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SHOULD WE BE WORRIED?

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SHOULD WE BE WORRIED?

SHOULD WE BE WORRIED?

Australia_AllBlacks_Perth_primary
Should we be worried?
 
Martin Devlin asked me that on his DRS Radio Show Sunday afternoon.
 
I imagine a few others are asking the same after Saturday night’s blowout in Perth.
 
Me, I’ve got a family to care for, a mortgage to pay, a job to do, and blood tests every few months to make sure my health is in order. 
So, passionate as I am about my footy, I’ve got enough to worry about without lying awake at night at the prospect of us not winning the World Cup, or losing the Bledisloe Cup.
 
But if that’s what you like to get antsy about, then fill your boots!
 
Here are a few things you can occupy yourselves with:
 
1) The Wallabies won the physical battle. OK, so it helps when your opposition is a forward down for half the game, but the Wallabies won the gain line. They used their big forwards very effectively for a total of 210 metres from 101 carries. 
 
The All Black forwards carried a lot less. Sure, they had a lot less possession and were a player down for 41 minutes, but their 143 metres from 53 carries pales in comparison, especially when you consider that Ardie Savea alone made 60 and Dane Coles and Codie Taylor a combined 56. That means the other 10 All Black forwards made a paltry 27 metres between them.
 
It suggests they are using an attack strategy that places a heavy emphasis on their hookers ranging wide, but with a man short the other forwards needed to muscle up, and Owen Franks and Joe Moody making three metres between them is not much chop.
 
2) The All Blacks fell off 38 tackles.
With Australia enjoying so much ball, the All Blacks had to make a lot of tackles. They made 198, 22 alone by Kieran Read. Against such a weight of possession, it’s inevitable that there will be misses, but some were glaring, and there were some bad defensive reads out wide.
 
3) The back play was too lateral: On top of the absence of Ryan Crotty and SBW (yes him), the loss of Jack Goodhue hurt, leaving the All Blacks without three players capable of straightening the attack. Ngani Laumape did pretty well, making 50 plus metre, but there was too much east to west and not enough south to north. Anton Lienert Brown was a strangely notable culprit, but by no means the only one.
 
4) The All Black wingers are (still) out of sorts. The Aussies got great value out of their wings, and got them involved as often as possible. In contrast Rieko Ioane showed only flashes and not enough of them while it’s sad to see such a great player, such a great person as Ben Smith struggling to make an impact. They are not going to leave him out of the World Cup and there’s no reason why he can’t be great again down the stretch, but right now there’s a case to bring in Sevu Reece or George Bridge to try and spark something.
 
5) The Mo’unga-Barrett thing is still trying to work itself out. It’s going to take time, but will they persist with it for such an important game as Bledisloe II?
 
It’s interesting to note that through the course of the game, and not including passbacks for clearing kicks, each took the ball at first receiver 23 times.
In the first half Barrett got double the number of passes Mo’unga did as first receiver, which suggests he was almost operating as a duel first-five rather than an alternate, and Aaron Smith seemed to be instinctively going to him.
It worked much better in the second half when the roles were a bit more defined. It has huge potential, but are they over thinking it at the moment?
 
6) Likewise, Sardie. As with Barrettunga, the Savea-Cane project is one that is best going to succeed when he forwards are on top, which they never were in this game. When Scott Barrett went off, it left the ABs well short of big men. 
 
7) Discipline, or the lack of it. Yes, the refereeing was chaotic, we’ll get to that, but Scott Barrett took a risk the way he presented his shoulder-upper arm, and the contact with Hooper's head allowed Inspector Clousseau the convenience of a tick-the-boxes decision.
Still, the All Blacks discipline was poor. They lost the penalty count 4-8, and one of those, the head shove by Ardie Savea on Hooper, was senseless, and the very same sort of thing that had Kiwis calling for Quade Cooper to be lynched eight years ago.
 
8) The gap has closed not enough for Wales to take over the No.1 spot and for that to happen when they haven’t beaten the All Blacks for 50 years would have been mildly absurd.  But the Springboks are looking quite awesome right now, the Aussies - played really will in Perth and might have at last found their best combination. And we know how strong the Northern Challenge is going to be. They have all improved, but it also really does appear that the All Blacks have come back to the pack a bit. 
Don’t write them off yet though.
They still have the most talent of any team, and have time to get back to full strength and resolve their issues. 
 
9) Finally…the refereeing. Jerome Garces was not the reason the All Blacks lost, even if the number of game defining moments he has called against them is piling up. 
 
The red card was not unjustified, but as Eddie Jones pointed out, two blatant head shots on English players at Twickenham were not judged with anywhere near the same severity. It’s the inconsistency, the confusion that is the problem.
 
Garces was woeful in Perth. He missed knock-ons and forward passes by both teams, and allowed constant offside play. 
 
And what is it with French refs punishing players for tackling someone who jumps into the tackle, and not the other way round?  It decided the second Lions-All Blacks test two years ago (Garces again) and happened twice in the Argentina Springbok game when Eben Etzebeth was allowed to leap into tackles and yet it was the Pumas who were penalised.
It will come as no surprise that that match was reffed by the other half of rugbys Laurel and Hardy duo, Romain Poite.
 
As I said at the start, I’m not going to lie awake at night worrying about the All  Blacks, but the refereeing, now that really is something to fret over!
 
Join TJ for a complete wrap of the weekends action on Rugby Nation, Sundays at 4:30 on Prime, with updated replays on SKY, the home of New Zealand Sport.