Box-kicks. Phil Kearns hates them. I thought they had some place if they were well executed, but lately I have found myself struggling to appreciate their utility. I analysed at the last Bledisloe Cup Test to see if they were as bad as I thought, or even worse.
Coding for these was pretty simple. I looked at:-
- Who kicked it.
- Where on the field the kick was made.
- Whether it was charged down or spoilt – this included setting to box-kick then getting caught before they could
- Gain or loss resulting from the kick
Determining what was a gain or loss was a little complex, as distance travelled by the kick is not enough to decide this. If the kick resulted in a return kick, or kicking duel, I marked where that ended.
- Clear territorial gain with or without possession
- Minor territorial gain with retained possession
- Win penalty at site of kick or downfield
- Kicked charged down
- Nett loss of territory after return kick, kicking duel
- Minor territory gain but lose possession or concede penalty
During the Test, the Wallabies made four box-kicks, all in the first half (in fact all in the first eight minutes), and all by Will Genia (unsurprisingly). Three were made from 35m out, the other from 45m out from the Wallaby line. Two were charged down, one resulting in a loss of territory and possession (first Wallaby play of the game), the other partially charged down conceding a penalty to the All Blacks 10m downfield. One resulted in a zero nett gain after a kicking duel, the final in a 15m gain, but conceding a penalty to the All Blacks.
Note the All Black players ready and moving on Genia’s first box-kick, and the relative lack of blockers. Note the same on his fourth kick, also partially charged down. It was conspicuous that the Wallaby chasers and blockers were absent, or ineffective.
Success rate = 0%
All Black Box-Kicks
During the Test, the All Blacks made 10 box-kicks, four in the first half by Aaron Smith, six in the second half with two by Smith, and four by Tawera Kerr-Barlow in a spirited three minute effort! All except three were made between 25 and 35m out from their line, one from 45m out, one from 55m and one from 18m out. Both players were caught once and unable to execute the kick (effectively a charge-down), and overall the All Blacks did better, with both Smith and Kerr-Barlow succeeding half the time.
Note the static Wallaby players in the first example, compared to the examples above, and note the greater number of All Black blockers in the second example. Although the All Blacks were far from perfect, they invariably had more and better chasers, and often had a better ‘screen’ in place.
Success rate =50%
In conclusion, I really struggle to see the upside of the box-kick for the Wallabies, if at all. Clearly, the key factors for a good box-kick are reasonable blockers (e.g.from a lineout, although that increases the distance the chasers have to go), and a good chase pack. The Wallabies consistently have neither. I think they should put a lot more work into practising it, or bin it.
What do you think, and why?