Bledisloe failure a lesson in detail

Liam Ovenden Roar Pro

By Liam Ovenden, Liam Ovenden is a Roar Pro

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    I wrote an article last week on five KPIs that needed to be met for a Wallaby victory.

    They concerned technical aspects of the game that betrayed preparation, focus, and repetition, and had nothing to do with raw talent or X Factor.

    They had a lot to do with selections, tactics and coaching.

    My premise was that Test matches typically aren’t won by teams that run the ball the most, and that running the ball does not have to equate to attacking rugby.

    Illustrating this point once again, the All Blacks scored six tries on Saturday night, but kicked 29 times, to Australia’s 20.

    However, 13 of the Kiwi kicks were contestable (mostly mid-field bombs), while the majority of ours were intended to be touch finders/distance gainers.

    We simply did not use attacking kicks (exception was Toomua’s cross field attempt to Folau which was inaccurate and not contested), however touch finders were still a positive tactic because our lineout was working so well.

    Ewen chose to employ a predominantly running/passing game, and starve the All Blacks of possession.

    To this end, the Wallabies ran 121 times to NZ’s 82; made 180 passes to 76; and ran for 512m to the All Black’s 362m. We also had 60% of the possession, and 56% of the territory.

    This is a team that had an attacking mindset, and beating 20 defenders (ABs beat 15 defenders) while scoring 29 points against the All Blacks probably backs that up.

    In Super Rugby this year, the teams who ran/passed the most were middle to bottom rung performers (think Highlanders and Waratahs), while the top teams were more weighted to kicking (Bulls, Brumbies, Crusaders).

    The Crusaders started the season as a passing team, and had poor results. They switched tactics to become a kicking team and turned their season around. No one would say they are not an attacking team, though.

    Ewan’s Reds were a passing team who used some kicking, and scored far fewer tries than in previous years with this mix. That is largely what we saw from the Wallabies on the weekend, while the All Blacks game plan looked a lot like the Crusaders shape.

    Anyway, back to Saturday’s game. In defence, we let in six tries.

    Surprisingly, we only missed 15 tackles to NZs 20, and had a tackle completion rate of 84% to their 86%. We forced them to make 121 tackles to our 78. This does not do justice to the final score.

    So, how did we lose? Simply, we were destroyed in the details.

    Repeating the assertion from last week, winning sides who play attacking rugby first work hard at the details of the game to create the conditions to attack, and then recognise when the opportunities to attack present themselves and bravely take them.

    That’s when individual talent and flair become the icing on the cake.

    This, in a nutshell, is what the All Blacks did.

    With that in mind, here is how the Wallabies measured up to the KPIs that were set for them.

    1. Catch 100% of our kick-off receptions, and aim to win 50% of our kick-off chases
    This was not met. It did not cost us any points, or lead to any points for us.

    We won 70% of receptions, and 33% of chases. There were a whopping 19 kick-offs/22m drop outs in that game, so this is a huge source of primary possession.

    While we did not meet this KPI, this was a good result as compared to our recent past, and indicates that we broke even with the All Blacks on this one. Tentative thumbs up to the coaching staff.

    2. We must win 100% of our line out throws, and we must have 50% of those throws being cleanly won from the back of the lineout (obviously dependent on what part of the field the lineout is set)
    This was met and netted us 17 of our points.

    We won 100% of our throws, and 56% of those were from the back. We kicked one penalty goal as a direct result of the possession gained.

    In addition, we won/badly disrupted 42% of All Black ball, and scored two tries as a result.

    This was just about our only weapon, as you would hope it would be when you choose four jumpers in your pack.

    The ball from the back of the lineout was our most reliable source of front ball, and it got us over the advantage line on each occasion.

    Only poor execution in possession stopped us scoring more tries as a result of lineout wins at 14:41 and 67:31. Overall, another win for the coaches.

    3. We must cleanly catch every kick in general play put up by the All Blacks
    This was not met and cost us three points.

