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Rugby Championship 2017: New Zealand vs Australia six things we learned

The second match between the two teams in a week was a pulsating contest that showed what rugby can be at its very best.


New Zealand beat Australia 35-29 in one of the more thrilling Test matches of this – or any other – lifetime on Saturday night. Here are six things we learned from the epic battle:

The All Blacks sometimes play too fast

The All Blacks kill teams by shifting tempo and playing at a speed their opponents can’t match. The only problem with this strategy is that sometimes the Kiwis try to go too fast and only end up causing their own problems.

Inside eight minutes of this game, Sonny Bill Williams had already had four handling errors. The All Blacks were just a touch off on their timing and although they were building pressure and testing the Aussie defence, they were failing to score more because of their own mistakes than anything the Australians were doing to stop them. This can lead to frustration and problems if the mistakes aren’t fixed quickly.

Games are more fun when the All Blacks are playing from behind

We rarely get the chance to see New Zealand playing from behind and trying to run down a team. The All Blacks start so fast – and so powerfully that games are often out of sight quickly.

This idea though was turned on its head on Saturday night. Israel Folau put the Aussies ahead within 30 seconds of the kickoff with a magical intercept try that saw him race the length of the field. Then – from a disputed line-out – Michael Hooper showed incredible strength to stay standing in a Kieran Read tackle, before breaking through and dotting down. A Bernard Foley conversion, followed by a try from the same player, and the All Blacks were 17-0 down.

Ned Hanigan should have seen yellow

I have no idea if Ned Hanigan knew he was stopping a certain try or not with just over 20 minutes gone. My gut tells me that he was just trying to get out of the way and that the ball came so fast from Ben Smith that he hadn’t retreated in time to get back onside. Either way, he should have seen yellow as it was an act that stopped a try.

I don’t think a penalty try would have been the right call – that just seems a touch harsh – but Hanigan’s behind took down a pass intended for an unmarked Rieko Ioane and stopped a New Zealand attack cold. It was worth 10 minutes in the win.

Being onside on kickoffs has become optional

This one is more of a pet peeve than anything else, but the number of players that are offside and contesting balls on kickoffs has reached epidemic proportions.

The whole act of being behind the kicker when the ball is struck seems to have become optional at best – and ignored at worst – as chasers come barrelling down the field to hit the receiving side. I would guess that at least 50 percent of kickoffs in international matches are contested by players who are starting illegally and, honestly, that number might be low. This is a law I would happily see re-emphasised sometime soon.

You can’t give the All Blacks scrums inside the 22

The All Blacks are good from all over the pitch, but inside their opposition’s 22 they are an absolute nightmare to defend. Their second and third tries on the day both came from scrums much closer to the try line than that, tipping the game in their favour with only 20 minutes to play.

The problem here when trying to defend is that New Zealand just have so many options from the scrum. In the first half, it was the set piece itself that was dominating, while in the second it was the myriad of formations – and the strong line running – from the back line that was doing the damage. Aaron Smith is a master of these situations, seemingly always picking the right player to give the ball to and having the correct timing of pass to set up the All Blacks to score.

New Zealand always wins

The belief the Kiwis have is incredible. They could have given up multiple times, but that just isn’t the New Zealand way. Even with the Wallabies leading with three minutes to go, it still just felt like New Zealand would win. And, as always – they did.

What else did you notice? Let us know in the comments below!

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Steve Wright

Rugby Union editor at RealSport.

Steve is a devotee to all things rugby union with writing being just one way of showing his love for the game. He also plays for the highly successful Wichita Barbarians during XVs season, before taking his talents South (in the style of LeBron James) to play sevens for the HEB Hurricanes out of Dallas, Texas.

When not writing or playing rugby, Steve is found playing or watching soccer, or watching any one of dozens of other sports as an admitted competition junkie. He also finds time to release his inner nerd as a lover of all things gaming (board and video.)

Track down more of Steve's work at websites such as HeroSports.com, RuntoftheWeb.com, and TheGamer.com.

Rugby Championship 2017: New Zealand vs Australia six things we learned

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