The Tuesday Top 5 - Green and Gold Rugby
All Blacks

The Tuesday Top 5

The Tuesday Top 5

Welcome back to the Top 5. A little late today, but hey, you know we’re worth the wait! This week we talk through the latest match from different perspectives, glance at the stats, get psyched for the NRC and end with a couple of feel good videos.

Optimist/Pessimist

Game two of this year’s Bledisloe is now in the history books and many people are talking about it from differing perspectives. So, what did you make of the Wallabies performance? Being that GAGR is all inclusive and welcomes all viewpoints we decided to firmly plant a foot in each side of the argument.

For the Optimists:

It was a much-improved Wallabies this week that rebounded really well after last week’s game and obviously didn’t let things get in to their head, as Brian Smith said in his post-game analysis, the “lunacy of optimism” can be a powerful tool if you can get your players to subscribe to it and that’s exactly what Cheika managed to do. The Wallabies showed up and made us proud. The skills and attitude that have been missing of late were finally on show proving that selections are now solidifying and the cohesion is coming. The defence really came together showing it just needed a bit more time to get the patterns and positioning set and more familiar to everyone, instilling the trust. It was great to see a real team effort and the intensity at a level that had the All Blacks rattled and making mistakes, forcing scoring opportunities. It was a fantastic effort that was ultimately just short and really with a bit of luck or one of the referee’s calls going our way and we could of been going to a decider in a few weeks’ time. Finally, we are back on track and looking like we are closing the gap to the Kiwis quickly.

Kurtley Beale scores at Barret's feet.

Kurtley Beale scores at Barret’s feet.

For the Pessimist:

There is an old saying in sports where it’s better to be lucky than good. Well this week we saw it in abundance. Last week the lack of basic skills was alarmingly apparent and the first 3 kick receptions just reminded us, reinforced it then rubbed salt in to the wound about the lack of basic skills like catching. They also say sport can be a leveller and they are right; as long as the Wallabies have the all the luck and the All Blacks are having a shocker with nothing going their way. Cheika’s persistent selections based on reputations not performance were on show on Saturday night. The scrum went backward as Moore continually tripped over his Zimmer frame. Hooper missed a game high 6 tackle and as usual, like all good 7’s, got zero turn overs showing his ineffectiveness at the breakdown. The overall performance was clouded (thank god for small mercies!) by the abundance of luck the Wallabies had making them look competitive. Missing 32 (20%) of their tackles shows the defence is still a real issue. Fortunately, the All Blacks coughed the ball up at critical times in attack otherwise we’d have been well on the way to a repeat of last week. Finally we saw some attack, but it took individual efforts to exploit some out of character All Black defensive mistakes. But even with all the luck and bounce of the ball we still came up short.

Embed from Getty Images

What do the stats tell us?

Well I’ve once again delved into the stats from the two Bledisloe Cup tests. It makes for some interesting reading.

All Stats

These are the attacking stats, taken out of the table above, separated for better comparisons.

Wallabies Attack Stats

All Blacks Attack Stats

All Attack Stats

Likewise with the defence stats.

Wallabies Defence Stats

All Blacks Defence Stats

All Defence Stats

Now, do you want to see something really interesting? Well remember how after the first test we were all hating on the Wallabies? They played terribly, didn’t they. Missed tackles, conceded far too many turnovers etc. Well, have a look at this.

Wallabie 1 All Blacks 2 Stats

Apart from a few areas (The AB’s would have to try bloody hard to match our Missed Tackle count at the moment), our stats from Match 1 are eerily similar to the All Black’s stats from Match 2. Heck, we even got in more offloads than they did. So while we were crucifying the Wallabies for their performance in the first game and lauding them for their performance in the second, it looks (on paper) like the All Blacks actually put in a Wallaby-esque performance in Dunedin. Yes, I believe we did play very well, I’m not going to take away from that performance.

I just found it interesting. That’s all.

The Reality

So whatever you made of it as either the pessimist or the optimist there is something we do need to accept.

