Archive for Game Review

Saturday, July 26th, 2008

All Blacks(19) vs Australia(34) – Spanked.


Robbie Deans is turning the Wallabies into the Crusaders. He is following this ELV game blueprint. In a few short weeks the Wallabies are 5-0. Deans didn’t meet the Aussie players until after the Super 14 ended, unlike Henry’s mob who spent the whole Super 14 studying games and players. Aussie is supposed to have less depth than NZ, and yet Deans player selection has proved to be outstanding, the Wallabies did not miss Gregan, Larkam and Mortlock did they!  Deans has a sharp rugby mind and I think his successful trend will continue. Sure he has yet to get success away from home, and that wont be easy, but it will happen. Aussie must be favorites for the Bledisloe cup, after all 34-19 was a thrashing, a real spanking!

Deans read the ABs weakness like a children’s book, it was that easy, and he exploited them, well done. There are those that say, watch out for the ABs backlash, I say watch out for the Aussies second win in a row 2-0! Are they that good, or were we so bad that we made them look that good, I guess this season will show either way.

Lets look at the ABs.

Firstly, the AB players did not loose this test match, the coaches did, from poor player selection and incorrect tactics. I have said on this blog that the ABs have a good A side and a not so good B side, the second half saw this B side player for the full 40 minutes and it was horrible, the capitulation in the last 10 minutes against the Boks highlighted this weakness that seam to have gone ignored, maybe it wont be now. ( Well Deans didnt miss it, did he !)

Player Selection

The back four:Muliaina, Tuitavake, Kahui,  Sivivatu as a combination (not individually) was a disaster. Smith and Macdonald should have been starting. Tuitavake and Kahui are not first string players. Sivivatu is a one trick pony, he has no kicking game, sure he was more industrious in this test match but to counter the attacking teams kicking game you need more smarts in the back four than Muliaina (who had an outstanding game as an individual) on his own. Henry selection of Kahui over Smith was pure rotation, Kahui does not have a hair on Smith, Smith is a leader of the backs and can organise the wings and defence the same way Frank Bunce did. Kahui did have a good game against the English in the second test, but that was soft english meat and not the same as the first test where Smith shined and the English werent already beaten. Henrys selection of this back four combination was plain stupid. This loss has shown that up, and him up.

Nonu, Kahui: To counter Ma’a game all you need to do is tackle him, thats it. He has no kicking game, he is a one trick pony and thats ‘run like a fridge’. If you are going to select him, you need to counter his weakness with strength and that’s by having a good first five and center around him. Kahui did not meet this demand, he is a young player with a inexperience head, latter years will see him be better I hope. Ma’a needs a leader outside him and thats why the Carter, Nonu, Smith combination works best. Henry selection was stupid again. Rotation weakens combinations. Dam fool !

Andy Ellis: There was talk before the game that Cowan would start, he didn’t and that was a mistake. Cowan, sure not yet full tested, but he is more ‘Justin Marshall’ than Ellis and as it happens the game last night could have done with that type of player. Ellis did ‘put out’, but I guess I fancy Cowan ‘I take no shit’ attitude better!

Forwards: This game highlighted the need for replacements, not from the front line team but from the squad. These players should be dropped from the squad: Braid, Lauaki, Mealamu. Kaino should be benched as replaced with Mose Tuiali’i. Lauaki was shown up, he was selected as an impact player for 10 minutes only, in this game he had to play for 40 and it was sooo painful to watch, his Super 14 form did not warrant his nine cat lives as an All Black, another stupid selection by Henrys mob.  Mealamu is not what he used to be. The the hooker (Andrew Hore ) should only be subbed in extreme situations because his lineout throwing is critical, something the Henry mob has yet to learn. In the last two test matches the immediate subbing of the hooker as lead to losing critical linouts at the closing stages of the game. Deans know this, he does not sub off (rugby) hookers with such frequency as Henry.


Deans experience with the ELVs shined last night, Henry has yet to pass this exam. His team selection did not support the much needed force back game that the ELVs require (I dont like it either), and that’s why we spent most of the game in our own half. The ELVs allow a team to assume, in error, that less rugby union structure may be best for the attacking game, the ABs had too often slow forwards running in the backs negating any attack. The ABs did not follow the mandate that ‘forwards be forwards’ creating up the middle pick and go and driving mauls, rather they decided that the should be backs and playing glorified touch rugby out wide. (I suggest your read this post: Super 14 Final : Birth of the generic ELV rugby style!). The wide subbing of players in the second half was panic, why else would you let Lauaki play at the back of the scrum for so long, George Smith was beating us, but he didn’t need to, as Lauaki gave the ball up 7 times in as many minutes.

