach says this, you go for it. Unfortunately, this actually led to a bit of a disjointed first 20 minutes with players pushing passes and just trying too hard to make things happen that led to mistakes. Coupled with this was Uruguay going at 110% trying to ensure they got something out of this game and it was very messy.
However, once New Zealand got settled, things started going their way and the points started rolling in. New Zealand eventually ran away with a comfortable 73 – 0 win and while happy with this, I did feel a bit sorry for Uruguay. They certainly tried hard, played some great rugby and it would’ve been nice for them to get some points. After all they had held France to a 27-12 score and felt that they could get points if things went their way a bit.
This was really a bit of an opposed training run for the ABs once they settled down. Their scrum was too strong and in fact at one stage it looked as though Barnes may go to uncontested scrums as he felt the Uruguay front row was in danger of injury. With both Mo’Unga and DMac running the play with a lot of variety and with Roigard providing fast accurate passes the gaps appeared and the points started to flow.
Uruguay were very good at times. They challenged at almost every ruck, sometimes even legally, and certainly took their ball hard into contact. However, they just seemed to lose concentration at critical times and if they made a mistake the ABs pounced. Uruguay, like Italy, struggled to keep up when the ABs changed from defence into attack. I think this ability to switch so fast is one of the ABs greatest strengths. They set up in defence, but one mistake and they immediately change into attack. Not just a couple of players, but almost the whole team just suddenly switches gear and and they start attacking the spaces in front of them. Today some of their execution let them down as they pushed a few passes too far and just seemed to lack a bit of patience.
However, as the match went on, the ascendency of the ABs came to the fore and with more and more Uruguay players getting pulled into contact the gaps appeared and the points came. Both DMac and Mo’Unga were directing play into gaps and with Frizell and Tu’ungafasi taking the ball up strongly supported well by Cane, Whiltelock and Taylor the ABs took control of the game. Fainga’anuku had a great game pushing for higher honours with a hat trick and Jordie Barrett again showing his strength at 12.
The ABs certainly didn’t have everything their own way. Santiago Arata distributed the ball well and with both Manuel Ardao and Manuel Diana taking the ball hard into contact the defence of the ABs was tested. Unfortunately, they just couldn’t finish their moves and were left with no points at the end of the game.
The Game Changer
The game changer for me was the ABs settling down and playing the game without trying to do something with every ball. I credit a lot of this to Sam Cane. He was talking to both Mo’Unga and Roigard as well as the forwards and I think he got them back into the game plan.
The Man of the Match/Stand out players
I can’t really go past Damien McKenzie as man of the match. Early on he maybe tried a bit hard, but once he settled down he had a very good game. The little tip he did to give Jordan his first try was just a fantastic piece of work and he may well have played himself into a start ahead of Beauden Barrett. Let’s hope he can continue this form against the big guys if he does get a start.
For Uruguay I really liked their No 8 Manuel Diana and I felt he really troubled the AB defence at times.
I thought this was a good game for the ABs. While the score slipped out a bit, they certainly didn’t have everything their own way and it required some good work and good leadership from Cane to get them back on track. I think this will be good for them as they move forward. I do like their ability to switch very fast from defence onto attack, and back, and I think they are starting to hit their stride at the right point in the tournament.
Well done Uruguay and you, and your supporters, can be proud of your game. You tried hard all game and with a bit of luck could have done so much more.