Following Argentina’s historic 25-15 win over the All Blacks in Syndey on Saturday, questions have been raised why the Ian Foster-coached side didn’t switch to a secondary game plan after their attack was so expertly snuffed out by the Argentinian defence. Perhaps the strategy that the All Blacks needed to employ, however, was one that they’d used to great effect against the Wallabies just two weeks prior.
While New Zealand managed two wins and draw from their opening three matches against Australia this year, the wheels have fallen off in the past two weeks. In their final game with the Wallabies, the All Blacks fell 24-22 after both sides were reduced to 14 men for dangerous tackle. Now, for the second week in a row, the All Blacks have failed to build any ascendancy over their opposition.
Former All Blacks hooker James Parsons has identified one tactic that wasn’t especially prevalent on Saturday that has worked so well for the side this year.
Speaking on the Aotearoa Rugby Pod, Parsons asked why Beauden Barrett and Richie Mo’unga parked the attacking kicking game that helped unlock the Wallabies defence during their four-match Bledisloe Cup series.
“We had such a great balance of our attack and our attacking kicking was just not there on the weekend,” Parsons said.
“Argentina were bringing great line speed – [halfback Tomas] Cubeli was in the line a lot defensively for Argentina – and we didn’t quite change our strategy. We did a few attacking kicks in the second half but the damage had sort of been done and they’d gained in confidence.
“I think that was the biggest area of our game that we didn’t see, those little chip kicks that led to such great tries against the Wallabies a couple of weeks ago and on this occasion, we saw it late in the game but it just wasn’t there. We didn’t adjust to the pictures that were in front of us defensively.”
Parsons noted that following the match, Foster confirmed that the All Blacks hadn’t parked the offensive kicking strategy – but that didn’t explain why Mo’unga and co were reluctant to put boot to ball when challenging the Argentinian defence.
“[The All Blacks] kicked 17 times on the weekend,” revealed Parsons. “Their average now [for the year] after the game is 22. So it must have been about 24 before that.
“It’s a lot less kicks against Argentina. Clearly, the kicks they did do weren’t as effective. There were a couple of really good contestestables from Aaron Smith but outside of that, our contests in our attacking kick game just wasn’t there. That’s just a decision thing. That’s communication.
“The week before, there’s a lot of plaudits to Richie and Beaudie but a lot of that is guys around them making the calls for those kicks as well. Maybe those connections weren’t quite there on the weekend.”
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) November 17, 2020
Still, Parsons was quick to point out that the All Blacks were under the pump throughout the match, which made it difficult to implement their attacking kicking game. They also struggled to maintain their discipline, unlike their opposition.
“We obviously had that breakdown inaccuracy,” Parsons said. “You can’t really get your attacking kicking game and those things flowing if you’re not on the front foot or you can’t build phases. You want to have two or three phases to see what the D is doing, then make those decisions. But through inaccurate cleans or incorrect entry, every time we started getting some momentum, we were penalised. On the back of that, a lot of those penalties led to three points.
“We’ve played the Wallabies, who’ve maybe been going to the corner [after winning penalties]. We know Hodge can kick long penalties but I mean, [Argentina] took their points when they were on offer, they even dropped in for a droppie early. To me, that said they want scoreboard pressure.”
While it’s Argentina’s free-flowing play that has always made them an attractive and exciting team to watch, Parsons was impressed by Los Pumas’ disciplined approach on Saturday.
“The Argies have been known for their offload game and they made four offloads. So they came with a game plan that was so disciplined and strict and they stuck to it. They were just relentless in it. I’d say they’re a team of 20 offloads normally. Four offloads compared to the All Blacks’ nine… That discipline in their attack. It wasn’t helter-skelter attack or anything, it was a lot of exiting, playing the territory game, but I think we were expecting a lot more offloads and that is the biggest thing.
“They had four turnovers conceded. We’re the best team at scoring tries off turnovers and they just gave us nothing to live off. Whereas we conceded 14 turnovers. It’s normally the other way around for us.
“Their discipline and their attacking game plan was a big part of winning. Their defence was amazing and ruthless, but they were really ruthless and disciplined in their game plan in attack.”
Argentina have three games left to play in the Tri-Nations and are now the only undefeated side in the competition. They’ll face Australia this coming Saturday while New Zealand have an extra week to lick their wounds and recover from their latest loss.
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