WELLINGTON – The All Blacks players and coach were at loggerheads on Sunday as they debated whether they should have attempted a potential match-winning drop goal in their upset loss to the Springboks in Wellington.
For the final four minutes of Saturday’s Test, and trailing by two points, the All Blacks unleashed an ultimately fruitless battering of the Springbok line in search of a try.
In the wake off the 36-34 loss, scrumhalf TJ Perenara maintained the on-field decision not to go for a drop goal was “still the right call”.
But coach Steve Hansen saw it differently.
“Should we have drop-kicked a goal? Yep, of course we should have. And we had plenty of opportunity to, and we didn’t organise ourselves,” he said.
It was a decision which lit up social media, with rugby pundits overwhelmingly agreeing the All Blacks should have gone for the three points when they were on offer.
But with All Black kicker Beauden Barrett having an off night, and Damian McKenzie spilling the ball metres short of the line in the final play of the game, Hansen said the drop goal issue was not the reason why they lost.
“With 10 minutes to go, we could’ve won it twice over. We had plenty of opportunities, we just didn’t close it out, and there’s the biggest learning,” he said.
“What have we got to do when the clock’s running down (and) the scoreboard’s against us?
“We’ve just got to take a big breath and do things right and be clinical and, if we’d done that last night, we would’ve won the game. But we didn’t.”
The Springboks were the first to admit luck was on their side, with Barrett missing four shots at goal, and McKenzie dropping the ball when a try was on in the last play of the day.
But rather than fault the All Blacks, South African coach Rassie Erasmus praised them for continuing to search for a match-winning try when they trailed by just two points, time was up and a drop goal was the obvious solution.
“That’s New Zealand. They were going for the try, that’s the way they do things,” he said.
“It’s a compliment to them. A drop goal is not the New Zealand way.
“Getting a result in New Zealand, with a lot of luck, gives us hope for when we go to the World Cup.”
Former Springbok coach Nick Mallett, who had predicted a South African loss, led global questioning of the All Black tactics, saying he thought “New Zealand erred” by not taking the drop goal opportunity.
But the All Blacks said they weighed up all options and were preparing to take a shot at goal when they saw an overlap situation.
“The chat to set up for a drop goal did definitely happen, but we get a picture that we back ourselves to score in,” Perenara said.
“And, looking back on it, I think it’s still the right call.”
🎙️ "Looking at our own game we are obviously disappointed and there are some areas that we are going to have to work on." - Steve Hansen on last night's loss to the Springboks in Wellington.— All Blacks (@AllBlacks) September 16, 2018
➡️ https://t.co/EEhT382JYn pic.twitter.com/37MsPmkIB0
It’s not the first time the All Blacks have lost a match after putting a try ahead of a drop goal.
The last time was when they were beaten by France 20-18 in the 2007 World Cup quarter-final.AFP