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‘It’s what you dream of’: What Richie Mo’unga thought during match-winning kick

By Finn Morton
Richie Mo'unga of New Zealand kicks for goal during The Rugby Championship & Bledisloe Cup match between the New Zealand All Blacks and the Australia Wallabies at Forsyth Barr Stadium on August 05, 2023 in Dunedin, New Zealand. (Photo by Joe Allison/Getty Images)

Win, lose or draw, the sun will always come up in the morning. But, as All Blacks fans will undoubtedly agree, it shines a little bit brighter whenever New Zealand beat fierce rivals Australia.

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Following on from last weekend’s 38-7 blitz of the Wallabies at the world-famous MCG, the All Blacks were talked up as a near certainty of completing a Bledisloe Cup double in Dunedin.

But, as they always do during a Bledisloe Cup series, the Wallabies came to play.

Much to the surprise of more than 28,000 fans in attendance at Forsyth Barr Stadium, the Test was decided by a last-minute penalty goal from All Blacks playmaker Richie Mo’unga.

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Having lined up a tough penalty attempt about 40 metres out and 12 in from touch, a focused Richie Mo’unga began to approach the ball with the weight of a nation on his shoulders.

But the playmaker wasn’t feeling the pressure.

The game clock had just ticked over the 79-minute mark when Mo’unga stepped towards the ball. Almost immediately, the crowd let out a deafening cheer – they knew the attempt was good.

Mo’unga was the hero as the All Blacks extended their winning streak to four Tests from as many starts this year, while the Wallabies’ losing run continues under coach Eddie Jones.

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About an hour after full-time, a humble Richie Mo’unga spoke with reporters about his last-minute heroics that decided Bledisloe II.

“It’s what you dream of as a young kid, kicking goals in the backyard and at the park,” Mo’unga told reporters.

“For it to come off, I sort of had no fear of any outcome when I had the ball in my hand. I’m just grateful for our front row, they were able to put me in the position to do that.”

Mo’unga is no stranger to clutch shots at goal. Earlier this year, the champion Crusader iced the Super Rugby Pacific final with a penalty attempt after the siren in Hamilton.

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The Crusaders were already winning the decider when Mo’unga struck gold, it must be said, but it still brought an end to a titanic clash with the Chiefs.

The ability to overcome the pressure of that scenario, and actually embrace it, is simply an elite skill. Mo’unga is happy to be that guy for the All Blacks – kicking is part of his job.

“It’s no different from any other kick,” Mo’unga added. “For me, I’m just having to be real clear and focused on where I want to hit the ball and the intent of how I strike.

“I was walking the field before the game and I went through four kicks, I walked out and I didn’t actually kick a ball – I didn’t have a physical ball with me.

“One of those four kicks was a kick, in my head, to win the game.

“I grabbed the ball and went back and I was pretty at peace with where I was because it wasn’t the first time I’d been there, I was ready for that moment.

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“In my head I was pretty confident that I was in the right place with my kicking to get the kick over.”

The All Blacks found their mojo when replacement Mo’unga entered the fray during the second half. Damian McKenzie, who started in the No. 10 jersey, had a tough afternoon in Dunedin.

Mo’unga brought some direction to the All Blacks’ attack, and the pivot also kicked well around the park. The 29-year-old even impressed under the high ball.

The history books will remember that this Test was decided by a clutch penalty goal at the death, but Mo’unga’s influence goes so much further than that.

“Needed to be direct and just wanted to come on with a bit of accuracy and discipline in what we were trying to achieve as a team.

“Just sort of strip things back a bit and made things simple for the boys, and through that, we were able to build pressure at the set-piece with the ball in hand which is pretty cool.”

That was the All Blacks’ final Test on New Zealand soil before heading off to Europe for their final warmup match ahead of the Rugby World Cup in France.

The All Blacks will announce their Rugby World Cup squad on Monday.

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Comments

2 Comments
A
Andy 348 days ago

Spot on regarding the shift in the game when RM came on. DM isn't a test player, too inconsistent spraying kicks all over the park, falling off tackles. Big hole here coming up when Richie goes overseas

D
Dean 349 days ago

C’Mon you only have 3 players from previous week’s winning team and you’re saying they, ABs, went in as favourites, that doesn’t say much about the quality of Aussie rugby at the moment does it. And it just shows you that NZR don’t take test matches seriously anymore, they’re only interested in the World Cup.

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Shaylen 5 hours ago
Ireland and South Africa share the same player development dilemma

These guys will be utility players Nick it cannot be helped because coaches cannot help themselves. Rassie looks at players like these and sees the ability to cover multiple positions without losing much. It allows the 6-2 or 7-1. He wont change his coaching style or strategy for one player. At provincial level players like these are indispensable. If there is an injury to your starting 12 but your back up 12 is a bit iffy then a coach is going to go with the back up 10 who is gold and who can play a good 12. Damian Willemse for the Springboks is an obvious case, for the Stormers its the same. Dobson plays him at 12 or 15, with Gelant in the team he plays 12 but if Gelant goes down he doesnt go for his back up 15, he just puts Willemse there. With Frawley its the same at international and provincial level. He just slots in wherever. Frans Steyn made a career out of it. He was much maligned though as a youngster as he never fully developed into any role. He then went to Japan and France to decide for himself what kind of player he was, put on muscle and retained his big boot, ran over players and booted the ball long and came back into the Springboks after about 3 years away and was then certain about how he wanted to play the game no matter what position. Coaches cannot help themselves because they only want what is best for their teams and that means putting your most talented players on even if it means you cause them some discomfort. Sometimes players need to decide how they want to play the game and then adapt that to every position and let the coach decide how they want to use them.

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J
Jon 11 hours ago
Ireland and South Africa share the same player development dilemma

I think the main problem here is the structure of both countries make up. They are going to have very similar.. obstacles(not problems). It will just be part of the evolution of their rugby and they’ll need to find a way to make this versatility more advantageous than specialization. I think South Africa are well on the way to that end already, but Ireland are more likely to have a hierarchical approach and move players around the provinces. Ioane is going to be more than good enough to lock up one of those available positions for more than a few years I believe though. Morgan would definitely be a more long term outlook. Sacha to me has the natural footwork of a second five. Not everything is about winning, if a team has 3 players that want to play 10s just give them all a good go even if its to the detriment of everyone, this is also about dreams of the players, not just the fans. This is exactly how it would be in an amateur club setting. Ultimately some players just aren’t suited to any one position. The example was of a guy that had size and speed, enough pace to burn, power to drive, and speed to kick and pass long, but just not much else when it came to actual rugby (that matched it). New Zealand has it’s own example with Jordie Barrett and probably shows what Reece Hodge could have been if the game in Australia had any administration. Despite the bigger abundance of talent in NZ, Jordie was provided with consistent time as a fullback, before being ushered in as a second five. Possibly this was due to his blood, and another might not have been as fortunate, but it is what it was, a complete contrast to how Hodge was used in Australia, were he could have had any position he wanted. When it comes down to it though, much like these young fellas, it will be about what they want, and I think you’ll find they’ll be like Hodge and just want to be as valuable to the team as they can and play wherever. It’s not like 63 International Cap is a hard thing to live with as a result of that decision!

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