15 years! Two games. That’s all it took. Two games and its gone again. So again we will wait another year and see after 16 years of promises will we finally win the damn cup? As usual the Rugby Championship is all about if we can be the bridesmaid if we can beat South Africa. Can somebody tell me the difference was between this year and last? One key point was based on the available evidence on Saturday night the All Blacks had a bad game and we didn’t get blown off the park like usual. The other is a glimmer of hope in that we have managed to score some tries this year.

Our defence; 30 missed tackles (30.6%) in game one in comparison to the All Blacks 23 (14.1%) and 32 missed tackles in game two (22.8%) in comparison to 14 (14.8%). No, it’s clear the defence is not fixed. It was noticeable that in game 2 the defensive patterns had gone back to basic and still was not doing an adequate job. To give a bit more of a benchmark we can see the All Blacks average missed tackle percentage is around the 14.5% mark across both the games while the Wallabies is 26%. The Springboks is at 16.9% and the Puma’s is 21.8% for the first two games of the Rugby Championship.

In attack: if we have the ball we struggle to use it effectively. Even when we dominate possession we still can’t seem to use it effectively. Game 2 was really interesting in that we only had possession for 39% of the game. The 18 turnovers by the All Blacks not opportunist tries goes some way to explain the story but it does beg the question with that much ball being coughed up, and some of our tries coming from “other” errors, why couldn’t we do more with the opportunities. 18 turnovers! One stat that might give an indicator about our attacking style is we are consistently at about 50% less line brakes than the All Blacks. Does that show we are not attacking the line enough or just doing it poorly?

Embed from Getty Images

Looking at this objectively on performance the current Wallaby record is unsatisfactory. The performance trends are not moving in the desired direction and it’s clear that the issues appear systemic and ingrained as there has been no radical performance spikes that correlate with changes. In sport coaches can be title winners one week and sacked not long after as team performances plunge even with the same players or system who you were successful with. We have seen that with Leicester in the EPL and the Crusaders who, after many years as bridesmaids under Blackadder, Scott Robinson brought the key element that yielded the results. Is it time for change again? I see the NSWRL do not have anywhere near the same patience as the ARU and seem to based their decisions on RESULTS!! (I know – wild right).

Is this current level of performance sustainable and acceptable? There are comparisons and lessons that can be drawn to Stuart Lancaster and England. Lancaster had a winning percentage of 61% when he was sacked but the key issue was when they lost: 4 times runners up in the Six nations and we all know about that RWC results.

Australian rugby right now needs to be on the right side of the ledger or winning hearts and minds by showing we are in the fight. Right now, it’s not happening and regardless of the rhetoric and conventional wisdom Rugby is not a long-term project in reality; it runs on yearly cycles and the direction dictates if there is change required or not.  In the Wallabies case, very much like Aussie rugby as a whole, its flat-lining and in rugby and sporting terms it’s still on a downwards trend. But it appears to be accepted and we seem sufficiently comfortable not to want to risk changing the performance balance in case it gets worse, and continue to hope for miracles or many repeats of the All Blacks bad luck and poor performance from last Saturday night. Stay the course and others misfortune will bail our arses out! Sounds eerily familiar.

Tainted love

So doing a bit of CSI on the corpse of Aussie rugby of late was always a little difficult until the veil was lifted post arbitration. As the swamp is being drained and we are now looking at the whole corpse (both the on and off field parts), we are starting to see a really sad but common factor (suspect) appearing and in some respects, it may show that wounds to Aussie rugby may be a crime of passion; committed by the love for the game that has provided a false reality in which they believe they were doing nothing wrong.

To understand this, we need to step back in time to when the game became professional here in Australia. In the early fledgling years, the professional game stated to create heroes on and off the field. But like any sport that goes professional it also creates a mini industry for those who have nothing or limited options post career. So we now see legends like John Eales on the ARU board and in commentary for Fox Sports. The ex-Brumbies player Brett Robinson on the Board of the ARU, Rod Kafer in commentary for Fox Sports and  national coaching director for the ARU: just to name a few of the ex-players who are part of the Fox Sport commentary team.  Then we have those who have chosen to take the coaching path like Bernie Larkham and to a lesser extent (player profile that is) Cheika himself.

