The All Blacks lost to Ireland due to a great number of things the Irish did right. You can read about Ireland’s perfect breakdown in particular here, where we deconstruct how Ireland use military grade decision-making to dominate this area. However, there was a switch in the All Blacks tactics late in the match that saw them make much greater gains for a short time. Here we will look at some of those changes and how effective they were at pressuring the Irish structure.
Using chip kicks in behind the rush defence
Here it’s easy to see plenty of space behind the Irish line. Because Ireland only uses 2 defenders in the backfield, they should be susceptible to chip kicks in behind the line.
The problem for the All Blacks is the superb positioning from the 2 Irish players in the backfield. In the second half, the All Blacks started trying kicks in behind the line. Here Perenara takes it to the line and puts a chip through for Barrett, only for it to be snuffed out by Stockdale.
The All Blacks would try it again a few minutes later when Savea sensed space, but again it was easily handled by Ireland.
With the results of these chip kicks not going their way, the All Blacks had to switch tactics once more. They would go for a more direct running approach that challenged the rush defence.
The incorporation of Crusaders style attack into All Blacks tactics
One of the best ways to beat the rush defence is to meet it with equal speed and aggression, carrying the ball right to the line with hard running players in support. If you would like to learn more about this approach, the All Blacks historic use of a dangerous running 10 is covered below.
In this match, the All Blacks used Mo’unga to play his Crusaders style game when he came on as a replacement 10. Here Mo’unga does this by carrying the ball right up to the line before sneaking a well-timed pass to Lienert-Brown.
The All Blacks then get quick ball from the ruck and send Kieran Read flying at the line. He lets another pass slip to Goodhue right across the face of the Irish defenders.
They are now finally eating up some metres against the world-class Irish defence. Several phases later a gap appears for Beauden Barrett to accelerate into.
Ireland survives thanks to clever positioning from Kearney to intercept the offload, but it’s clear this fast, aggressive approach is working. The All Blacks keep trying it as the game ticks on. Here again, Mo’unga goes straight to the line and this time holds the ball to keep Ireland guessing.
We will never know the outcome had the All Blacks tried this earlier in the game. What is 100% clear, is that Ireland successfully applied pressure for the majority of the contest and deserved the win. However, there is one final threat the All Blacks could be holding back.
How deliberately conservative All Blacks tactics lead to the loss to Ireland
In this example, Ireland uses their rush defence to stop the ball from getting past the All Blacks midfield. They successfully pressure Retallick into the mistake and go on the attack.
The All Blacks need a different tactic to get around the rush defence. But here instead of throwing a ball over the top to the currently unmarked Barrett, Perenara opts to pass to the heavily marked Goodhue.
By the time the ball gets to Ioane he’s well covered, and the opportunity is gone.
This is a departure from what we would see at Super Rugby level, where these players would throw a skip pass to get around this type of defence. This may be because of the looming threat of a Stockdale intercept, or they could be playing more conservatively than usual.
This wouldn’t be surprising leading up to a World Cup. There’s reason to believe Schmidt is holding something back as well, given Ireland barely used their no. 9 and 10 as ball carriers in this game compared to the rest of their season. Ireland will no doubt continue to hide some of their true tactics in the upcoming 6 Nations as well, and it will be interesting to see whether anything is revealed in the high-pressure environment of the upcoming tests.
The 1014 Rugby reviewed the All Blacks tactics from this game in significant detail over on their YouTube channel. See the following video for more information.
Do you think the All Blacks were holding anything back? Or did it just take them too long to adapt? Let us know your thoughts.