A loss, so what!

I have said before that this year was going to be patchy, if not bad. You can’t loose so many front line players after RWC and march on as if nothing has happened. It takes time to rebuild (but under Henry, maybe too much time). But I do suggest that if Deans was AB coach the record so far would be 5-0, with out a doubt !

Loosing a rugby game does seam to bring out the calls for structural change, and panic, this is not needed, the poor performance of the ABs is down to the ABs and not NZ rugby (at the moment). Yet I hear that Sean Fitzpatrick is calling for the selection of overseas players. And I bet the 2 cell brained media idiots will join him.

Source: All Black cracks only papered over

…”because of the exodus overseas and the injury to Richie McCaw. It’s just another example of what I have been talking about – our lack of depth with experience at this level and how it is hurting us.”…

More here: Fitzy: A good player, a thinker not so good.

Sorry, did the Aussie’s select overseas players after they lost Gregan and Larkam (and Mortlock out through injury) ? When we lost 5 games in a row under John Hart would players from overseas make any difference, nope. Losses maybe used to maneuver political positions on the weak minds of the rugby public for the individual own advantage, but we are loosing because we have made poor administration decisions at the NZRU board level (Tew) and coaching level (Henry).

Henry’s mob wont last the next 24 month in their current form. After the last RWC there should have been a break up of some sort, maybe Hanson, Smith, Cooper, something like that. But to keep the same trio was not smart.

Thats two losses in a row, it better not be 3, because thats a trend, and we have away games after Auckland, so loosing trend gowth would not be good print for Henrys mob.

We have the players and skill to beat them all, it’s just a question do we have the coaching smarts to make this happen.

Henry weakness is his lack of ability to add up on the ledger player by player rugby smarts, sometimes he picks players for the size and 2 minutes of brilliance in some easy game, without evaluating the performance of the player in a pressure cooker environment.  Should these comments also go for Hanson and Smith, I dont know, but there silence does not help them.

One comment made by Deans on the Sky TV interview after the game, when asked about Giteau and Barnes he replied that ‘they were good thinkers’. That is an interesting Henry and Deans contrast.


Source: All Blacks to play smarter to stop losses – Gregor Paul

Finding some more structure and playing in the opposition half have been highlighted as the two key areas where the All Blacks need to improve if they are to avoid losing three in a row this week.

That and holding on to the ball. In what was a frank and honest assessment of the All Black performance last night, coach Graham Henry said the final 30 minutes where the All Blacks kept coughing up the pill cost his side.

“That was disappointing,” he said of the final 30 minutes. “We turned over a lot of ball and that cost us. We ran out of composure or maybe we ran out of steam.

“We need to find some more balance next week and some more structure. We played too much rugby in our own half. We did too many things that were 50-50 and probably not on. When we do kick, we need to chase well.”

Lauaki had a difficult night with his hands – probably spilt more ball than anyone else and would be, according to Henry: “Pretty disappointed with the way he played. He’d been playing well coming into the game.”

My Comments: Lauaki, jes wayne he better not be there next week ! Looks like Henry been reading my blog, ha !

Saturday, July 19th, 2008

Australia(16) vs Springboks(9) – ELV comment.

 This is just a quick note to comment on the ELV’s in the above game.

 1) Did you notice the contrast in refereeing style between this game and the game the week before (ABs vs Boks), ELV’s can also be destroyed by the refs performance (I mean the poor performance of the Aussie ref in the AB game).

2) The first half was horrible. Kicking sequences of 4 to 6 kicks, yuk, the ELVs have a force back game within it and it’s a bore. The first half lacked traditional rugby union structure.

3) The field wide trench defense was prevalent through out the game, at times it looked like bull rush. (More here ELVs – ‘The Field Wide Trench Defence’ or ‘FWTD’ )

4) I don’t like the 6 vs 3 in the lineouts, it looks stupid, and it favors the defending side out wide. Why don’t they just line up horizontal offensive and defensive lines and run at each other. (More here ELVs – Endangered Species: Maul and Lineout )

5) If John O’Neill claims that this game as Rugby Union ELV spectacle then he needs his head examined.

6) The game got better in the second half as the Boks tired, the game had more traditional rugby union structure. Just as I said on this page My ELV Amendments  more needs to be done before a final ELV package is settled on.