Picture: Bruce Long Source: The Courier-Mail

Picture: Bruce Long Source: The Courier-Mail

Over the few weeks it’s been really sad to see the reputations of players being tainted by the fact they have the blood of Aussie rugby on their hands. Two of the above declined a near $50million dollar offer to help Aussie rugby and it appears are well behind the axe swinging plan.

On Saturday night pre-game I saw tweets and comments that the excessive hyperbole and frankly rubbish emanating from the some of those mentioned above (with support from the TV cast – Sorry fellas, but I like my commentators to call the match, not be cheerleaders!) in their roles on Fox Sports that supporters reported they had to change channel as it crossed the line and was becoming sickening. I must admit the hyperbole about this being the best team since the world cup was even pushing my tolerance.

When you step back and look at the incumbent administrators at the Super Rugby clubs who voted to cut the Force, the members of the ARU board whose qualifications have been called into question including two ex-players, the coaching issues of the Wallabies with two past players in the coaching set up; one currently can’t get the result the other is still yet to show he can; there seems to be a theme appearing and the suspects sadly are starting to be identified.

So looking at the crime scene we can clearly see that rugby in this country is alive and well, the TV figures for the Wallabies games are better than expected so even with the poor performances there is potential for growth if we can get some results. I have seen the reports about big crowds at the QLD Premier Rugby finals, big crowds at the Shute Shield finals. We have also seen the passion and numbers of the supporter base in the west.  For a sport that struggling financially and can’t get backers the fact that an offer of near $50 million, and financially guaranteeing the Force, as well as the Rebels being backed financially seem at odds with the desperation to save $6 million per year as there is no other options.

Its circumstantial evidence at this point but it’s looking more likely a crime of passion as the blood is now showing up on the hands of those mentioned above and many like them. Staunchly believing they are doing the best for the game – and they did for a while. But the amateur era where they learned their craft and how Rugby operated is a bygone time and what now we find is they are without ideas, nor made investments in the game and are desperately out of touch with a rugby public, game and contemporary commercial environment.

Ironically, the key sponsor of the Wallabies, Qantas, is a perfect example for the ARU to turn to to get some clear advice, guidance and model on how to take an entity from the brink in a tough commercial environment and return it to its glory days posting profits in a really tough global market. It’s a clear message that times have changed and you need the right people for the job.

One thing that was initially overlooked but has become very apparent once you step back and survey the crime scene; the crime scene tape seems to encircle just the ARU, Wallabies and Super Rugby. Strange coincidence or the clear indication of a crime of passion by a specific group or demographic who are out of touch with the game, supporters and public?

Hey the NRC is on – we think, maybe, ah… possibly – WTF?

So just when you thought you had seen all the different ways possible the ARU can screw things up……..well apparently not!

So what the best way to kick off a national competition? Screw up the time of the opening game!

No seriously. So as of late Monday night, you had the following choices for game #1 of the round:  Canberra Vikings v QLD Country.

  • Rugby.com.au has kick off at 3pm
  • Canberra Vikings Facebook has kick off at 3pm
  • The original NRC draw as published on GAGR has kick off at 1pm
  • Fox Sports has it listed as kick off (and streaming time) at 1pm

NRC Times

So, leave it with us and we will hit up twitter and have an answer for you in 48-72hrs!

UPDATE: Kick off confirmed as 3 pm (thanks @NRC_Live and Canberra Vikings Facebook) However Fox Sports is still listing it as a 1pm kick off and stream, though the person who runs the @NRC_Live twitter account told me that they have now informed them of the correct kick off time.

The big question I have is how were people notified of the changed time? I haven’t seen any mention of it here on GAGR, and had to do a bit of searching. Have there been any other changes to the original draw? Because to be honest, I looked at the draw as put here by Rugby Reg for reference, it was only by chance I saw the change to 3pm mentioned on Facebook (which I don’t usually even look at).

