Wynne Gray

Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

All Blacks: Errors pay off under new scrum rules

The All Blacks' athletic prowess is unquestioned. Photo / Christine Cornege
The All Blacks' athletic prowess is unquestioned. Photo / Christine Cornege

New scrum rules were supposed to offer an even contest. At the very top level of the game, on the evidence of the All Blacks and Argentina's latest combat, they seem to benefit the side which has made a mistake.

The crouch, bind, set commands are an invitation for the team without the put-in to create an eight-man monster. A powerful, concerted push like the Pumas generated did not allow either All Black hooker the freedom to strike for the ball.

All Black tighthead Charlie Faumuina confirmed those issues after the clumsy 28-13 victory in wet, awkward conditions at Waikato Stadium. Unlike the French, who have often held a "no scrum, no win" theory, the All Blacks had the widespread clout to beat those problems and set up an enthralling Eden Park clash with the unbeaten Springboks.

"Too much movement on our ball and we couldn't get that second shunt coming through the way we wanted to get it," Faumuina said.

The Pumas' scrum created pressure in the tough conditions while the All Blacks did not have the cohesion they wanted.

"When the hooker lifts his foot it makes a massive difference," Faumuina said. "Obviously the other team don't have to do it and the pressure is on all the time. It feels that kind of way while the hookers and props are trying to do their tricks.

"Argentina were as tough as I have faced in test rugby so big ups to them, they said they were going to bring it."

They used their regular combination well and showed the benefits of training and playing together for some time. Loosehead prop Marcos Ayerza was a smaller man but he had given Faumuina a hard time.

It was a night when the All Blacks maintained their unbeaten season but will want to rethink some of their work around match management and rugby smarts.

Their athletic prowess is unquestioned and their range of skills, such as Kieran Read's run and offload to Aaron Smith, is high quality. Their instincts and/or methods are based around high intensity, high endurance, high skills and interaction. They want to compete strongly at set phase and then work the stuffing out of their rivals through defence and ball movement. That's on a good night or even one with a few climate changes.

But not when persistent rain delivers trouble in contact and where dominating territory numbs the defending side. Offering tacklers chances all over Waikato Stadium gave the Pumas more chances to create mistakes or profit from errors.

Whatever their limitations, the Pumas did not lack courage for the contest. If they got a chance to sack an All Black body, the job was done. Conditions, as All Black boss Steve Hansen said, suited neither team but he agreed the All Blacks could have kicked the ball more instead of chasing the bonus point for four tries.

Interim skipper Kieran Read thought it was the best defensive effort from his team this season, though he and Hansen conceded some issues with the scrum.

"What the new scrums have done is create a heck of a lot of pressure," said Hansen.

"It is sort of like a tug of war. Both teams are set and the power goes on and they put the ball in. What we are seeing sometimes is a team receiving the ball and the guy goes to hook it and there is a release of that power and the defending side comes over the top of them."

- NZ Herald

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