"I need to speed up" - Damian McKenzie: All Blacks Fly Half explains Shot Clock fiasco & talks Marcus Smith's missed kicks - Ruck

“I need to speed up” – Damian McKenzie: All Blacks Fly Half explains Shot Clock fiasco & talks Marcus Smith’s missed kicks

One of the biggest talking points within the All Blacks camp after the win against England, Damian McKenzie has lifted the lid upon what happened with his miss-timed penalty kick. The Chiefs man was timed out for his shot at goal, with referee Nika Amashukeli putting pressure on the fly half to get his shot away.

In the absence of a shot clock at the Forsyth Barr Stadium, McKenzie did not realise that he had less time than expected to take the kick. Once a penalty is awarded, the team’s respective kicker has 60 seconds to take the shot, and McKenzie lost track of time without a count-down present in Dunedin. Speaking to the media after the match in the home of the Highlanders, McKenzie took full credit for the error;

“I’ve yet obviously just missed the time. I think we’re about 60 seconds from the time of the penalties blown, to win the goal’s kicked. So he (the referee) did rush me in my last previous kick, he said that I need to speed up.

“So I kind of felt like I didn’t take too long, the last kick. And then he did say something when I was in the back of my kick, sort of went to go forward, and that was too late. But I’m not pointing the finger at anyone, it’s completely on my shoulders, I’ve got to sort that out around my process and just speed things up.

“Knowing that once the penalty is blown, I’ve got 60 seconds to kick the kick. And I think it was a lot of relief after the final (England) penalty, that would have been disastrous, if we would have lost from three points. So yes, I’m going to have to look at it, but completely on my shoulders, and I own that.”

New Zealand head coach Scott Robertson joked that he would contact the CEO Mark Robinson, to ensure that there is a shot clock present for the return Test in Eden Park. However, amidst all the humour, the request for a count-down was agreed upon by McKenzie, who wants to avoid any unfortunate repeat next Saturday in Auckland.

“Yeah, I’m not making any excuses. But it (shot clock) would help. I think it would be great if there was a timer on the screen, so you can sort of build on it. Usually, I’m counting in my head to 60, so especially when I’m trying to focus on my kick it’s not great.”

“I’ve played in games where there is a shot clock, so if there was one that would be awesome.”

McKenzie did not have a perfect outing from the tee, as along with his non-effort the halfback also sent a shot wide of the mark. However, the Chiefs man wouldn’t swap his day for that of England fly half Marcus Smith, who left a decisive eight points on the pitch in Dunedin. Smith failed to hit the target in two penalties and a conversion attempt, with the difference making shots hanging over the halfback at full-time.

England head coach Steve Borthwick told the media how Smith was disappointed come the final whistle, as the Harlequin struggled adapt to his new surroundings. Whilst the sharpshooter is used to a quiet ‘respect the kicker’ crowd as he lines up a shot, the hostile ‘zoo’ encaged in the Forsyth Barr Stadium, lifted the octaves ahead of every kick at goal.

McKenzie is used to the pre-kick noise, as his customary smirk gets a cheer from the crowd ahead of his efforts at the up-rights. The All Black 10 expressed how Smith’s inexperience of the New Zealand fans could have been a factor in his goal-kicking, with McKenzie more than used to tuning out the crowd.

Marcus Smith of England and Richie Mo’unga of New Zealand swap shirts after the Autumn International Series match between England and New Zealand at Twickenham, London on 19 November 2022 (Photo: Micah Crook/PPAUK)

“I think whenever you travel away and as a goal-kicker, you’re always going to get that. Most places you go to, the crowds get into you, he’s a great player, Marcus a great kicker as well. I left a couple out there and he left a couple out there, but I think when you travel way overseas, you’re always going to get the odd boo.”

“I suppose it’s probably because we’re so used to having a lot of noise. When it’s quiet, it’s probably a little bit eerie. You kind of don’t mind the noise in the background and as a kicker you train for those moments. I guess you know, my take and mindset on the goal kicks is just treat it like any other kick. Lucky enough to be in the moment. So embrace it and just try and kick ball over. A couple went over, a couple I need to work out and I need to speed up as well.”

Aside from the goal-kicking, McKenzie had an interesting evening against England following the alteration of his halfback partner. Upon returning to the squad for the first All Blacks test since 2022, TJ Perenara was welcomed back by the New Zealand fans, yet was withdrawn at half-time following a nasty collision left him with an injured knee.

Whilst there has been no elaboration upon the extent of Perenara’s injury severity, with the knock written off as a ‘stinger’ for the time being, McKenzie had to adapt to his new-found teammate. Finlay Christie replaced Perenara at half-time, with the Blues scrum-half steering the ship to take the All Blacks over the line.

“TJ does a great job for us around the flow of the game. His ability to sort of pick up around the ruck and challenge them, and then Red (Finlay Christie) obviously, come on and did a great job as well. So the second half, look, it wasn’t the prettiest game to watch, I couldn’t imagine. But there was times where I think we got in a great position to sort of get ourselves into a penalty advantaged situation.

“Although we didn’t score as many tries, we sort of did enough to get ourselves out (of danger), and put pressure through our forwards particularly, and around their forward pack. So he (Finlay Christie) really did a good job of controlling that when he came on.”