Epic Battles in the 2023 Rugby World Cup Quarter-finals
The 2023 Rugby World Cup quarter-finals will be remembered for a long time. On one hand, Fiji's dream was stopped by England, but Argentina managed to get the better of a tough Wales. But the other two games were a clash of the Titans between the first 4 teams in the World ranked before the RWC. Ireland (1) vs New Zealand (4) and France (2) vs South Africa (3).
Let’s dig into the last two games both played at the Stade de France looking at the similarities and key tactical moments of the matches.
Both matches were very close in terms of the result, with a +1 by New Zealand and +4 by South Africa.
But also the statistics show us that they were very similar in terms of statistics between the two matches.
Both losing teams from the Northern Hemisphere had more possession, more passes, and more carries.
The winning teams from the Southern Hemisphere have had the exact opposite but excelled in the kicking game. (not only on a quantitative but also qualitative level), more turnover in favour and obviously more tackles.
Both teams had the same number of penalties.
Therefore, speaking of the key factors of the victories of the All Blacks and Springboks, there was the correct use of the kicking game.
To win matches it's not enough just to kick more but you have to know how to kick well and at the right time in the match.
IRELAND VS NEW ZEALAND
In Saturday's victory the All Blacks were always in the lead and among the highlights of the match there was certainly Sam Whitelock's final intervention in the ruck after 30+ defensive phases but the Key moment for me was the first try scored by Leicester Fainga’anuku which lead the Ian Foster’s guys over the score break from +6 to +13.
The try begins with a kick by James Lowe recovered by New Zealand in their own half. Beauden Barrett shows all his IQ by kicking the ball right behind the Irish defence line in the central area, forcing Mack Hansen and James Lowe himself (the wingers) to squeeze in to chase the ball and the attacker fullback.
Hugo Keenan, the Irish fullback, was out of position because he chased the first kick.
The bounce of the ball helps the Auckland Blues player's audacity and in one phase the ball goes wide allowing Fainga'anuku and Ioane to run against a scrambled defence on the back foot.
The centre and the wing work together passing the ball to each other with the Crusaders player scoring over the line after a great offload by Rieko Ioane tackled by Aki.
A kicks and chases masterclass to gain momentum soaking defenders in and releasing the quality of the backs in open space.
FRANCE VS SOUTH AFRICA
A Nation's drama unfolded on Sunday evening. the home team sent home by the reigning world champions of South Africa.
Everything happened in a match that was tough and uncertain until the end.
The substantial difference was the impact of the Springboks' bomb squad with South Africa capable of keeping calm when they were down in the score and shifting the momentum of the match to their side with monstrous performances by their players.
South Africa's attacking approach of generating chaos from the air was the key to the match.
The transition from defence to attack, from possession to regaining possession through the kicking game was fabulous.
In fact, 3 of the 4 tries scored by South Africa come from turnover situations and therefore regaining possession using the high ball (2, Arendse and De Allende) or attacking the depth (1, Kolbe).
On the second try of the game In the second try Ramos and Jalibert found themselves far away and out of position with only Dupont controlling the opposite channel.
The focus of the attack is to kick a high ball contestable with plenty of hunters to go for the ball and check the area around the catch.
Woki didn’t catch the ball properly and it’s a free ball for the attack with De Allende running hard and bringing the team just a few meters close to the try line.
One pick and go, another pass from Reinach to De Allende and South Africa is ahead again in the game.
The same approach was used in the first try with a huge box kick by Reinach and retention of the ball with Arendse free to run over the line after another duel lost by France in the air.
South Africa, masters of the skies.
* Graphs of own elaboration and images taken from longomatch. *
Author: Ottavio Arenella