If you can work out the game time throw the kids out, send the partner shopping or drag them all to a game. Just watch it any way you can.

Every Saturday and Sunday 3pm match will be televised LIVE on FOX SPORTS, with the remaining match-ups LIVE streamed on foxsports.com.au and via the FOX SPORTS app.

ROUND 1

Saturday September 2

Canberra Vikings vs QLD Country –  Viking Park, Canberra – 3.00pm (not 1:00 pm as it says on Fox Sports)

Brisbane City vs Fiji – Ballymore Stadium, Brisbane –  3.00pm

Sunday September 3

Greater Sydney Rams vs NSW Country Eagles – TG Millner Oval, Sydney – 3.00pm

Perth Spirit vs Melbourne Rising McGillivray Oval, Perth – 3.00pm (5.00pm AEST)

Let’s end on a positive

Last year in the Bledisloe Cup matches we scored 1 try in the first 2 tests. ONE.

Whatever we may think of the Wallabies performances so far this year, they have definitely improved greatly on that, with 9 tries in 2 matches. Here they are in all their try-ness.

Apologies for the All Blacks try sneaking in there, I couldn’t edit it out.

  • Gurza

    possession stats for game 2 amazing… 61/39 – wallabies still managed to score same number of tries… shame foley’s boot not working..

  • Bernie Chan

    Was the better defending a product of the team finally getting used to Grey’s patterns and the associated positional switching…or was it more related to the fact that they reverted to a simplified “defend your position” strategy (was mid flight so didn’t see the game…). Kerevi was widely criticized for missing 4 tackles in Test 1…Hooper missed 6 in Test 2 and got zero turnovers…wonder what his KPIs include…?

    • Brisneyland Local

      Bernie, was definitely a different defensive plan. Even my 10 year old daughter picked that one up. That is how starkly different it was. Yep and Kerevi got scapegoated for that there is little doubt. Hooper rarely wears any bad press, his stats are bad, and yet there is no doubt over his position, Foley’s, or even perhaps Moore. But I am pretty sure Moore wont be in the next team. Foley and Hooper will be!

    • Kiwi rugby lover

      Hooper is well protected. Maybe Mumm passed on his information to Hooper before he left

  • Kiwi rugby lover

    Wow! Just wow!

    Great write up MST and so good to see spo much passion even though this is the hardest write up I have read in GAGR. I don’t find fault with any of it and especially like the way you outlined both sides of the argument – even if it did come across as though you were more on the pessimistic side. The interesting thing about the 2nd game is were the AB mistakes caused by pressure from the Wallabies, or by themselves trying too hard all the time. There is no doubt that the Wallabies stepped up – thank god. But there is also no doubt that the AB’s made more mistakes in one game than is usual. The real issue is why. I personally think it was both the pressure from the Wallabies who realised they had stuffed up the previous week and were out to make amends and a lack of patience with some of the AB’s.

    Personally I will be more convinced if I see the changed play continuing through the games against the Boks and Argies and into the Brisbane game. I think the jury is still out myself but still impressed to see the changes.

    • Brisneyland Local

      I dont think we will see a change for the Bokkies. I think we are trying to tailor a plan to beat the AB’s. Against the Boks our scrum will collapse, and our defensive weaknesses will be exposed as much as ever.
      I think the errors on the AB’s side were a little from column A and a little from column B. But the AB’s were definitely over amped. Once they settle down and concentrate we were never going to win that match. 5 minutes to go and 10 points down (not that they were in this match) I would still put my money on the AB’s to win, because they believe they can and back themselves.

      • Waz_dog

        Completely agree BL – it’s frustrating that every RC we are facing the ABs from the get go, it’d be great to play the Boks or argies as a sighter for the bledisloe. Once they’re 1-0 up near impossible to come back from there.

