8 Aug

The 'D' In All Blacks
by Paul Waite
8 Aug 2010

The All Blacks arm-wrestled the Wallabies and won the contest 20 – 10 and two tries to one, in what was a true test match to put the Bledisloe Cup safely away in the trophy cabinet for another season.

The opening minutes of this test saw the teams going at breath-taking speed, recycling the ball and each endlessly probing the other in great lung-busting efforts of ruck-a-thon rugby. The accuracy levels were high on both sides, however the All Blacks showed that they don’t just rely on the drilled patterns the Wallabies produce, but can also bring out the X-Factor to score tries.

The first 15 minutes of the game brought two beauts, punctuated by an Aussie reply from an All Black turnover.

The first New Zealand try came from a couple of bursts up the left from Smith and Mealamu to put the Wallaby defence on the back foot. Rokocoko then took the pass at high speed, evaded the second-to-last line of defence before spinning it wide to Mils Muliaina who danced inside the chalk, evading the fullback as well as any winger ever has, to dot down. It was a classic try built on well-timed passes and speed.

The All Blacks were playing with tails well up in the air, however they over-reached themselves when Carter lost the ball trying to pop it up in the tackle just over half-way. With everyone pushed up it was a gift to the Wallabies and Pocock and Sharpe put Kurtley Beale away, albeit with what looked like a forward pass. Beale then ran the ball in with Carter in lone and futile pursuit.

Carter made amends by breaking the line a few minutes later, popping the ball up to Weepu who spun it left to Ma’a Nonu who was dangerous all game. With the Aussie defence struggling and out of alignment, he made the most of it by running into some space and then putting Conrad Smith over in the corner. The referee went upstairs to confirm the grounding, but it was fine.

Given this opening, it was hard to believe, after the game had ended, that the remainder of the test saw no more tries scored. The Wallabies gradually asserted themselves in the posession stakes, and showed themselves to be better at maintaining the ball than the All Blacks were. This meant they gradually climbed into the driving seat of the test, something which didn’t go unnoticed by the Three Wise Men.

A further penalty to the both teams saw the scores still quite close on 17 – 10 at halftime, and just before they came out for the second half, an interviewed Steve Hansen said the team had been told to step up their intensity and get back in control of the test instead of allowing the Wallabies to dictate proceedings.

In the event, that didn’t happen. The story of the second half was, basically, Australian attack versus All Black defence.

But the All Blacks showed that they once again have the mettle and abilities to defend what, in the current game, is a slender lead.

For the Wallabies, the lesson they will have learned is that you can drill away for hours developing the patterns that will enable you to keep the ball and recycle it endlessly, but against the top sides you need to do more than that. You need to have that X-Factor of variation and genius that will create the gap and the opening for the try scoring opportunity, and you have to take it.

After the test the Wallaby comment was they failed to take their chances. Well I thought they took all the ones that were on offer, in reality, and that was just the single one given to them by a Carter mistake.

Australia also sent it’s top pundit over, Matt Dunning (also affectionately known as Matt Dumpling amongst his friends). Matt was obviously there to offer the typically balanced and informed Australian sportsman’s viewpoint, and did so with statements like "we could easily have won that test but every time the Wallabies got the ball they gave it straight back again".

Well I’m not sure what Matt understands by the phrase "straight back" here, but from my viewpoint, the Wallabies did everything BUT that. The All Blacks couldn’t get their hands on the ball for 10 minutes at a stretch as Wallabies went through their recycling drills like a bunch of gym bunnies making an aerobics video for large blokes with masochistic tendencies.

No, the Wallabies had so much possession that they couldn’t even wag a finger at it, let alone shake a stick. It was embarassing how much of the ball they had, without scoring with it. That should be the point that Matt takes back with him over the Tasman. Matt could even use this as a nice little example of how not to play the game, in his up-coming book "Rugby for Dumplings".

The All Blacks now have a week off, whilst Aussies have to schlepp all the way over to South Africa for some sun and a good hiding from a fresh but very angry Springboks team. Lucky them.

I have to say that this season’s draw has been just about perfect for the All Blacks, and I would recommend that SANZAR have it this way around every year. None of that starting the series with a trip to South Africa, playing two tests then travelling to Sydney for one there rubbish.

After the week off the All Blacks will then travel to South Africa, nicely freshened up, to take on the Boks, hopefully by that time sitting sated with eyes glazed over, gorged on Wallaby blood.

So for now congratulations to the All Blacks for locking up the Bledisloe Cup for another season!

[That trophy is so much more important to New Zealanders than the Tri-Nations, it doesn't even bear talking about, so I won't mention it.]

Paul Waite

Paul Waite

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