8 Jul

Episode 9: The World's Best No.10
by Paul Waite
8 Jul 2005

[Where is Episode 10? - A brief dose of the lurgi kept me from penning one - but never fear there will be an Episode 11 - Ed.]

Daniel Carter staked a strong claim to be crowned the World’s Best No.10 at The Caketin here in Wellington last night.

His virtuoso 33-point performance dazzled and bewitched the crowd, as he scored two tries, and kicked five penalites and four conversions. When he wasn’t scoring points, his running and kicking game also tested the Lions defence, and basically he simply didn’t put a foot wrong all night. In short, it was a stunning effort.

Not that he was alone in playing well. The previous week had obviously had an effect on the team, and one that Sir Clive Woodward might not have appreciated – it brought the team together, and looked like it had provided them with the motivation to reply to all the media spin and bullshit surrounding “The O’Discoll Incident” in the best way possible – on the field, and on the scoreboard.

Tana Umaga, playing on his home track and having born the brunt of most of the aforementioned essay in bovine scatology, must have been very pleased indeed to open the All Blacks scoring with a nicely taken try in the 18th minute.

Some All Black fans may have been worrying that it was all going to be very different when new Lions skipper Gareth Thomas waltzed too easily through a gap a mile wide to score a try for the visitors in only the 2nd minute of play.

However, the more seasoned officianados amongst us recognized that it resulted from a spurious mis-communication in defence for the All Blacks, and one which was not to be repeated. Such proved to be the case, and the men in Black built momentum, applied pressure and kicked the penalties resulting from it, before Tana went over for the first try of five.

By half-time it was only 21-13, but the ink of the legendary Writing On The Wall was already dry. The Lions simply didn’t have the wood on the All Blacks in the tight-five, as was amply demonstrated at scrum time. In general play they never threatened, there was no pick-and-go, and no effective mauling. The All Blacks tight five were totally dominant, and this platform gave the backs room to create scoring opportunities out wide.

Even so, the Lions defence was often very well organised, and covered well, foiling a lot of attempts in the 22m.

Looking ahead to the Eden Park test, Clive ought to play Stephen Jones in the starting XV, and replace Jason Robinson who was less than useless, perhaps with an up-and-comer like Cueto. Otherwise the backs played reasonably well, in the circumstances, especially when Jones replaced WIlkinson.

In the forwards, Thompson had a solid game at hooker, and the lineouts went quite well, but the problems in the scrum and lack of physical presence needs to be addressed. One player who could help to do this is Sheridan, who is frighteningly strong in the scrum and hard to put down running with the ball. If the Lions coaches concentrate on the pack with an eye to really taking it up the guts of the All Blacks with pick-and-go, and some strong mauling, then they could get much more momentum, and put more pressure on the All Blacks.

So we now move on to the third and final test at Eden Park with the series decided already in favour of the All Blacks. Everyone is betting on a 3-0 white-wash, but this is not at all a certainty. The Lions will be hungry to avoid the clean-sweep, and will be as keen as mustard to salvage pride and take a scalp. The All Blacks go into the game in the knowledge that they have secured the series, and will have to battle the inevitable mental relaxation that the “job already done” feeling brings to them, in the coming week.

In-between these, we also have the Lions mid-weekers taking on Auckland.

So the series still has some great rugby left in it.

See you all in Auckland!

Paul Waite

Paul Waite

Haka editor-in-chief. Please do not feed.

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