Mo'unga's masterclass: five talking points from Bledisloe III
The All Blacks have locked up the Bledisloe Cup for an 18th straight year after recording an historic 43-5 win over the Wallabies in Sydney.
A six-minute double to All Blacks pivot Richie Mo’unga helped the visitors run out to a 26-0 half-time lead.
Despite a Wallabies try to debutant Noah Lolesio just after the break, they were never really in the fight. There’s still one more match to play in Brisbane this Saturday, which will be both the final Bledisloe Cup test for the year, and the second Tri Nations match between the Trans-Tasman rivals. Here are five talking points that came out of Bledisloe III.
Richie Mo’unga puts on a show
The dual playmaker strategy took a giant leap in the right direction as Richie Mo’unga, a player who has largely struggled to replicate his domestic form in test matches, put on a show.
Mo’unga played arguably his best game in an All Blacks jersey, to help guide his side to the record-breaking win.
The 26-year-old scored two tries in six minutes during the first half, and nearly had a third but was tripped up just shy of the try-line.
His first try was particularly impressive, as he used his quickness to get around both Brandon Paenga-Amosa, and the covering fullback in Noah Lolesio. Mo’unga got around his opposite even though he only had a five-metre channel to work with.
Mo’unga also had a try assist late in the game, sending Jordie Barrett through a gap in-between Taniela Tupou and Scott Sio.
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) October 31, 2020
But the best thing to come out of Mo’unga’s masterclass was how it’ll simply change the game going forward. The dual playmaker system involving him and Beauden Barrett has been a hotly contested debate since it was introduced.
It was a Barrett chip kick which led to Mo’unga’s second five-pointer, and the two generally linked up well during the match, even though the Wallabies managed to quiet the fullback.
That being said, it was just one game – we need to see more of the same from Mo’unga before we start saying he’s world-class in the black jersey. It was definitely a step in the right direction, but Brisbane will be his chance to show the world that it wasn’t just a one-off.
Jordie Barrett wing experiment continues to pay off
Jordie Barrett’s selection on the wing for the opening Bledisloe Cup test in Wellington was a shock to most. As you can see below, before the 16-all draw, fans weren’t 100% sold.
Jordie on the wing? Wow ?
— Jamie Evans (@JamieEvs9) October 9, 2020
Ioane 13 and Jordie 14??? Why without Sevu Reece?
— Michel Jenzer (@goldwurst1) October 9, 2020
How is Jordie a better wing than sevu? No Damien or will for the X factor off the bench. You need X factor to win test matches, the guys who create something out of nothing
— paolo hua hin (@HuaPaul) October 9, 2020
But for all the confusion that his selection may have raised initially, let’s not forget what a winger’s job is: to score tries.
Being able to finish phases and convert them into tries has become a cornerstone to Barrett’s play over the past few weeks, scoring one try in each of the three Bledisloe tests to date.
He’s also run for 146 metres across the last three tests, which is equal top with Caleb Clarke throughout the Bledisloe Cup series so far.
Barrett was arguably the form 15 of Super Rugby Aotearoa, and many wanted to see him in the 15 jumper for the All Blacks, which of course went to his brother. But playing fullbacks out of position on the wing isn’t foreign to the All Blacks; look at how well it worked with the ‘bomb squad’ at the 2011 Rugby World Cup.
“To me, that defines a great player, and a great team” pic.twitter.com/fLJRo4L79T
— All Blacks (@AllBlacks) November 1, 2020
The 23-year-old has also proven himself as the All Blacks’ go-to long-range goal kicker, slotting a few penalties when called upon.
Stats don’t lie – on current form, Barrett is a lock for All Blacks selection on the wing.
Noah Lolesio’s rough debut
As Wallabies coach Dave Rennie said post-match, “we’re not going to use that as an excuse.” By ‘that’, he was referring to the inexperience in his squad, which included the selection of 20-year-old Noah Lolesio.
Lolesio had only played three Super Rugby AU games this year, one of which he was injured in, before being selected in his first Wallabies camp.
But injuries to playmakers Matt To’omua and then James O’Connor forced Rennie’s hand in selecting the up-and-comer to start his first test.
Nothing went right for the Wallabies.
“He didn’t get a hell of a lot of front foot ball, did he? He’ll learn a lot from that,” Rennie added.
Lolesio struggled to gain any form of control over the game, with the All Blacks simply dominating the hosts for 80-minutes.
What stood out to me though was how he was hidden in defence, and how he was caught out at times. He wasn’t defending in the line very much, and both of Richie Mo’unga’s tries could be credited to his defensive mishaps.
With the second try in particular, he was caught in no mans land trying to make a split-second decision.
While it’s definitely a learning experience, if the Wallabies are to remain in the hunt for the Tri Nations title, then they need solutions – and fast.
In the leadup to the test match, Wallabies winger Filipo Daugunu said that his side would target Caleb Clarke with their kicking game.
This didn’t work.
Instead, it backfired massively.
In just the third minute, Daugunu was sent to the sin bin for a dangerous tackle in the air on Clarke. The Wallabies were then on the back foot, under pressure as they were down a man.
Well, this was until Jordie was also shown a yellow card minutes later. Barrett led with his forearm to the face of Marika Koroibete and was shown a card.
Both wingers were criticised on social media for their needless actions, with fans especially frustrated with Daugunu.
Just shy of the full-time siren, All Blacks blindside flanker Shannon Frizell, was also shown a yellow card.
Discipline has cost both teams in big games before, with the All Blacks losing to the Wallabies 47-26 in Perth last year after Scott Barrett was shown a red card.
While it’s a talking point, let’s not call discipline an issue just yet. If foul play continues or not for either side though, then ill-discipline may just end up being a deciding factor as they continue to battle for Tri Nations silverware.
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) November 1, 2020
Can the Wallabies bounce back?
The 2020 test season started so promisingly for the Wallabies. A 16-all draw in Wellington, a match they came within inches of winning, seemed to be a sign that Australian rugby was headed for a resurgence.
They then went to Eden Park and lost 27-7, before vowing to fix their defensive woes ahead of Bledisloe III.
But instead, a record 38-point loss to the All Blacks sees the Wallabies staring down the barrel of a 3-0 series sweep, unless they can miraculously bounce back in Brisbane this weekend.
The All Blacks are riding on a high though, and have built as the series has gone on.
There are plenty of areas to work on for the Wallabies, but if one week is enough to address these in time for Bledisloe IV, seems like a stretch.
If the likes of James O’Connor were to return, then maybe there could be improvement. Australian rugby fans, now more than, really need to see resilience from this young Wallabies side, but if they can bounce back enough to do just that, it’ll be something to discuss and look out for in the week ahead.
Sign up to our mailing list for a weekly digest from the wide world of rugby.Sign Up Now