30 Sep

All Blacks v Romania, Toulouse, 29 September 2007
by Tracey Nelson
30 Sep 2007

The All Blacks put Romania to the sword, beating them 85-8 in their final pool game played in Toulouse, although Romania managed to do what Scotland couldn’t last week- and that was to put points on the board against the All Blacks. This they did in emphatic style, on their sole foray anywhere near the All Blacks’ line, a driving maul splitting the All Blacks for the Romanian hooker, Marius Tincu, to crash over for their only try of the game. If there is any weakness in the All Blacks’ game, it is probably defending against a rolling maul and no doubt this will be not only on their minds but the minds of the French as they head to Cardiff to face off in the quarter final next weekend.

This was yet another emphatic win for the men in black, despite being punctuated by some stutters at the back of the scrum and at times a lack of fluidity in the sweeping moves attempted by both backs and forwards. There were times, especially in the first half, when the All Blacks were hassled into mistakes by a very committed Romanian pack, and a Romanian halfback who must surely have been testing the offside line to its very limit at scrum time. However, you were left feeling that the All Blacks only tried out a couple of moves and then for the most part simply used space and pace to submerge a gallant but totally outclassed Romanian side, preferring to keep their secrets firmly hidden until the knock-out stages of the quarter finals.

it was the first appearance at the RWC for Keith Robinson, and he performed well for the 60 or so minutes he was on the field. His soaring, two-handed lineout takes were at his trademark best, and it was pleasing to see he still had gas left in the tank when he jogged off the field, seemingly none the worse for wear in his first full contact game for some months.

Joe Rokocoko was in sizzling form scoring a hat-trick of tries, whilst on the other wing Sitiveni Sivivatu was brutally unstoppable close to the line. Doug Howlett chimed in when he came on as a replacement, showing impressive speed on attack and bagging another try to add to his record tally. With three world class wingers all in good form, the All Black selectors have some hard decisions to make when they pick their side for the Cardiff quarter final – but I’m sure it’s a dilemma other sides could only dream of having.

Nick Evans once again proved his versatility, playing at fullback for three quarters of the game before shifting into 1st 5 for the final 20 minutes. Indeed, his move into the pivot position was instrumental in the backline finally gaining some rythym, no better illustrated than by his break of the line and threading of his arms through in the tackle to offload the ball to Aaron Mauger. The ball was then fed through various hands in a perfect sequence of draw and pass for Toeava, having shifted from centre out to the wing in the final part of the game, to score the try that had begun in the All Blacks’ own 22. Evans also managed to kick the now revealed lemon of a ball between the sticks, seemingly with ease. With concerns over the fitness of Dan Carter it was a calming thought to know that Evans is ready and waiting in the wings should he be required.

There will be plenty for the selectors to ponder as they start to plan for the quarter final game against France in Cardiff. There were signs from the French today that they are slowly coming into form, but equally there are large dashes of ineptitude and squandering of chances that must be pounced on if the host country is to be knocked out of the competition and the All Blacks are to truly begin their march towards the final. Only time will tell if the weak pool games have hampered the All Blacks’ preparation for the big games, and this coming weekend will be the first true test of that.

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