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Plenty To Ponder

Plenty To Ponder

Plenty To Ponder

Read_Sept2017_primary
FIVE Good Things about the All Blacks performance in New Plymouth:
 
1) They got out of another tight spot. Questions can and should be asked about how they came to be 22-15 down with a man in the bin, but they are still second to none at getting out of a tricky situation.
 
2) They unleashed The Beast: Vaea Fifita’s 113 metres with ball in hand topped all others in the game, he scored a sensational try and was one slightly forward pass away from laying on another. There are still a lot of work-ons to his game…his tackling technique for example, but the ceiling looks very high for the “quiet assassin”.
 
3) Lima Sopoaga was assured and accurate off the bench. The selectors don’t like bowing to public opinion, but there is growing support for him to be given a start.
 
4) Sonny Bill Williams was much better. I know the haters will consider it a crime to say this, but his ball security was good, his 59 metres from 14 strong carries was the All Blacks third best, he made eight tackles without a miss, won a turnover and offloaded effectively. 
 
5) Nehe Milner-Skudder made a successful comeback. This is very good news. You wouldn’t have known he’d never played left wing before.
 
FIVE Things they’ll need to get right for the Springbok test 
 
1) They could try not getting themselves into a tight spot.
 
2) The lineout and breakdown will need some attention. There were a couple of sloppy lineouts, one which cost a try. The return of Sam Whitelock should sort that out, but an occasional lack of accuracy and numbers at the breakdown meant TJ Perenara got some rough ball and a few too many Pumas in his face.
 
3) Work under the high ball. It’s been such a strength but on Saturday, the accurate Pumas kicking game wasn’t always dealt with. Damien McKenzie seemed to be coming from a long way back to field a number of them, and didn’t always get there. The communication may not have been quite right.
 
4) The goal kicking. To be fair, Beauden Barrett’s kicks were all from challenging spots on a tricky night, but no matter how many tries the All Blacks score if the goals aren’t kicked with consistency there will be more holes to dig their way out of. 4 out of 8 isn’t great at test level.
 
5) The defence will need to be good again. It was actually very good in New Plymouth, about 86 percent successful, but it will need to be spot on against the power Springbok runners.
 
Other notables:
 
1) If the Pumas really wanted to score their first win against the All Blacks, then they needed to be bold. At 19-15 up, and the All Blacks down a back, they could have taken a scrum near the New Zealand line and gone for a try that could have put them 26-15 ahead. Instead they opted for three and the game was soon out of their grasp.
 
2) Rotten luck for Joe Moody, who has been in awesome form. The All Blacks will play the year out without Moody, Owen Franks and the now departed Charlie Faumuina, their best three props of recent times.
 
3) After the nonsense of the earlier tests this year, it was great to have the world’s best two referees on duty. Angus Gardiner was, as usual, a model of calm authority, Nigel Owens was an unobtrusive presence on the side-line. George Ayoub had his detractors as a ref but he never gets it wrong as TMO. 
 
4) The weather wasn’t great (anywhere) for the weekend, but it was good to have a test in New Plymouth again. The city got in behind it, and will be rewarded with a 5 million dollar boost to a local economy that looks to be in good shape. It’s one of the places in New Zealand I always enjoy visiting.
 
5) I know we like to think of ourselves as a knowledgeable crowd who sit back and respond to the action when it happens, but wouldn’t it be good if just a bit of that unrestrained, unconditional exuberance of the Pumas fans could rub off?
 
 And five from the test in Perth.
 
1) The Wallabies might have blown the 10 point lead, but the Springboks should have won. They got into the right part of the field, but didn’t show enough patience in breaking down the Aussie defence at the end. 
 
2) Whatever it cost to get Kurtley Beale back was worth it. He’s in the best form of his career.
 
3) The Boks are developing powerful combinations in the midfield (Kriel/Serfontein) and in the loose trio (Kolisi/Kriel) but their defence out wide is woeful.
 
4) Michael Hooper and Siya Kolisi made outstanding tackles at crucial moments…Kolisi rushing up at the death to snuff out Australia’s last charge…Phil Kearns claim that he was offside was made out of hope, and not supported by any evidence.
 
5) OK, Force fans have made their point, and you have to feel for them, but they should give up on this pointless “rebel” competition now, and try and find a way to a solution within the framework of the game. How about a bid to join South Africa’s Currie Cup?