Multiphase approach may be trick to crossing All Blacks try line

All Blacks have won 30 Test matches since drawing 12-12 with Australia in August 2014

How does a team stop the All Blacks from crossing their try line? The short and to be fair obvious answer is with great difficulty. The last team to prevent New Zealand from scoring a try in a Test match was Australia. That Bledisloe Cup match took place in Sydney on August 16th, 2014, and ended in a 12-12 draw.

In the intervening 26 months, Steve Hansen's All Blacks have won 30 Test matches – they lost two, to South Africa (2014) and Australia (2015) – breaking the record for consecutive victories (18) against Tier 1 nations, equalling the world record of amassing a four-try bonus point in 10 successive matches and for good measure claiming two Bledisloe Cups, two Rugby Championships (2014 and 2016) and the 2015 Rugby World Cup.

During that run of matches, only one team, the Wallabies in that 27-19 win in Sydney (2015), have outscored New Zealand in try-scoring terms (3-2); Sekope Kepu, Adam Ashley Cooper and Nic White crossed the All Blacks' line that day.

Two countries limited Hansen's team to one try, South Africa in a 14-10 defeat in Wellington (2014) and Samoa in a 25-16 loss in Apia (2015). Six opposing teams in New Zealand's 30 winning Tests since the aforementioned draw have managed to keep the final deficit on the scoreboard below double figures. Incidentally, the handicap for Saturday's Test match at Soldier Field in Chicago is Ireland + 23 points.


In the 10 Test matches that New Zealand have played in 2016 to date, the All Blacks have dotted down on 60 occasions at an average at six tries per match. In that same period they have conceded 11 tries at a parsimonious 1.1 per game.

So on the basis that New Zealand will score tries, the key for the opposition is scoring more. Of the 11 conceded by the All Blacks in the last 10 matches, six originated – that is to say the final sequence of play ahead of a try – in the New Zealand 22. Nine were scored from inside the All Blacks’ half and only two came from deep, so to speak, starting in the opposition half.

Moved wide

Five of the 11 tries, or just over 45 per cent, came from Welsh players in the three-Test series last summer, three (27 per cent) from Argentineans, two from Australians, while Bryan Habana was the only Springbok to score a try.

In the first Test, Wales number eight Taulupe Faletau began with a ruck on the New Zealand 22, the ball was moved wide and Liam Williams forced his way past a couple of tacklers, grounded about six metres short of the line.

The ball was then spun wide out the back of forward runners, allowing Faletau to cross unopposed in the opposite corner. The second try came when outhalf Dan Biggar fielded a long punt, Liam Williams ran it back stepping past three tacklers and racing clear before passing to the supporting Rhys Webb.

The opening try in the second Test was scored by Alun Wyn Jones in the corner, again when Wales attacked with width. Liam Williams ran a great line taking a short pass for a fine individual effort, while the third came when Jamie Roberts charged down a chip on the Welsh 22, re-gathered, ran 60 metres, linked with Rhys Priestland who fed Jonathan Davies.

A little bit of a pattern emerges when looking at the 11 tries in total in that teams have managed to get outside the New Zealand cover after multiphase play and also that there are holes in the midfield for a trailing runner on an inside pass.

Argentine wing Santiago Cordero profited from the latter gambit. Facundo Isa's was the result of a pushover try, while Joaquin Tuculet's came from a cross-kick and a fortuitous bounce. Nick Phipps crashed over from a few metres out wide, Habana's was a gorgeous angle on to a short pass, while Arnold proved unstoppable from about eight metres.

When Ireland lost 24-22 to New Zealand in 2013 they matched the All Blacks in the try count, 3-3, a figure they’re probably going to need to tilt in their favour come Saturday.

John O'Sullivan

John O'Sullivan

John O'Sullivan is an Irish Times sports writer