    We caught or regained possession on 85% of kicks. Failure to catch all kicks ultimately only resulted in one successful penalty goal to NZ. After the shockers we produced in this aspect of play over the last few years, this was a failed KPI but a massive step forward.

    4. Have an effective strategy for exiting our defensive 22m that the players all understand and can execute consistently
    This was not met and cost us 28 points.

    We managed to successfully exit our 22m zone 50% of the time that we were in possession there, and conceded four tries as direct results of failing to clear the 22m. Tries conceded were as follows:

    28:14 Cruden charges down clearing kick from Lealiifano

    30:34 Mogg’s kick doesn’t find touch, ABs get possession 40m out, and eight phases later McCaw scores in corner.

    55:50 our scrum feed, ball not hooked and rolls through tunnel, picked up by New Zealand #6, two phases later Ben Smith scores in corner.

    71.09 we attempt to pass it wide in our 22m, Kuridrani tackled, can’t control his ball presentation, Ben Smith swoops on the rolling ball and races 22m to score in corner.

    5. Kick our penalties and conversions at better than 80% success rate
    This was met. We kicked at 88%, CL kicked 100%, for 19 points. What a pleasure to have a reliable goal kicker again.

    To beat the All Blacks, though, near enough is not good enough.

    On the positive side, we controlled overall possession and territory, missed a similar proportion of tackles, nailed the lineouts, kicked our goals, broke even in the scrum, improved our kick offs and mainly defused the aerial threats.

    Australia’s Achilles heal was our inefficiency in getting out of the danger zone, and poor support play/option taking, which squandered line breaks that should have led to more points.

    We did not scramble well in defence, and this largely reflects that many of the tries were from turnover ball where we were still in attacking shapes and were slow to respond.

    The overall impression I have after analysing the game is as follows:
    1. The poor support play and scrambling defence are symptoms of the Wallabies not knowing or trusting one another, or the systems, yet. I hope this improves with time.
    2. The poor exits from our 22m are a coaching/tactics/selection issue, and can be addressed by Ewen and co.
    3. The All Blacks will not stand by and accept being trounced in the line outs again. They will respond.
    4. The scrum could re-emerge as a decisive factor, and I fear not in our favour.
    5. The coaches have started to get some of the detail right, but have they chosen the right tactics? Should we employ more tactical kicking? Or should we narrow the attacking channels and focus on offloads and support in depth rather than swinging it from side to side?

    Both sides will improve, but I am hoping that the Wallabies make the bigger strides this week.

    They will make changes, but despite the wonderful crisp passing and more threatening attacking shape we saw when Cooper came on, I hope they stick with Toomua and allow his attack to develop.

    He just seems worth pursuing to me.

    I also think Fardy needs to be in there from the kickoff to add grunt to the breakdown battle.

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    The Crowd Says (56)

    • August 21st 2013 @ 6:30am
      moaman said | August 21st 2013 @ 6:30am | ! Report

      Excellent work Liam.
      To #4 I would add that the very first exit of the match attempted by Australia was a Fail—fielded near halfway by either Smith (B) or Dagg,from memory and led to the lineout in the corner.

      Contrast the slick execution of basic passing by the AB backs that culminated in Smith’s 2nd try-to the generally sloppy backplay by the Wallabies.

      Lastly-Don’t expect the Wallabies to enjoy 60% possession again,anytime soon.The fact that NZ was able to convert relatively few chances into 6 tries should be a massive worry.The rumour that the Wallabies didn’t spend much time in training working on defensive patterns should be even more worrying for those who view McKenzie & co as the 2nd Coming.

