The Wallabies had planned for it, Dave Rennie said
Why did no one go for a drop-goal in Bledisloe Cup?
In the riveting final moments of the Bledisloe Cup draw at the weekend, what a difference a drop-goal could have made.
Following the 16-16 stalemate, Wallabies boss Dave Rennie wondered why his team did not attempt a drop-goal after reclaiming possession, following a monster kick from Reece Hodge that cannoned off the posts at the death. According to the coach, Australia had planned for last-gasp scenarios like this.
In the aftermath, Rennie said: “We practised it (drop-goals) during the week. James O’Connor dropped back in the pocket, I’m not sure what happened there around communication, but we ended up going wider and turned it over. An opportunity lost, obviously.”
James O’Connor is capable – in July he slotted a match-winner to lead the Reds to a 31-24 over the Western Force. However, look at his Test stats and he has never scored a drop-goal in any of his 53 Wallaby appearances.
Neither has veteran centre Matt Toomua in his 53 run-outs in gold. Reece Hodge, who came off the bench and shot for goal from deep? He’s never slotted a Test drop-goal either. Wherever you look, it would have been a first for some Wallaby had they taken it on and scored. And what a moment it would have been.
If you look at the All Blacks, it’s a similar picture. When Beauden Barrett pulled out before the game with an injury, they lost someone who has slotted two drop-goals in his Test career – both coming on tour in 2018, with one against England (a Test win) and one against Ireland (a Test loss).
Richie Mo’unga has never scored a droppie in an International. Neither has Jordie Barrett, who scored two penalty kicks in this draw. Damian McKenzie is a no too.
Of course, this doesn’t mean they are not capable of doing so now. But as it turns out, unlike the Wallabies, the All Blacks did not even practice for such an outcome.
“To be honest, in the first week that we were together, no we haven’t practised (drop-goals),” New Zealand boss Ian Foster said post-match, of the closing stages when they could have eschewed throwing the ball to the wide channels. “But do we normally as we build through a campaign? The answer is probably yes. But there’s a whole lot of things that both teams would’ve put to one side, because when you go into your first test you can’t cover everything.
“If you isolate it down to our moment. (It is the) first game together, we’ve got Jordie (Barrett) screaming for the ball on one side and there was a clear opportunity. But perhaps what he didn’t quite see is that we’ve got forwards at half-back, we didn’t have a nine there to give him a crisp pass.
“Was it the best option? Probably not. Did we have a chance to chill that down and keep doing what we were doing and get Richie and Jordie in behind? Yes we did. So we’ve got to learn from that.”
Interestingly, in early 2019, the publication the Rugby Almanack stated that in 2018 – barring those two Barrett drop-goals on tour – there was not a single drop-goal scored in all of New Zealand’s first-class rugby that year.
Is it a dying art?
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