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The abysmal New Zealand statistic from the third round of Super Rugby Pacific

By Tom Vinicombe
Mitch Hunt. (Photo by Joe Allison/Getty Images)

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New Zealand’s ongoing struggle with goal-kicking reared its ugly head again in the third round of Super Rugby Pacific with a number of key players having off days with the boot.

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While the rest of the world seemed to long ago come to terms with the fact that an expert place-kicker was a must in the test arena, the All Blacks have historically prioritised selecting a playmaker capable of setting up tries in the No 10 jersey, with any accuracy off the tee they might bring simply an added bonus.

No longer are the All Blacks regularly two or three tries better than their opposition, however, and if any of the men tasked with taking shots at goal in the weekend are asked to step up to the big leagues, there’ll be plenty of concern around their ability to keep the scoreboard ticking over through smacking penalties and conversions through the uprights with any regularity.

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On Friday night, Moana Pasifika pivot Lincoln McClutchie put in a strong showing in his first-ever Super Rugby appearance, especially on attack, but his errant goal-kicking perhaps highlighted one of the reasons why he’s struggled to earn himself a full-time gig at this level of the game until now. McClutchie missed a fairly regulation shot at goal to get proceedings started over the weekend and things really only went downhill from there for Kiwi kickers.

McClutchie’s opposite on the night, Simon Hickey, nailed all three of his shots while returning All Blacks first five Richie Mo’unga hit one from two such that the match finished with an overall goal-kicking accuracy of 71 per cent.

 

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On Saturday afternoon, the Blues were lucky to escape with a win against the Chiefs – thanks in part to Josh Ioane and Bryn Gatland missing 11 points off the tee between them. Ioane kicked one conversion but couldn’t find the mark with two other attempts on goal while Gatland converted just one of his three attempts on the posts. The final miss, in the last play of the game, will be the one that’s remembered most (although it certainly wasn’t a gimmie of a kick) despite the fact that better accuracy earlier in the game could have sewn the match up for the Chiefs such that they weren’t counting on a high-pressure last-second penalty to win them the game.

The Blues, meanwhile, kicked all three of their conversions and an additional penalty but missed a fairly easy penalty attempt as well. The overall accuracy for the game stood at 58 per cent.

In the final New Zealand derby of the round, Highlander Mitch Hunt and Hurricane Jordie Barrett weren’t able to kick any penalties from four attempts on goal, with the only points from the boot coming from five conversions (three from Barrett and two from Highlanders replacement Marty Banks). The final tally read five successes from nine attempts on goal for a 56 per cent success rate.

While Super Rugby is obviously one step below test rugby, it’s also the arena where players are expected to prove their capabilities before they’re given a shot at the big leagues and goal-kickers should be operating with an 80 per cent plus accuracy if they’re harbouring any hopes of wearing black. Ultimately, just 17 of 28 attempts on goal were successful from New Zealand kickers in Round 3 of Super Rugby Pacific, with the 61 per cent hit rate far below where it needs to be.

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Thankfully for New Zealand sides, they’re only coming up against themselves at the moment. When Ireland arrive on NZ’s shores later this season, however, you can bet that a man like Jonny Sexton (who has a career hit-rate of 86 per cent) isn’t going to let the All Blacks off the clock quite as easily as the ‘top’ goal-kickers in the country are so willing to do for their opposition.

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