How Rennie’s Wallabies were blindsided in Bledisloe 3

It is very hard to play a game of rugby when you cannot keep hold of the ball for more than a handful of phases before giving it away. The problems multiply when you face an opponent who can both hang on to the pill and know exactly what they want to do with it […]

How Rennie’s Wallabies were blindsided in Bledisloe 3

It is very hard to play a game of rugby when you cannot keep hold of the ball for more than a handful of phases before giving it away.

The problems multiply when you face an opponent who can both hang on to the pill and know exactly what they want to do with it when they have got it.

That is the scenario that the Wallabies discovered at ANZ Stadium on Saturday evening.

With both of Dave Rennie’s playmakers in chief, James O’Connor and Matt To’omua, harshly sidelined by injury, the combination of Noah Lolesio at number 10 and Irae Simone at 12 struggled to keep their heads above water on debut.

On the other side of the coin, the Kiwi combination of Richie Mo’unga at first five-eighth and Beauden Barrett at fullback looked imperious, and completely in control of the passage of events.

“The thing that worked for us was our game management particularly. I thought you saw a patient All Black performance in the first half. Sometimes we’re guilty of overplaying in certain situations but in the wet and with the way the game went, it was the area I was most proud of,” New Zealand coach Ian Foster commented at the press conference after the game.

“I thought it was one the best game-management games I’ve seen Richie [Mo’unga] play for us. Everyone knows Beaudy’s [Beauden Barrett] a class player whether he’s at 10 or at 15. It was pretty cool to see him step in at 10 and do a chip kick for Richie to score. We’ve got two good options there and that’s exciting.”

Richie Mo’unga. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

Australia could not control the injuries which prevented O’Connor and To’omua from taking their rightful places in the midfield for the start of the game. There was no way for their coaches to improve the game-management skills of Lolesio and Simone in the time available, and there was nobody else to select in their place.

Of far more concern was the failure to ‘control the controllables’, and defend well in the areas where they knew the All Blacks would attack them. Principal among those was defence of the short-side, especially from set-pieces beginning with a drive from lineout.

There was an unwelcome reminder of the ‘musical chairs’ defensive lottery from the Michael Cheika era, as New Zealand methodically took the Wallabies’ short-side defence to pieces.

The All Blacks had already given notice that they were targeting this zone in fine conditions at Eden Park the previous weekend, so what price for a repetition in the Sydney drizzle?

Here are two examples from the game in Auckland:

There is not the space to do more than hint at the full length of both mauls, and the patience the All Blacks showed in manoeuvring to get just the defensive picture they wanted. The first lineout occupied a massive 33 seconds from set-up to the break by Ardie Savea as the men in black pushed and probed. The second lasted 18 seconds.

Neither drive generates much forward momentum. New Zealand simply wait for the moment when Australia’s short-side defence switches off, and they can switch on.

In the first instance, it occurs when Savea widens out to the touchline and into a mismatch with Nic White; in the second, when the drive develops enough impetus for TJ Perenara to break down the edge against the same opponent.

In both cases, White could and probably should have made the tackle. In both cases, the Wallaby forwards inside him could have shown more urgency and awareness of the threat.

That lack of urgency and concentration was an unfortunate carry-over to events in Sydney. The first short-side incident occurred less than five minutes into the game:

Marika Koroibete makes a big hit on Mo’unga on first phase, but the Wallaby forwards completely misread the situation thereafter.

No fewer than four Australian forwards automatically wrap around to the far side of the ruck formed over the All Blacks number 10, while six of their Kiwi counterparts remain stood on the short-side!

wallabies defence vs all blacks

The absence of the natural wide defender on the right (Filipo Daugunu, missing in the sin bin) makes the shift even more bewildering.

White realises the danger and scuttles back to the right, but it is far too little, far too late:

In the 13th minute, with both right wings (Daugunu and Jordie Barrett) still in the sin-bin, the All Blacks found another way to exploit the same space from a lineout drive:

As soon as he sees the Wallabies switching off, Aaron Smith gives Dane Coles a tap on the back to create the extra pair of hands on the short-side.

Meanwhile, the solitary remaining All Black wing, Caleb Clarke, has snuck around from the ten channel to become the striker down the sideline:

wallabies lineout defence vs all blacks

Clarke and Marika Koroibete are positioned directly opposite one another as the lineout sets up. Clarke swings around to the blindside as the drive grinds back and forth, and to his credit Koroibete manages to make a last-ditch, try-saving tackle at the very end of the play. But it is an uncomfortably close shave.

The placement of Koroibete in the ten channel also had a hand in the All Blacks’ second try of the game, from yet another lineout drive starter:

It is quite common for defensive teams to use their blindside wing as an extra defender in the line, in situations where there is a short backfield to defend. Koroibete’s power as a frontal stopper encourages the adoption of precisely this strategy:

wallabies maul defence vs all blacks

Problems can occur when a defender involved in the positional swap is unaware of his new responsibilities. This is what often tended to happen when Nathan Grey was Michael Cheika’s defensive coach. In the screenshot above, you might see Bernard Foley in the tram-lines and Will Genia in the backfield, for example.

Over the weekend, the swap victim was Noah Lolesio:

Lolesio has swapped roles with Koroibete and is defending as a left winger in the backfield. Issues arise with his depth and movement towards the ball as Richie Mo’unga cuts around to the short-side against Brandon Paenga-Amosa and White:

wallabies defence richie mo'unga try

Lolesio has to move forward positively and work with White and BPA as soon as the move develops. He can either let White jam in on Mo’unga and take the outside man (yellow arrows), or he can fill the space inside and let White drift off on to Barrett (green).

