I HAD to watch last week’s Test match twice to get a good feel for it and make sure my initial instincts were right.
And I was disappointed with our performance.
We weren’t great in the first test but fortunate enough to get the win, and we needed to improve last week because New Zealand were always going to improve – they are the No.1 team in the world and not going to make the same mistake two weeks running.
We dominated in the middles for most of the first Test and they were always going to tighten-up their middle. For us to then play the way we did was disappointing.
Sometimes we were in their 20 and taking it up on the fourth with one out carries with one of the props. This is the area where someone needs to take charge and organise an attacking threat and release our best attackers into space.
Our last tackle options weren’t good enough for Test level and we never put them under serious pressure or gave ourselves a chance to compete for the ball.
Having the crowd behind the lads, willing them to win, really will provide the lift of having an 18th man in the squadMartin Gleeson
We were giving their back three easy starts to their sets. It looked like the last play crept up on us at times and we didn’t look prepared for it.
I also thought we’d have gone into the game with a couple of changes but Steve McNamara stuck with his side and I’m not sure what he’ll do this week after the result.
Maybe we were a little bit over confident and New Zealand learned a lot more from the first Test and they upped their game.
They also made a couple of changes which strengthened their chances of winning.
It is what you’d expect from the best side in the world.
Will we make changes for this week? I would… but it’s up to the coaching staff to get it right for this week.
We only conceded one try and our goal line defence was really strong. I thought Kallum Watkins was putting fires out everywhere.
New Zealand play a very direct game relying on offloads and reacting to Issac Luke. On the back of that their kicking game was spot on for a team with no half backs and no kickers, continually turning our back three around and getting repeat sets.
We had opportunities late in each half to create something in attack but we were too lateral – the Kiwis’ defence was compressed to deal with our middles which gave us a lot of space on the edges with five on threes and four on threes; but we wasted these by running laterally and outside men dropping under.
You have to preserve space for outside backs by playing direct but we just made it man-for-man from our lines of running.
Also our timing, accuracy and depth on shift plays was a little off and the Kiwis could just easily slide off and their centres could shut it down if they needed to.
I think this is easily fixable and I’m sure that the coaches and the lads have been working hard on that in training.
The Kiwis will get better again this week.
I think Stephen Kearney will stick with the same side and they looked better balanced than last week. It was do or die for them last week and they rose to the challenge. It’s do or die for both teams now and we need our big game players to step up in what will be a partisan crowd at Wigan.
The game is being played in the biggest rugby town in the country and expect the passion of the crowd to reflect that.
Having the crowd behind the lads, willing them to win, really will provide the lift of having an 18th man in the squad.
Taking the game to The Olympic Stadium was a brilliant move.
I think the venue suited the game and it showed with us getting near capacity.
It’s a really good venue and it looked great on TV as well with few empty seats.
When we have a series a game has to be held in London and to get it pretty close to capacity shows the venue was a good choice. It has to be one of the venues for future games in London.
But we have to look ahead to this week now and how we are going to win the series. We are obviously capable but we have to get our best players on the ball a little bit more and shut down Issac Luke. Our marking needs to be better and we need to hunt him on last plays and really pressure his kicks.
On a sad note, I was appalled to hear the awful news about rugby league journalist Gary Carter being attacked last week, leaving him in a critical condition in hospital.
Gary is a top journalist and an even better bloke, and I’ve always enjoyed working with him.
He knows his rugby inside out and his passion for the sport is there for all to see. For this to happen to him really cast a shadow over a special weekend for the sport.
My thoughts are with him and his family, especially his wife Gemma at this
horrible time and I really hope he’s back in action soon.