Following New Zealand’s draw with Australia in the opening Bledisloe Cup match of the year, Ian Foster revealed that the All Blacks had unusually not practised drop goal scenarios in the week leading up to the game.
Sunday’s match, however, presented the perfect opportunity for one of the NZ playmakers – be it Richie Mo’unga or Jordie Barrett – to step up and slot the 3-pointer that would have handed the All Blacks a win.
Former All Black James Parsons, speaking on the latest episode of the Aotearoa Rugby Pod, was bemused why, given the wet conditions the game was played under, a drop goal wasn’t attempted.
“It was wet weather, they’d gone 90 metres, they’re right at the line. I think if you look back, even Sam Cane standing by the rucks there, he’s standing right by the far post and he’s pointing.
“You can see him, he’s going ‘get it back there and drop it’. It looked like he knew what needed to happen in the wet conditions, because you’re always chancing your arm [if you try to run the ball].”
Instead, the All Blacks attempted to spread the ball right – where they had an overlap – but an inaccurate pass ultimately shut down the move and handed possession back to the Wallabies.
Four-time Super Rugby champion Bryn Hall wasn’t quite as sold on whether a drop goal was the only option.
“It’s just unfortunate, as well, if that pass is given – like a really good pass – to Jordie, there’s an overlap and we score a try and we’re probably not having this conversation.
“That’s the thing: you want to back what the picture is. The low percentage play is to set up the drop goal and I 100% agree the drop goal should have been taken. But if you want to talk about attacking as well. That pass, if it’s given, it’s a try. You want to back your instincts as well.”
Parsons, however, saw things differently.
“To me, the high percentage play was the drop goal,” he said. “I was as frustrated last time we spoke about it with the test against South Africa in Wellington [in 2018, when the Springboks triumphed 36-34]. It’s no different for me. Just take the 3 points and win the test.
“Even if he misses, I’d rather him go for a drop goal and miss than keep doing these what I think are 50/50 plays.”
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) October 12, 2020
While Parsons wasn’t laying the blame on flyhalf Mo’unga, he did question whether the more experienced Beauden Barrett might be a better option for the coming weekend’s match in Auckland.
“I’ll be interested – is the door slightly ajar for him to get a crack at 10 now?” Parsons said. “The Highlanders game when he was at 10, it just looked like he was going to create something every time he touched the ball.
“He’s experienced. He’s been World Player of the Year two times. Put him in the general’s seat, [let him] run it. You run the cutter big fella, you’re that good! Give him a crack … He’s proven to play really well at 10, people seem to have forgotten that.
“Jordie’s played extremely well at fullback all year. Let’s just give it a crack.”
Prior to Damian McKenzie’s injury in 2019 and the confirmation of Mo’unga as a genuine test-quality flyhalf, Barrett was regularly used at 10 with McKenzie acting as a second playmaker from the fullback position – where he was stationed on Sunday after Barrett was pulled from the team due to a minor strain.
Parsons and Hall both agreed that Barrett would likely be brought in at fullback in place of McKenzie, with Mo’unga retained at first five.
“He’s probably going to be at 15 so I’m just wasting my time,” the Parsons conceded.
“I love him at 10, I love him at first receiver. Defensively, it slows your defence. It’s like an attacking kicking game. When there’s rush defence, you put it in behind and it’s going to make people think. When he’s there, you rush him, you’re going to create a hole and he’s good enough to get away. If you stay off hum, he’s going to come flat and put someone [in space].
“I’m not saying Richie doesn’t have that ability. He’s the best first five at sitting behind a forward pod and splitting that gate between two defenders when there’s three forwards and a short ball runner and a forward pops it out to Richie – there’s no one better in the game at that play than Richie. [But] I’d love to see Beaudie at 10.”
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