An All Black team looking pretty serious and a lot less cocky than 4 years ago demonstrated last night that they’ve matured into a team that can play tournament rugby.
They came out with the right tactics and put on a clinical display in accordance to a well thought-out script by a team of coaches who worked 8 years overall at it. The last 4 years with meticulous care to recify/prevent mistakes made on the first attempt.
The game plan for this match was clearly to take Pocock out of the match by keeping it close and by rucking with aggression, power and numbers whenever the ball goes wide. The other tactic was to force Pocock to make the tackles and then ruck over him with numbers. Pocock looked flustered and apart from maybe one or two steals he was essentially no factor in this match.
The fact that he was targeted or that a whole game plan was developed around him probably a compliment to his ability at the tackle ball. The New Zealand team obviously decided that every individual are going to contribute to make sure that Pocock is no factor. The aggression, intensity and commitment at the ruck were something to behold. Everyone pitched in and you could see how they geared into super boost every time the ball went to ground. It was almost like they’ve made a pact that Aussie will not win one single ruck.
Gone was the obsessiveness with razzle and dazzle running rugby. The focus on defence and not on attack. The focus when running with the ball also more defensively orientated namely to keep the ball; to force penalties and to keep the scoreboard ticking. Cruden even got a partisan elaborate cheer for a dropgoal from a crowd well renowned to boo dropgoals.
The referee was outstanding and we saw both Aussie and NZ players getting pinned quickly and decisively for infringements at the breakdowns.
Aussie was totally outplayed at the collisions, the scrums and the line-outs by a New Zealand side playing smart rugby like a well-oiled machine.
It was interesting to note how the New Zealand rugby commentators and media people are lately also starting to use the word ‘fetcher’ when refering to the likes of Pocock and Brussow. New Zealand has a slightly different approach with regard to loose forwards. They consider them as an attacking and defensive combination and not as three individuals with different skill sets and tasks namely one being a ball carrier, the other being a ‘fetcher’ and the No8 having a roaming role. Maybe Kimbo would so kind as to give us a bit more information on the New Zeland views regarding the loose trio.
The breakdown is so intervowen or intergated in the New Zealand pattern/style of play that competting at the breakdown and creating frontfoot momentum at the tackle is considered an ‘every player’ task/skill like tackling. It was this collective energy and comitment (‘bees to the honey comb’ they like to call it) at the collisions and ground ball that was, in my mind, the foundation for this oustanding All Black performance. They did not rely on the referee to sort Pocock (and he did on one or two occations) but took responsibilty as a team to own the breakdowns.
Lastly in terms of my previous post on the red card of Warburton. Check-out this tackle by Kahui on Cooper.
If Cooper took his hand of the ground and put that hand on the ball we would have seen his head lower than his legs and that would have mean it’s a spear tackle. Circumstances (quick reactions) prevented this from being ‘classed’ as dangerous.
This is how blurred the lines between a red card and no card can be.
How long before the players start to manipulate circumstances like this to milk red cards in important matches? A Judo-like hand slab on the ground followed by a sharp twist so that his shoulder went into the ground first could have been used by Cooper in this situation to milk a red card.