For the first time in Super Rugby Aotearoa’s short history, extra-time was needed to decide a winner on Saturday night when the Highlanders hosted the Chiefs. One day later, golden-point was again called upon in the Crusaders’ victory over the Hurricanes.
Super Rugby centurions James Parson and Bryn Hall have both praised the new concept on the Aotearoa Rugby Pod, hailing the ten minutes of extra-time as a great way to separate two evenly-matched teams.
Hall, a member of the victorious Crusaders side on Sunday, suggest his side were lucky that Hurricanes captain James Blackwell handed the kick-off to his team – and that they also played with the wind at their backs.
“Winning the coin toss [is] massive,” Hall said. “It was a bit windy in Wellington so to win the toss and have the preference of which way you go, I think it has a massive [impact] on who has the advantage going into that back-end of the game.
“We lost the toss and James Blackwell, he ended up deciding which way to go. It’s quite funny, if you were watching from where we were watching, the wind actually changed in the last probably 10-15 minutes. The way we were going in the golden point, we actually ended up having the wind where in the first and second half, it was going the other way – away from the changing rooms. For us, it was massive.”
If he had his time again, Blackwell would undoubtedly change his decision. Parked in their 22 and facing the wind, the Hurricanes were always facing an uphill battle.
Replacement halfback Cam Roigard – who was playing in his first game of Super Rugby – had his box-kick charged down by Mitch Dunshea and the Crusaders quickly sprung onto their attack.
Extra-time lasted barely a minute, with second five David Havili quickly slotting the winning drop goal for the visiting team.
“The way I saw it in both games, the team that kicked off, both of them got the first lick at trying to win it first,” said former All Black Parsons. “Obviously, the Highlanders sprayed it wide and then the Chiefs went down and they won it through that turnover of Anton [Lienert-Brown] and then you guys, obviously with the charge down through Dunshea and then Havili.
“It felt like that field position of kicking off is actually more of the priority [than which direction your team plays] so that you can put that exit pressure on and then potentially get yourself into a position where you can work towards a drop goal or at least put that pressure of maybe forcing a penalty or something like that.
“That toss is massive when it comes to that golden point.”
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) April 11, 2021
Hall agreed with his former North Harbour teammate, acknowledging that the wind shouldn’t have been a factor at all in Saturday evening’s game between the Highlanders and Chiefs, played under the roof at Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin.
“I think it’s a little bit different down south where there’s no wind,” he said.
“I think, Jip, your point’s pretty crucial. If you end up kicking it long and you do have a breeze, it’s really hard to get out.
“I felt sorry for the replacement halfback [who was charged down by] Mitchell Dunshea, who’s done that a lot for us this year, putting pressure on box kicks, it’s really hard. It takes away that pressure for us.
“You kick it long, you’re in their deep end zone. If you can make a play like that – a charge down, or they want to run it out two or three phases – you’ve got an opportunity to get a breakdown penalty or you put all the pressure back on them, trying to get out of their exit zone.
“We were fortunate that that happened and we were fortunate enough that Davey ended up getting that drop goal.”
Havili’s successful kick was the second attempted drop goal of the afternoon, with first five Richie Mo’unga missing in the dying minutes of regulation time.
Hall confirmed that, in a perfect world, Mo’unga would have also been the man sitting in the pocket in extra-time – but he was keeping busy at the bottom of the breakdown.
“I think, ideally, we would have loved to have Richie in that position but again, I think it was good realisation and a heads up play from Davey, understanding that Richie wasn’t available there,” Hall said.
“I thought Drummy [replacement halfback Mitchell Drummond] did a really good job of being able to manage that and our forwards did really well just to be engaged and give the perception that we were going to run the ball and it gave Davey that little bit more time where he wasn’t under that much pressure and actually had a really good lick, being able to get the ball with time.”
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) April 11, 2021
Following the match, many speculated that Mo’unga’s absence from the backline had perhaps been a ploy to mislead the Hurricanes into thinking that the drop goal was at least an extra phase away – but Hall suggested otherwise.
“I give you guys too much credit!” said Parsons. “I was sitting there going, ‘Oh they’re so smart, they’re sending Richie out there, makes the Hurricanes think their natural drop-kicker’s in that ruck, they’ve planned to put Havili in there because he’s probably practised the drop kick’.
“This is what I’m thinking on the couch and it’s not even that at all, eh?”
“I wish I could back that up, mate, but na it wasn’t, it was just a heads up play,” Hall said. “You do go through those kinds of situations throughout the year and, again, you want to have Richie who’s done a lot for us at training but Davey’s got a good skillset around his kicking game and he slotted in really nicely, being able to see Richie down on the ground.”
Both players confirmed that drop goal scenarios had been practised on the training field for their respective said – just not all the time.
“I think, sometimes, players will keep their cards close to their chest and play a little bit dumb, I suppose, and say ‘Oh na, we didn’t train that’ or things like that,” Parsons said. “[But] we’re at too high a level not to consider that.”
“You practise it and you go through the scenarios,” confirmed Hall. “It’s not every week but again, there are different scenarios you might find in a game. It might not be a drop goal, it might you need to get a try, you need to hold onto to the ball and you need to kill the game or scenarios like that.
“We prepare as best we can. Those conversations and those scenarios are definitely done in training.”
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