In the event, he stays back and tries to make a tackle only three metres out from his own goal-line, where the chances of success are very low.

The All Blacks took an even more direct route for their fourth try of the game:

Matt Philip takes a punt on competing at the lineout close to his own goal-line and misses, and that allows New Zealand to drive straight through the hole he has left, towards what would be the short-side of the field:

matt philip ned hanigan maul defence

Philip and one of his lifters, Ned Hanigan, are still trying to get back onside as the drive trundles towards the Australian line. They never make it in time.

The men in black went on using the short-side with profit in the second period too:

The All Blacks make sure they knock down White at the cleanout following the pick-and-go by Coles, and that leaves no backline defenders on the edge of the short-side on the following play:

all blacks vs wallabies breakdown

It was an unwanted irony that the final knockout was scored off a scrum rather than a lineout. It didn’t matter, because the play was still going to a short-side where the Kiwis had found so much joy in the course of the game:

Dave Rennie and his coaching staff will be concerned that the scorelines in the Bledisloe Cup series are moving in the wrong direction – from 16-16 at the Cake Tin to 7-27 at Eden Park and 5-43 in Sydney.

His defensive coach, Matt Taylor, will be especially worried that the New Zealand try-count is increasing, from two in Wellington to four one week later and six in Sydney.

The Wallabies are losing their grip on the processes involved in how to stop the Kiwis scoring more than 15 or 16 points, which Rennie knew was essential to a chance of success against his trans-Tasman rivals.

Nowhere is this more true than in the defence of the short-side from set-piece, where Australia seem unable to respond to the All Blacks’ variations and late movement on attack.

One thing is certain as the Bledisloe show moves onto Brisbane for the final game of the series: the Wallabies cannot afford to let themselves be blindsided again.

Source : The Roar More   

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Bam! And now the hope is gone

About a week ago I wrote and article hypothesising the possible positive outcomes if the Wallabies had managed to clinch the Bledisloe from their trans-Tasman cousins. I included the caveat that it all started at the weekend. Many commenters, understandably, questioned what I had been drinking, with some even wanting to give it a try. […]

Bam! And now the hope is gone

About a week ago I wrote and article hypothesising the possible positive outcomes if the Wallabies had managed to clinch the Bledisloe from their trans-Tasman cousins.

I included the caveat that it all started at the weekend. Many commenters, understandably, questioned what I had been drinking, with some even wanting to give it a try.

Well. It’s safe to say now that the hope that had been built up from Super Rugby AU and the fixtures in New Zealand has firmly been extinguished.

The record defeat to New Zealand sealed their retention of the Bledisloe Cup since reclaiming it back in 2003. Former Wallabies have tried to take positives out of the fixture, such as the fact that Rennie blooded a number of younger players – and that said players will learn more from this defeat than they would have from victory.

But what did they learn? That to beat the All Blacks you need to be at your best and hope they have an off day? That not tackling will inevitably lead to tries conceded?

Ian Foster as come out and claimed that the score reflected how seriously the All Blacks take the Cup and with it, the respect that they have for the Wallabies.

The inclination being that the New Zealand would have let up, not scored so many tries and conceded a couple more if they considered the Wallabies an easy beat.

There may be some truth in that, but that does nothing to quell the angst felt by the rugby union loving public in Australia who have seen the pinnacle of their national talent be roundly beaten. Again.

Dane Haylett-Petty (Photo by Speed Media/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Having watched the match a couple of times and having no skin in it (being a Pom), the performances were not good.

Unfortunately, Lolesio didn’t have the opportunity to show what he could do. He was working on the backfoot throughout – and was hidden in defence.

I suppose, what did we expect? On debut, against New Zealand, it would have had to have been a world-class performance to be able to outplay both Richie Mo’unga and Beauden Barrett as a first receiver, without the option of leaning on experience outside.

Irae Simone will have better games, but you can’t help but feel that in hindsight the backline selection was questionable.

If this had been a New Zealand, England, Ireland or South Africa, then these players would have been drip fed in, one-by-one, garnering experience, integrating in to an already experienced team. Clearly, this isn’t necessarily an option for Dave Rennie given the player pool available; but still why not look to be solid defensively and try to provide as much experience as possible?

I’m not the biggest fan of Reece Hodge, but surely sticking him in at 12 to provide some experience, a relieving boot and physicality outside of Lolesio would have been good; and including Jack Maddocks on the wing in place of Filipo Daugunu provides further experience to try to help those still in their international infancy.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing; and these players may not have made a real difference but now the Wallabies are left with two players who have played one lost one – and by a record score I might add.

I’m an advocate of blooding youngsters.

I was thoroughly impressed by last year’s U20s; and many of those players showed their potential in both Super Rugby (what we had of it) and Super Rugby AU.

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But the realities are that you can’t just throw them in to international rugby collectively and expect them to swim. With Bledisloe 4 on the horizon and nothing to lose, in an odd way, now is the time for Rennie to go for broke.

Charge the boys up. Tell them to go out there and hit anyone in a black shirt as hard as they can. Get under their skin, a la Italy did versus England at the weekend.

Instruct them to keep hold of the ball. No unnecessary offloads, aimless Gary Owens or shovelling bad ball. Stand up, take responsibility for trying to get the team moving forward and do the dog. Show some grit.

Rennie has said that they are four weeks in to a four year program. But the false start needs addressing and unless the Wallabies can show the fight that the Australian public deserve, then the worry is that the end target will be reconsidered and the bar will continue to be set lower.

Source : The Roar More   

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