      • Roar Pro

        August 21st 2013 @ 7:33am
        Liam Ovenden said | August 21st 2013 @ 7:33am | ! Report

        Hi Moaman, I actually ended up marking that first exit as a success, but I take your point. My criteria for a successful exit was a touch finder outside the 22m, or a kick with good distance that forces the counter attack to start from deep. The second scenario occured with that first exit. However, as you point out, the ABs used the possession very well and ultimately pinned us back in our 22. On my criteria, there was another exit that I marked as a success but didn’t relieve much pressure, and that was a clearing kick from the in goal that found touch just outside the 22. So, if anything, I was a little generous to the WBs on their exits.
        Regarding the contrast in back line execution, it was stark. Three good pieces of first phase possession were killed with poor passes by the WBs, that I would expect can be eliminated with some more time together. The first was a Genia pass to Toomua which he fumbled over his left shoulder because he was trying to take it quickly to the line and the ball was not put in front. The other 2 were from CL, under not much pressure, and they butchered opportunities where we had created space and were getting our outside backs the ball where they want it.
        Finally, regarding possession, NZ sides (ABs, Crusaders, even Chiefs) regularly play with less than their share of possession against Australian teams because they use attacking kicks prolifically, while our test and SR sides tend to play a run/pass game which chews up minutes and phases of possession. I actually wouldn’t expect that stat to change too much next week. When the ABs play the Springboks, another team that kicks a lot, yes I would expect NZ to win the possession stats.

      • August 21st 2013 @ 9:45am
        GotHim Yeah said | August 21st 2013 @ 9:45am | ! Report

        Brilliant piece Liam !! As good as Scott’s work yesterday – every bit as pertinent.
        And yes – point 4 – conceding 28 points trying to run out of our own 22 has had me cringing for years !!
        As Johnny Wilkinson played a kicking/territory game and won the 2003 World Cup – I thought the penny would drop with the Wallabies. But, no.
        When The Brumbies did the same this Year – I thought the same – but still no penny !
        And it is crap – that it is boring !
        Simply play the game down in the opposition’s 22 – and turn on all the razzle dazzle running rugby that you like !!!!
        The current Wallabies SHOULD NEVER run the ball out of our own 22 – because rucks form – we turnover the ball in the ruck – and the ABs put 28 points on us – as you have illustrated.
        In fixing those 2 simple strategies – we can beat any Team. Kick for territory and play the game in THEIR 22 ! And improve our ruck-stocks !!
        We match every other Team in every other aspect and on-field statistic.

      • August 21st 2013 @ 12:57pm
        moaman said | August 21st 2013 @ 12:57pm | ! Report

        I find it illuminating that constructive pieces like this get a relatively meagre response whilst rubbish like the stream of articles discussing the booing of QC receives avid attention.

        • August 22nd 2013 @ 4:23am
          Ra said | August 22nd 2013 @ 4:23am | ! Report

          Totally agree moaman; most roarers seem to enjoy indulging in pathetic rubbish

          • August 22nd 2013 @ 1:02pm
            RebelRanger said | August 22nd 2013 @ 1:02pm | ! Report

            Great article. Best post game analysis I’ve read.

    • Roar Guru

      August 21st 2013 @ 6:32am
      Who Needs Melon said | August 21st 2013 @ 6:32am | ! Report

      I liked your article last week and like this one too. It’s about doing the little things right.

      • Roar Pro

        August 21st 2013 @ 7:34am
        Liam Ovenden said | August 21st 2013 @ 7:34am | ! Report

        Thanks mate, glad you liked it.

    • August 21st 2013 @ 7:33am
      rugby_phile said | August 21st 2013 @ 7:33am | ! Report

      Great article but watching the game again there is that abstract feeling that everything the ABs did was crisper, more menacing and it always looked as though the WBs were just about hanging on. The numbers tell one story but it is almost a quantity versus quality argument. Point in case, their clearing out the rucks was breathtaking almost a blur, as opposed to the laboured way of the WBs but the numbers might tell us a different story (just guessing).

      • Roar Pro

        August 21st 2013 @ 7:43am
        Liam Ovenden said | August 21st 2013 @ 7:43am | ! Report

        Spot on. Scott Allen’s article illuminated that aspect of the game really well, I thought. Their clean out was accurate, and they got there first more often. They tended to only need 2-3 cleaners because they eliminated the threat to the ball with such precision that the halfback had clean ball to pick up and fling, and we had to concede the ruck and concentrate on reloading in defence. Conversely, when we had the ball, our backrow allowed them to lay around the tackle, roll over our side disrupting Genia, and generally make us pay for not cleaning our tackle area with the same precision. So, yes, the speed of their breakdown was infinitely better than ours, but they worked hard and smart to make it happen.