…”30 years ago the laws imposed structure within rugby union, today the ELV laws allow the players to choose to scrum or not, to have a long lineout or not. I say allow players to choose to scrum or not, but inject some structure back into the game via the laws by allowing (b) (ie (b) is Full lineouts only). This re adjusts the balance between structure and non structure to equilibrium”…

 To conclude..

Finally, not all games are good, pre ELV games have had there bad day also, so balance in ones judgement is required. Read my blog because I have all the answers, ha !

Friday, June 13th, 2008

All Blacks (37) vs England (20) : Some lessons learnt !


          Laukai left, Tuiali’i right.

 Lessons, the Bad.

  • 1) Why is Mose Tuiali’i not in the team over Sione Laukai ? Sione has not impressed in the black jersy ever, so whats he doing there. My bias opinion is that Henry can pick brawn over brian’s, and this is an example of it. Mose is brawn and brian’s.
  • 2) Andy Ellis has not stepped up to international rugby yet, too slow, too many steps before parsing. Wheepu, if he behaves, would have been a better pick. Jimmy Cowan was not up to it either.
  • 3) English forward drive, both in body position and two man drive was very effective, AB’s need to do better here.
  • 4) Keven Mealamu, two bad lineouts, a tight head lost. Needs to do better or go.
  • 5) The ABs ‘B” team was shocking, if this was a close game we would have been toast.

 Lessons, the Good.

  • 1) Ma’a Nonu and Conrad Smith are coming up trumps, looking good for the future. Ma’a can pass and not loose possession when tackled, keep it up. Conrad is just magic !
  • 2) Dan Carter, excellent ! A french girl should acquire his DNA for the French rugby by having his child. Don’t laugh, I bet it’s on the drawing board!
  • 3) Jerome Kaino did better, watching him closely.

The Game:  England stood up for 15 minutes. That’s it !  Then the black wave took over. The Ref was not good, and this game was old rules.

The new ELVs will shake English rugby style big time. England need more players like Topsy Ojo and David Strettle for ELV rugby. Pace, pace and more pace.

Hey Charlie Hodgson, you must learn to tackle polynesians. Take a month off and play rugby in South Auckland, best place to improve your tackling skills.

Sunday, June 1st, 2008

Super 14 Final : Birth of the generic ELV rugby style!

           super-14-trophy.jpg  Crusaders win!

Yes I can honestly say this was one of the better ELV rugby games in the Super 14 season. But what did Robbie Deans work out at the beginning of the season that the other Super 14 coaches did not.

1) ELV rugby laws allows play to be very loose (non structured): Using free kicks solely for tap and go (add to this short lineouts) allows a game to have very little traditional rugby union structure. I believe Robbie new that having scrums and long lineouts (with the odd maul) allowed a better platform for attacking rugby. The final had more than average scrums, long lineouts and mauls. This is why the final was a better representation of rugby union that earlier Super 14 games. Also Robbie doesn’t need to be a rocket scientist to realise that the field wide defensive line is removed while executing a scrum or full lineout.

2) The kick and chase game is now critical to acquire territory: Kicking to find a defensive player out of position, up and unders landing outside the defenders 22, kicks that find middle ground and bounce causing defenders to take time to respond. The game of force back is more prevalent under the ELV rugby. To have a smart kicking game you need smart kickers, this means all players numbered 9 to 15 must have an eye for the tactical kick. Just having a smart kicker at first five or fullback is not enough. The aim is to execute running rugby in the opposition half, the Waratahs on occasion broke this rule.

3) Player type selection: Selecting a tight five for solely tight forward duties is over. Brad Thorn is the new tight forward mold, he must be loose and tight when the circumstance requires it (Yes you guessed it, ARU can now go shopping for forwards in the NRL). I guess while scrums still require pushing the only true tight forward is the tight head prop. Mobile, tall and very athletic tight forwards are the prescription. A game for all shapes and sizes, not any more!

3) Fast ball beats defense: This is not just true for ELV rugby, but the execution of fast and accurate passing finally allowed the Crusaders wings to get some space (on one occasion it lead to the try of the game) to run around their opposition.

4) Fitness: Yes having the puff and pace to go the distance, this was very evident in the last 20 minutes of Super 14 final. The side that lacks fitness is slower to set up an attacking back line, slower to run onto the ball, slower to cover the field in defense and more likely to drop a tackle.  The Waratahs were dead in the water in the second half.

Why should I be worried about the state of rugby union when the Super 14 final was confirmed by all as such a good game.

Firstly, there was only 13 out of 23 ELVs applied in the 2008 Super 14 season, yet to be used laws around the maul and lineout allow for more traditional rugby union structure to be removed from the game (see Foundation posts for more discussion). 

