Sport360's Niall McCague analyses the performance of All Blacks fly-half Richie Mo'unga
New Zealand were made to fight hard to quell a spirited Argentina 46-24 in Nelson on Saturday as they remained unbeaten after the third round of the Rugby Championship.
A brief spurt before half-time and again in the closing minutes made the difference as the All Blacks outscored Los Pumas six tries to three.
Here, we analyse the performance of fly-half Richie Mo’unga.
Try assist: 0
Metres made: 33
Defenders beaten: 2
Turnovers conceded: 4
Tackles made: 9
Tackles missed: 2
30 SECOND REPORT
The 24-year-old was rewarded with a first Test start on the back of his glittering displays during the Crusaders recent Super Rugby triumph.
With many Kiwi fans calling for him to start at fly-half ahead of Beauden Barrett in the lead up to the Rugby Championship last month, Mo’unga failed to light up Nelson with his normally consistent passing and kicking game.
Nerves may be one reason for his mixed performance, but this was certainly a chance for him to show why he is considered one of the best No10s in the Southern Hemisphere.
Linked well: His decision making with the ball in hand was solid, with some good short ball options, one of which paved the way for TJ Perenara’s opening try on 30 minutes. He looked confident when taking the ball into hand, linking well and getting his outside backs firing.
Place kicks: One of the sole shining lights from his display was his 87.5 per cent success rate from place kicks (seven out of eight), an area where Barrett’s game certainly needs improving. However, this isn’t enough to warrant a place in the starting line-up on a regular basis.
Defence: His 81 per cent tackle success rate may look solid on paper, but it was his poor defensive read for Ramiro Moyano’s try that will stand out when he reviews his performance early next week.
Nehe Milner-Skudder will have to take some of the blame for stepping off his wing, but Mo’unga and Perenara should really have done better to deny the Jaguares winger skipping through for the Pumas opener. He also conceded four turnovers – all in the first half.
Overall game management: There’s no doubt Mo’unga is a class act but when you play behind the best fly-half in the world, it is always going to be difficult to make a telling impact.
The Christchurch man failed to stamp his authority for large spells of the game, unable to unleash his backline at pace, missing touch twice and knocking on when under pressure early in the second half.
15mins: Moyano picks up the ball and steps his way past Mo’unga and Perenara, making a show of both half-backs. An excellent individual score but a shocker from Mo’unga, in particular, who should have done better to stop the Pumas winger.
30mins: Mo’unga showed serious vision to flick the ball on to Damian McKenzie deep in the Pumas half. The Kiwi forwards gathered and Perenara exploited a gap on the side of the ruck to touch down.
44mins: More nerves from Mo’unga who failed to collect a kick through from Jeronimo de la Fuente, and a result, the Kiwis conceded a five metre scrum. Luckily, the away side failed to make use of this formidable scoring opportunity.
A mixed debut for Mo’unga.
Although his display in the second half far outweighed his poor contribution in the first 40 minutes, the Crusaders man will still be disappointed with his overall performance.
He missed two tackles, failed to make touch twice and conceded four turnovers in the first half alone, mistakes that are likely to give Steve Hansen and Co reason to offer McKenzie a run at No10 later in the tournament.
But, he stepped up after the break, and apart from one knock-on, ran the line well, linked play effectively and showed promise in trying to get his backs in better attacking positions.
It may not have been a consistent showing over the 80 minutes, but the Crusaders superstar will get more chances to prove himself over the next four weeks.