        • August 21st 2013 @ 8:04am
          rugby_phile said | August 21st 2013 @ 8:04am | ! Report

          The question is whether this is due to sheer ability, intelligence and athleticism, or just better coaching. Are they better players, better coached or both. I fear both and I’d add also operating better as a unit.

          • Roar Pro

            August 21st 2013 @ 8:15am
            Liam Ovenden said | August 21st 2013 @ 8:15am | ! Report

            Accuracy at the breakdown is a skill that can be learned, but there is no doubt that some players “get it” quicker than others and end up being freakish in this area. Smith and Pocock are Aussies that fall in this category, and Gill could end up there too. Hooper is a great player, but has a lot of work to do in this area. As Scott Allen said on his thread yesterday, it is an area of the game where you expect the backrow to shoulder the bulk of the responsibility and our backrow was missing. Our Locks ended up doing the job for the WBs, but they don’t have the agility and body height to consistently be accurate in this area so if they are always the first ones in then we will lose the breakdown battle. This will have to change this week.

        • August 21st 2013 @ 8:23am
          Tissot Time said | August 21st 2013 @ 8:23am | ! Report

          Liam you highlight Smith and Dagg drawing and passing in Smiths second try. What about Woodcocks clean-out of CL ensuring quick ball to the backs?

          • Roar Pro

            August 21st 2013 @ 8:39am
            Liam Ovenden said | August 21st 2013 @ 8:39am | ! Report

            Hi TT, yes I think it was Allanthus who pointed out the nice draw pass but I agree with you that this is just icing on the cake when the more prosaic elements have been attended to thoroughly. I don’t specifically recall Woodcock’s clean out, but I am sure it was a thing of beauty as was much of NZs breakdown work. Just so economical – controlled, applied violence.

          • Columnist

            August 21st 2013 @ 10:24am
            Geoff Parkes said | August 21st 2013 @ 10:24am | ! Report

            TT, yes you make a good point. Luatua picking up well and driving forward, excellent clean-out by Woodcock at the next phase, fast, wide clearance by Aaron Smith, then the finish… a whole lot of things coming together, of which Australia failing to exit their 22 was only one.

            Even if they’d managed it from this scrum, my point is that the AB’s showed they have enough skill and teamwork to punish them again at another time, from another opportunity.

      • August 21st 2013 @ 9:47am
        scottmit said | August 21st 2013 @ 9:47am | ! Report

        When I played I had a mantra that went something like “do your job then force the play then change the game”. To my reading there were not enough WBs out of the “do your job” level. Simmons, AAC, Hooper, maybe Moore. Not much else

    • Columnist

      August 21st 2013 @ 7:49am
      Geoff Parkes said | August 21st 2013 @ 7:49am | ! Report

      Nice work Liam.

      The detail is obviously important but I guess we also need to be careful not to rely exclusively on statistics. For example it isn’t always about the defending team being able to clear their 22, this is never going to be achieved 100% of the time, because the opposition also has a say in what happens. There will be times in every match when every team will be defending their line, regardless of the reason, and at that point I think the reason why becomes less important that the ability to defend well, or the ability of the attacking side to take advantage.

      Take Smith’s second try, which originated from the scrum. Ok, if Moore had hooked the ball then Luatua wouldn’t have had a loose ball to pounce on, but there were any number of things that might have happened instead, even if Australia had won the ball cleanly. An failed attempt to run the ball out, or maybe a loose kick downfield which was run straight back into the danger zone. Who knows?

      What was most instructive for me about this try was not the scrum – 5hit happens and we’re going to see more of that while the new laws bed in, but how the Wallabies never got their defensive line straight, and how Conrad Smith and Israel Dagg beautifully drew and passed to take full advantage. That was a class finish, straight running and perfect timing of the pass to put the winger in.

      Stuff like that, little touches of skill, don’t show up in stats, but for me is a big part of the difference between the sides.