        • Kiwi rugby lover

          That’s a great point. Why are we playing out before we meet the Boks or Argues? I’d like to see two round robin games so we’d all play each other before the rematch

        • jamie

          10 year deal with SFS I believe. First Bled goes there

        • Who?

          We play Aus/NZ and SA/Arg home and away first to reduce the travel requirements, and to get back to back Test weekends. With the travel, any week you’ve got teams travelling across the Indian or Pacific, there needs to be a bye.

        • Kiwi rugby lover

          Would make it better though if they changed

  • mikado

    Great stuff MST!

  • Miss Rugby

    Love the dead body outline! So apt right now.

  • Pearcewreck

    Good stuff MST.
    Keep telling like it is.

  • Wallabrumby

    I am generally optimistic about the Wallabies, but I have been erring on the pessimistic side since that second test as I didn’t see enough to say it was a massive improvement, except the All Blacks had a shocker and we STILL couldn’t put them away. Some clinical mistakes at crucial times really hurt us

    Would love to be optimistic but I just wasn’t convinced no matter what the score board said, and the stats back up my concerns.

    1. Defence
    * Positives – Structure much better, players holding the line and defending in positions. TK shored up that back line. Scramble D showed heart
    * Negative – still too many missed tackles, although I accept ABs ball runners are VERY Good so going to always miss a few. Hooper i thought had a shocker, hope he can turn that around.

    2. Attack
    * Positives – Capitalising on turn over ball and awareness in support play when a sniff of a opportunity. Handling skills definitely on the up.
    * Negatives – To score 9 tries in 2 tests against the ABs not too many negatives, only concern is we are still lacking a big line bending forward that we would need in a tighter game (Vs England or Boks)

    3. General Play
    * Positives – Support Play improving, rucks hit better and handling improving.
    * Negatives – Here we go. Gen play kicking, rubbish! Up and under either going to long or no chasers, kicking for touch terrible, territory kicking an absolute farce. Why do we give it to Foley when we know DHP, Beale and Hodge (when on) have more distance than him? Surely the coaches can intervene there?
    Attacking and defensive rucks – we have no one to pilfer the ball, Mcmahon had a good one but he had all the time to go at it and still nearly stuffed it up. A few situations there a G Smith or Pocock would have really helped. In attack we are hitting more rucks, but still falling off a few.
    Kick offs – first Kick off DHP came flying into the back of the second row jumping causing a turn over, Folau did it later in the game which factored in that last turn over. Cant fathom it.

    4. Attitude – a positive improvement. Hats off to the fellas, was proud of that one no matter what the negatives above are.

    5. Selections – some work to be done as we all know

    Looking forward to more improvement throughout the RC and then a clean sweep in the end of season Euro tours to come! optimistic for that

  • ForceFan

    Good balanced write-up MST.

  • idiot savant

    MST, for a while there I thought you were Henry Kissinger. Negotiating peace between east and west. Then you had to back a horse! Belief systems eh? Don’t they get in the way of an easy life? Ask Kim Jong-un, or various Ayatollahs, or… Pauline Hanson. Great write up. So much to chew on.

    On the stats, the takeaways for me were: make a lot of tackles and you will always be competitive and you if you don’t kick its not going to help you.

    Your point about the cosy circle of ARU, Wallabies, and Fox Sports is well made. No AFL style commission running this game! And when you consider that the decision to ditch free to air television for the arms of Foxtel for Super Rugby is actually a factor in the slow death of the game in Australia, its pretty chilling. Because they’re circling the wagons… and firing buckshot at 50 million buckeroos.

    But there I go being negative again. See what you’ve started! I should be more positive. The glass in front of me should be half full. The boys played their guts out and did us proud, 9 tries against the world champs in 120 minutes, Cheka is a brilliant coach (actually he is pretty damn good at some things), we are on track to win the next RWC (just need a back up 10), and the NRC is about to start. Oh look at that, my glass is full again…

  • MungBean

    It’s a huge problem that FoxSports is dominated by ARU bods. It’s an equally huge problem that most rugby press content – foxsports & fauxfacts – is clearly spoonfed pressers, which are manipulated into a “story”. The only honest reporting seems to come from Wayne Smith, Jim Tucker & blogs. The rest is sycophantic dross. You also have to wonder if the ARU is governing access depending on how much a journo sucks up.

