Positive intent, not bad defence, fatigue or lack of coaching time is behind the tidal wave of tries being scored in national provincial championship rugby, according to Wellington Lions coach Chris Boyd.
High-scores have been the hallmark of the season with 52 tries scored during the most recently competed round of seven matches.
That is 7.4 tries per match and it's a pattern that has been consistent through nine rounds with 31 bonus points accumulated on the premiership and championship ladders combined.
It has led some commentators to suggest the defence is not up to scratch, but Boyd believes that is not the case.
"It's true there is some inexperience in defensive reads that is allowing teams to score off set piece . . . and at the highest level you don't get so many bad defensive reads from set piece.
"But I believe it is the positive approach of the teams that's producing all the tries, not bad defence.
"Most teams are playing optimistically, which I think is great. Is it a true reflection of rugby at the next level? Absolutely not. But is it a great way to develop our skills? Absolutely, I think it is.
"I don't want to play rugby like that [negative]. If the kids come through the ITM Cup with an attacking attitude potentially a little of that might get beaten out of them at Super Rugby and again a bit higher up, but it doesn't matter. At least they have the basic core skills and ability to do that ... for the sake of our game I think this rugby is great."
New Zealand coaches could easily bring the scores down and reduce the number of tries scored by changing their game plans and approach, but Boyd hoped that wouldn't happen.
"If I said to everyone tomorrow, 'every time we have a ball carrier the closest player has to be there only for the cleanout and not as a support player', there would be way less turnover, but way less opportunity. If I said ‘we'll play like the Stormers, we won't play any rugby in our own half, we'll kick everything and we'll defend our try line like hell,' then we could keep the scores down.
"But because most of the teams ... have an enterprising approach to the game, when they make a mistake and have to transition from attack to defence, it's generally not quick enough to catch up with the attack."
So Boyd predicts the fast-paced action will continue at least until the stakes are raised in the playoffs.
For Wellington, third on the premiership ladder with four wins and two losses, the next task is winless championship strugglers North Harbour at Westpac Stadium tomorrow.
Boyd gave his side a full day off yesterday to freshen up after quick-fire matches in Auckland and Mt Maunganui.
He was generally pleased with Tuesday's 36-26 win over Bay of Plenty, but said Wellington were giving away too many penalties and probably playing a little bit too much rugby behind the advantage line.
Lima Sopoaga had impressed in his first start after such a long break and was "likely" to continue at first five-eighth when the side is named today.
Meanwhile, injured Wellington halfback TJ Perenara has re-signed with the province and the Hurricanes Super Rugby franchise for the next two years.
Perenara is sitting out the NPC after breaking his leg in June during a Hurricanes match against the Reds on the Gold Coast.
- The Dominion Post
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