'It was a great call': Where things went right and wrong for All Blacks
While the All Blacks were able to build scoreboard pressure early in the game thanks to the accurate boot of first five Richie Mo’unga, the Wallabies were the first to grab a try and the men in black were guilty of pushing the ball wide too quickly, before gaining any ascendancy in the middle of the park.
In fact, the team didn’t really come alive until the final play of the first half.
“First 15 [minutes], pretty overly excited I think, and gave them some free swings at us with our discipline,” Foster said following the match. “The last 15, we certainly were disappointing in terms of the way that we stepped off the pace. But middle 50, delighted with the composure and the attitude.”
With time almost ticking past 40 minutes, the All Blacks earned a penalty inside Wallabies territory but inside of opting for the easy 3-pointer, Sam Whitelock gestured to the corner and the forwards set up a lineout.
A few phases later, wing Sevu Reece crashed over from close-range and with Mo’unga again on target, New Zealand had themselves a handy 16-8 lead going into the break.
It was that decision making in the final ten minutes of the half that Foster was especially pleased with.
“I think tactically, we made some shifts and it was important to,” he said. “I thought we got pretty loose early and started to move the ball around a little bit too much when it wasn’t on.
“We’ve got a great leadership group, they were learning their lessons as they went through that first half and I thought we got the nice formula.
“I thought it was a great call before halftime to go for that lineout. It would have been nice and simple to try and take the 3 after they scored but it was an important try to get going at halftime. So there were some really good tactical adjustments, I thought.”
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) August 8, 2021
Less pleasing, however, was the All Blacks let their foot off the gas in the final quarter – despite that usually being the period where the team flourishes the most.
Silly penalties also crept into the team’s performance – as had been common throughout the first quarter of the game.
“At 33-8, we should have done better,” acknowledged Foster. “Disappointingly, we take a lot of pride in how we finish and we didn’t finish that well.
“We’ll go back and have a look to answer the question [of why the All Blacks conceded 18 penalties] during the week, to be fair. But there was enough there that was controllable by us. Nothing [to do with] the new laws or anything like that. If you’re offside, you’re offside, it’s plane and simple and we’ve got to get better at that.”
Captain Sam Whitelock mirrored Foster’s thoughts and suggested the All Blacks needed to play tighter than they had in order to better build pressure on their opposition.
“I think Fozzie’s summed it up pretty well. The first 15 minutes, we were so keen. But if anything, that actually made it harder for us,” he said. “If we actually, not slowed down, but just made sure we were clear on our picture, [it] would’ve made [for] a more accurate clean rather than just flying in boots-and-all, [and we] didn’t give Nuggy [halfback Aaron Smith] the clean ball that he demands of us.
“I think both sides were a little bit guilty of that, especially for us in that first 15 and that last 15. It just showed when we did have clean ball in that middle part, we could play. And then it showed when Australia had the wood on us because their breakdown was fast and then all of a sudden we were offside and it’s just an accumulative effect.
“That’s something that Plums will be looking at this week and us as players will make sure that we give our 9s and 10s quick ball to attack off, but then we stop [the Wallabies] from having that as well.”
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) August 7, 2021
All that being said, Foster was ultimately pleased the All Blacks emerged from the test with a win, especially given they entered the match likely a little rustier than their opposition, who were coming off a hard-fought series with France.
“It’s a first test in a Bled, it’s always going to be a massive test,” he said. “They came over here very well prepared and threw everything at us but the way we came back and I thought really squeezed them and were doing really well.
“Yep, there’s some things that we’ll take away to work on and there’ll be people talking about that all week but at the end of the day, it’s one-nil and we’ll go into next week with a nice list of things to improve.”
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