    The ‘echo chamber’ is a real problem creeping into all facets of public life & it’s no surprise that Australian rugby is susceptible given the dominance by ‘elites’. There’s nothing worse for an institution than to feed itself on its own bullshit.

    The lack of a feedback loop is incredibly deleterious to any organisation.

  • Nutta

    Great article Mst.

    Fight The Power.

    Classic case of making a good Teacher the Principle and FUBAR’ing both areas as a result. Have a look at the Sydney rugby landscape and you will see it replicated in microcosm as well.

  • Woolfe

    Great write up MST, but in this case the butler is innocent, the whole board are covered in blue blood.

  • BigNickHartman

    MST re: NRC, Jed Holloway had to wear the training kit of the Greater Sydney Rams because their jerseys weren’t yet available. For a competition run by those in clubland who think the ARU are doing a bad job, they’re sure doing a good job proving that their complaints are mostly about politics and not merit

    • RugbyReg

      agree. Re the Vikings game it was meant to be 1pm. Vikings approached the ARU this week to push it back because of Jnr Club footy. Neither the ARU nor Fox wanted a clash with the Brisbane v Fiji game and wanted to push for a 5pm game, but the Brumbies ball is that night. In the end the ARU and Fox, reluctantly, agreed to the shift. Not ideal but again shows poor planning by the clubs.

      • MST

        Thats odd Reg as the Vikings have been advertising at event since last week that starts at 1pm that Bernie Larkham is attending. And based on the tweet from the NRC someone had forgotten to pass the message to Foxsport.

        • RugbyReg

          The Vikings have appointed a 3rd party PR company to run their media / promotion of the NRC. It sounds like there is a gap between the company and the consultant.

          As for Fox Sports, again, that may well have just been the guy who forgot to update the program/

    • MST

      Thanks Nick. I agree. The amateur clublanders should wear the blame rather than the professional organisation that runs the competition. I am desperately trying to get my boss on board the all care no responsibility train but he just goes on about being accountable.

  • Bay35Pablo

    “Every Saturday and Sunday 3pm match will be televised LIVE on FOX
    SPORTS, with the remaining match-ups LIVE streamed on foxsports.com.au
    and via the FOX SPORTS app.”
    I thought the idea was to have 1pm and 3pm games so we could watch both between Fox and streaming ….?

  • Tommy Brady

    Outstanding work as always MST. Thank you for such an insightful, well thought out piece of analysis.

    Could I ask your views (and others here) on the resurgence of spectator interest in club rugby in Sydney and Brisbane.

    1. Following the disappointing Super Rugby season for the Reds and Waratahs, was this lift in interest driven by spectators who are true rugby supporters merely desperate to witness an even contest – and perhaps the chance their team may win?

    2. How much of this fan support was purely a lift in local loyalty and how much was a form of rebellious vote against the ARU who it is well known, do not support club rugby in either NSW or Queensland.

    3. On the assumption that the quality of the NRC rugby will be higher than club rugby, can we expect the same rugby fans who so actively attended club rugby will equally support the NRC? If not, what would be the reasoning?

    4. Irrespective of questions regarding the format and/or structure of the Super Rugby competition, crowds in Sydney in 2014 and Brisbane in 2011 show support for both the Waratahs and Reds is strong when these sides are playing attractive rugby and winning. Are those same dynamics still in existence today?

    Oh, and last one…

    How strongly do you believe Wallaby Head Coach Michael Cheika and his coaching staff can successfully formulate game plans to beat South Africa and Argentina in the upcoming RC matches? Or is what we saw last Saturday night in Dunedin the model now to be rolled out, irrespective of the opponent, venue and situation?

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Brumbies first, then for the love of the game. "It infuriates me to be wrong when I know I'm right." —Moliere

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