Hi all and welcome to a more subdued Top 5. So, who saw that coming? I guess in some ways it shouldn’t have come as a massive surprise, we all know what the All Blacks can pull out of the hat when they look to be under pressure. Plus Eden Park and all that …
This week we take a bit of a look at the game but then change course and head over seas for a bit, checking in with Super Rugby Unlocked (yes that is a real thing!) and the rugby action in the Northern Hemisphere.
So … what happened there?
I imagine I’m not the only one asking that. From looking good and very nearly winning game 1 to a 20 point loss in the space of a week. What was the difference? Was it the changes Rennie made to the side? On the surface they looked like good changes, but there were risks with them. When I saw Lolesio had been dropped, my immediate thought was “what is something happens to Toomua or JOC, or both?” Well, Toomua went off injured, JOC wasn’t playing well and there was no one who really slotted into that playmaking role. Someone who could run, kick or distribute when needed.
Was it that the playing group went into game 2 with an assumption that the things that worked in game 1 would simply work again in game 2, causing them to get flustered when things didn’t work.
Did the game plan change? Last week kicks were being chased and there was constant pressure on the opposition. This week? There was rarely anyone chasing kicks, even when they weren’t’ going straight to All Black players.
Was it that the All Blacks did their homework and fixed the things they needed to? We all know how dangerous they can be, especially after a loss or close game.
Or was it simply an off day?
By the numbers
I thought it might be interesting to look at the stats from last week compared to this week. The thing I found interesting, yet confusing, was that last week the weather was pretty terrible. It was blustery and wet, yet the Wallabies barely dropped the ball. This week, in wonderful conditions, they were back to knocking on with some regularity. Skills like passing and catching should disappear from one week to the next.
|All BlacksGame 1||All BlacksGame 2||WallabiesGame 1||WallabiesGame 2|
|Kicks In Play||31||24||24||20|
When you look at the numbers, there actually doesn’t look like there is that much difference between game 1 and game 2 for the Wallabies. Except in 2 areas, which are pretty crucial when it comes to a successful outcome. We turned the ball over 21 times, only 6 more than the All Blacks, but 9 more than last week when conditions were worse. But the REALLY big one is the number of missed tackles. 42. Yep, 42 missed tackles. Effectively, the Wallabies were missing 1 out of every 3 tackles. Against the All Blacks that is never going to end with a positive result.
The Blame Game
Knowing how the minds of many Australian rugby fans work, I’ll bet there are people out there looking for someone to blame, asking who gets dropped for the next game etc etc. I have already seen Banks’ name thrown in there a few times. So let’s see …
I’ll start with the following players who had a poor tackle rate. BPA (made 1 missed 1), Tupou (made 1, missed 2), White (made 10 missed 5), Koroibete (made 3, missed 5), Paisami (made 5, missed 5), Daugunu (made 4, missed 3), Banks (made 4, missed 2). I’m going to throw Rob Simmons in here too. He didn’t miss any tackles, but in 26 minutes of game time he didn’t make any either.
That’s a fairly long list. Now, let’s look at who was conceding the most turnovers. This one is harder to judge though, because sometimes a turnover conceded means dropping the ball, but sometimes it is when none of your teammates clear out at the breakdown and leave you at the mercy of the opposition. O’Conner (2), Koroibete (3), Paisami (3), Banks (3), Uelese (2), Wright (2).
So do we look at the names that appear on both lists and give them the boot, even though they were some of the best performers in game 1? Personally I hope not. Game one showed that we can play. I don’t know if game 2 was a blip or a truer sign of the way things are, but either way, I think it could be risky making masses of changes for the next game.
Super Rugby Unlocked
We have had Super Rugby Aotearoa and Super Rugby AU, well now we also have Super Rugby Unlocked! Yep, the South Africans have started up their version of the comp. There are some familiar teams in there, plus a couple of new ones. We have the Bulls, Stormers, Sharks and Lions from Super Rugby, the Cheetahs from PRO 14 and the Pumas and Griquas from the Currie Cup.
Super Rugby Unlocked is a 7 week competition where each team plays each other once. There are no finals, as with Super Rugby Aotearoa, the team on top of the ladder at the end of round 7 takes the title. After 2 rounds, the Cheetahs are on the top of the ladder with wins over the Pumas and the Bulls.
Up in the North …
Last weekend saw the finals of the Champions Cup and the Challenge Cup.
In the Champions Cup, Exeter Chiefs beat Racing 92, 31-27.
Bristol Bears took out the Challenge Cup, defeating Toulon 32 – 19.
This weekend sees the final of the Gallagher Premiership Rugby. After kicking off on October 18 2019, the competition is finally drawing to a close in the early hours of Sunday morning (AEDT), 12 months and 1 week from start to finish. Exeter Chiefs are back in action, taking on Wasps at Twickenham. Unfortunately, due to COVID-19 restrictions in the UK, the match will be played in an empty stadium. The game will be shown live on Fox Sports.
UPDATE: In an interesting development, overnight 4 MORE Wasps players tested positive to COVID-19. That takes the total number of players positive to 11. Apparently the players are younger, Academy and fringe players not likely to take part in the final. Another round of testing is due to take place tomorrow, with the club not training until those results are known. A decision on whether Wasps will play in the final will also be made after the results of the latest round of testing are known. Should Wasps be unable to play, Bristol Bears, who were defeated in the semi final, would be on standby to play in their place.
Either way, it puts Exeter in the box seat for the title.