Secondly, answer this question:  Is the above style likely to be adopted in every ELV rugby game?  Yes if you want to win! Rugby union may be entering one style of play, the Crusaders way!  I am afraid when ever I watch NRL or AFL all I see is the same generic game every weak, if the players wore the same colors each weeks I wouldn’t know if different teams were playing. Rugby union should not be getting design concepts from NRL or AFL. It would seam otherwise !

The rugby union styles of England, France and South Africa may be morphed into the Crusaders ELV rugby style and the winning of the game will just come down to who executes this style better than the other. This will lead rugby union to be boring and indifferent!

Ian McGeehcan has a point when he said ..”My concern is that we will end up playing one type of game, that the variety and depth of options which the game has always had will be taken away”… HERE

A quote before you leave:

..”They say that death kills you, but death doesn’t kill you. Boredom and indifference kill you.”.. By Iggy Pop 

This quote highlights that rugby union greatest sin is to be boring and indifferent.

Thursday, May 15th, 2008

Hurricanes (17) vs Blues (19) 16-5-2008



A review of the game based on the balance between structured vs non structured rugby.

Conditions: Dry, ground hard.

  • – Short Lineouts: 16
  • – Full Lineouts: 12
  • – Scrums: 20
  • – Rucks: 120 (The best I could count)
  • – Mauls: 2
  • – Tries Broken Play: 2
  • – Tries Set Piece:0
  • – Tries Phase Play:1

The percentage of ‘ball in play’ when the ‘Backs vs Backs’ contest was unfettered by a forward was (12+20+2)/(16+12+20+120+2) = 20%. I wish to see this figure above 30%! (I do admit I saw a few rucks when forwards did not stand in the back line, so I accept an error rate of 3%).

So ask yourself this question, how often did you see the mid field contest go head to head ? It would seam the back coach these days must ask the 6,7 and 8 to be part part of the back training and moves. A guy like Conrad Smith must be studying ‘Dummies: How to be a loose forward!”

Conrad would have more to do under my ELV amendments, see here.

The game was excellent in the last 20 minutes as forwards and backs were separated by frequent scrums, the first 60 minutes was kinda ‘force back’ with ‘run and bash’ (Yes I am afraid ‘Glorified Touch Football’). The ‘field wide defensive trench was very visible through out the game. There was some moments of brilliance off the back of the scum by the Hurricanes. So for three tries on a ground that was in excellent condition, I would have to say they were of a low standard. What do I mean, did you see any space created for players out wide, did you see any over laps. Nope it was missed tackles, a charge down and a bash through. So more tries are not always better, sure it could have been just one of those games. More games will need to be reviewed.

Sure lots of heart, determination and tension, but you can get that in ‘bull rush’ as well, I am grading the game on the rugby union combination contest only.

If this game was a pin up for the ELVs, then more needs to be done. Like I have said on this blog a lot can be fixed by not allowing short lineouts and promoting the maul. Interesting enough there were 2 times when my 50/22 rule would have been used.

I agree that not all of this can be blamed on the ELVs (coaches and captains as well), but the LPG Committee did start with a blank piece of paper so they could have and should have done more.

If the reader is over 40 years then you will easily understand my point. If the reader is under 30 years then you will not, this is because you have only seen one style of footy, and NO I dont want to go back to the ‘good old days’, I prefer a mid point between today and say 1990’s footy. I will review my thoughts with my office 40 years plus friends and see if they concur.

Some just looked at the game through foggy glasses…

Source: Marc Hinton Blues topple Canes – both now vulnerable

…”If rugby’s in trouble, this match should be compulsory viewing for the nay-sayers. It was an absolute peach. A couple of teams stood toe to toe and slugged it out for 80 minutes, and at the end one side had slipped in just one more punch than its opposite.”…

..”In a classic contest of seething intensity and fabulous commitment, both sides played themselves to a standstill. The defence of both teams, particularly in their own red zone, was heroic.”…

Sure it was ..”classic contest of seething intensity and fabulous commitment”. But a representation of rugby tactical skill, no it was not, why because little space out wide was created, tactically it was a poor game: kick and hope, run and bash, pick and go, thats it!

Richard Loe hit the nail on the head. You see I am not alone, I dont live on a desolate island in the Pacific !

Source: Intense encounter welcome but major question unanswered

..”It was an intense game; exciting because of that although, apart from some silly lapses, the defences ruled and there wasn’t that much entertaining attacking play, especially from the Blues who seemed to over-rely on the kick.”…

The End.