Wynne Gray

Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

Rugby: Bray - Thumbs up for scrum work

Sanzar refs' boss picks out set pieces in first All Blacks-Pumas match as example of how they should work

This year's first All Blacks-Pumas clash is being hailed as a poster game for the global scrum trials.

The sides delivered an intriguing battle during their Hamilton test which suffered when rain fell consistently after the first quarter to leave a slippery Waikato Stadium surface.

Conditions restricted the teams' work but Sanzar referees boss Lyndon Bray has pinpointed their first-half scrum work as an example for others to emulate.

"[It] showed what we can do - with just one reset scrum and one scrum penalty - with a very good engagement, contest and co-operation between referees and packs," he said.

"It is about the contest and teams being able to exert pressure on each other. We don't want to lose that, but at the same time it has to be both legal and effective to still having scrums completed and ensure that teams can still launch attacks off scrums."

Bray was assessing a range of issues for referees including the 70 per cent targets for scrums to work on their first hit and for ball to be cleared in 3s while also gauging the offside lines at rucks and turnovers.

The crouch, bind, set commands were new to the Rugby Championship and Bray said data from six games were not yet enough to assess the impact. Coaches and players were adjusting and there were signs teams understood they could not "chase and hit" any more.

Bray picked out the start of the All Blacks-Pumas duel to emphasise the law's aims but conceded progress had slipped in the last round when the All Blacks played the Springboks and Wallabies met the Pumas.

"It is important we win back that stability post the engagement."

Talk about the scrum is sweet music to the Pumas and the All Blacks will have to be at their best on Sunday in La Plata, to stay with the hosts in that set-piece area.

It is one of a clutch of areas which will focus attention as the championship heads into its deciding two rounds. Confident talk continues from the hosts about their ability to stay with their rivals and the standard of the competition.

The All Blacks won a scrappy duel in Hamilton 28-13 where they suffered several injuries, lost experienced loosehead Tony Woodcock to flu at halftime and struggled to contain the Pumas scrum.

The Pumas were also aggressive on defence and brought an attitude which belied the pounding they had taken from the Boks at the start of this year's series.

At home, the Pumas should have nicked a draw in the niggling rematch with the Boks where they showed a huge improvement in their organisation and attitude.

They should bring those qualities once more this Sunday and will be buoyed by the injury absence of both Richie McCaw and Daniel Carter.


Rugby Championship

Pumas v All Blacks, La Plata, Sunday 11am NZT

- NZ Herald

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