      • Roar Pro

        August 21st 2013 @ 8:02am
        Liam Ovenden said | August 21st 2013 @ 8:02am | ! Report

        Hi Allanthus, enjoyed our chat on Saturday night, BTW. No argument from me at all on your point. When you get your details right, your individual skill and speed can provide the icing on the cake which result in points. 4 of the KPIs I identified do not in themselves score points, they simply create the conditions to either deny your opposition quality attack scenarios, or create good conditions for you to attack. The ABs have so called “X Factor” right across the park, that’s why they are so pretty to watch, but the key to their success is the minutiae of the game where they apply the screws that undermine the opposition plans and put them out of their comfort zone. That scrum was a great example. It should have been a penalty to Australia, but the ABs just get on with it and force the ref to make a call under pressure, which went their way. But there was no downside for them if the penalty went against them either. As it was, WBs were looking at a clearing kick from winning the scrum, probably finding touch around or just outside the 22. A penalty to Aus would have ended in a similar result. So taking the odds to picking up the ball and hoping the ref allows play on is a no-lose situation, and fortune usually favours the brave. Result, 7 points.

        • Columnist

          August 21st 2013 @ 8:33am
          Geoff Parkes said | August 21st 2013 @ 8:33am | ! Report

          Yes, it was great to meet, just waiting for the tickets to come through for this week for Wellington…

      • August 21st 2013 @ 10:59am
        GotHim Yeah said | August 21st 2013 @ 10:59am | ! Report

        I agree you can’t clear your own 22 every time and have to put in some stoic defense. And yes the opposition will often dictate your ability to clear with a kick.
        But not last weekends game !
        There were plenty of times our kickers (we had plenty) had ball in hand and eons of time to clear out of our 22 with a kick for territory. CL, Mogg, Toomua – all guilty – they decided to run it.
        Wrong option.
        It resulted in 28 points against us – because we turned the ball over in our 22.
        Funny thing is the 3 players above have been brilliant all year in clearing out of their own 22 – for the Brumbies.
        Keep all 3 and engage that part of the successful Brumbies game plan – into the Wallabies plan ???

      • August 21st 2013 @ 12:02pm
        balmybeach said | August 21st 2013 @ 12:02pm | ! Report

        Unless the laws have changed, when the ball comes out the centre tunnel it should be reset. Therefore this try should have been disallowed.

        • August 21st 2013 @ 2:49pm
          blairorrani said | August 21st 2013 @ 2:49pm | ! Report

          I guess the ball usually comes back out to the half back under the old scrum feeding guidelines so the ref might have been caught out with it making it out of the tunnel on the opposite site.

    • August 21st 2013 @ 7:53am
      mace 22 said | August 21st 2013 @ 7:53am | ! Report

      Getting the basics right is the key. It’s I think is the difference between the teams and also fans. I think Australians look at a back that makes breaks does fancy foot work, and think he’s a great player. They totally forget that he can’t pass, link up with support or know how to position himself when supporting. By your criteria I’d give the wallabies a 70% pass and the all blacks 65.

    • August 21st 2013 @ 9:09am
      Will Sinclair said | August 21st 2013 @ 9:09am | ! Report

      Great piece Liam.

      I think I said on the night that I felt the Wallabies weren’t that bad, and I couldn’t understand how they’d been so comprehensively flogged (although the beers probably didn’t assist in detailed analysis), but your point #4 above explains many things.

      As an aside, and assuming the All Blacks are better than the Wallabies at exiting their 22m zone, can you detail HOW they are better?

      I’ll be at home and sober for the game this weekend, so it’s something I’ll be watching closely.

      • Roar Pro

        August 21st 2013 @ 9:45am
        Liam Ovenden said | August 21st 2013 @ 9:45am | ! Report

        Hi Will, enjoyed our chat at the game. Haven’t analysed ABs exits, but my gut while reviewing the game was that they were very effective. I think Scott Allen mentioned yesterday that he is doing an analysis piece on the exits, so I am sure that he will give us the answers on that one.

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