Waz and Rob break down the Highlanders

With GP away we couldn’t produce the podcast but here is a look at our email chain.

Waz in BLACK, Rob in RED!

Thoughts from the weekend:
·        The win was off the back of suffocating team defence. Line speed was exceptional for the full 80 minutes and I can’t remember any tackles being missed. Highlanders are content to play for field position, back their D and then pounce on the mistakes that is produces – Great D albeit against a team that we know would have grunt up front but a lack of penetration in the backs. We have really taken teams apart when we can force errors and we have been luck to date that our scramble D has saved us a couple of tries.
·        State of the pitch was atrocious, took away the power from our scrum. Admittedly, wholesale changes in the tight 5 may have had some influence, but the way the ground cut up at every scrum was the main reason why scrums were such a shambles. – Terrible pitch, always has been. You and I have played on a few shockers in Australia ourselves (you know who you are… Brighton…. Onkas) but at that level it really does make a difference to the quality of the game. Side note, worst field in NZ was the All Blacks v Irish in Chch in the temporary stadium. Obviously extreme circumstances but nearly cost us our first test loss to the Bog Trotters. The Force tight 5 was probably their strength to be fair and did play pretty well in the first half.
·        Sopoaga again directed play brilliantly, tactical kicking was superb – Agreed. His D and his game management must put him at the front of the All Black crew at least for the Welsh tests…
·        Rob Thompson proved the old saying that “a kick is only as good as its chase”. Sopoaga’s kicks were brilliant anyway and Thompson’s chasing turned them into point scoring plays – As we talked about the last two weeks, Thompson has been impressive. Treeby was a big loss and with Buckman out it was looking like a glaring weakness. Need the boys to stay healthy. The Rebels were though and the Force are not much better. Masirewa and Rasolea can break the line but their organisational D is not great. And we have Fekitoa.
Thoughts for this weekend:
·        Force not to be taken lightly despite their form. We need to put them away with a bonus point and we need to do it in convincing fashion unlike the Canes v Kings last weekend. – As seasoned Highlanders supporters, you and I are used to that ‘missed a bonus point’ or that ‘lost to a cellar dweller’ feeling at times. The Blues loss sucked, but we have an opportunity to put the Force and the Reds away and bank maximum points before the bye…. LETS DO THIS. Hodgeson and McCalman are good players, man every team seems to have good loosies this year. We have Shane Christie on the bench so we are in good shape but need to beat them up at ruck time.
·        Opportunity to perhaps tweak the game plan slightly against a so-called lesser team – I would like to see more ball in hand rather than relying on the kicking game again. Need to ensure that later on in the season we can amend the game plan when required and not become too one dimensional. –Maybe if we shelved it for a wee while then we could bring it out later in the year. It is good to mix it up and mess with teams that have scouted a certain plan. I think there is definite merit in a game plan shift, but they need to have the personnel equipped on the bench to go back to the tried and true late in the game if it goes ti-up.