Sheevas Dayal –
As expected, in a hard-hitting encounter, where the Wallabies shifted up a gear, the rugby fraternity witnessed a solid performance from the All Blacks tested for the most of first 50 minutes, but never ‘bested’ by the Australians as we claimed the World Record of 18 sequential victories.
Eden Park in Auckland was jam packed on October 22, 2016 with 47744 stalwarts who knew that Coach Hansen’s men had to withstand a better offering from the opposition. All Blacks were required to work more on the basics first, before they could show their mastery over Rugby.
All Blacks opened their account by scoring the first two of six tries within ten minutes; the period thereafter was ‘A fierce test match’ in coach Henson’s words in a post-match press conference.
“It was a tough, tough game. We are proud we got to 18 straight wins but we didn’t get it easily,” he said.
The Australian cemented their second-place in the Rugby Championship, after a five losses on-the-trot. After the first two of three trans-Tasman games, they managed to improve. Following a devastating loss to All Blacks; they were also beaten by England in August. By September, Australia had enhanced their game plan and appeared to be a much better force.
Coach Cheika appealed to his boys to give a better performance, saying that they were beaten by ‘an unbelievably good team.’
It was a similar theme to earlier victories from New Zealand where the win occurred with All Blacks performing at key points of the game. Not peaking too soon, and not having to make a huge comeback When Wallabies captain Stephen Moore was asked whether he was happy with being in the game for 50 minutes, he said that the game goes for 80 minutes, so 50 is not good enough; it needs to work for 80 minutes to win.
Australia had 817 run metres to 583, and laid 86 tackles while forcing New Zealand into 183, and dominated possession for large periods of the game.
But they lacked the finesse and finishing touch to get the job done.
After conceding a 10-0 lead, the Aussies realised a much better 30-minute effort before the break. They were not docile and confronted the All Blacks.
That was especially so in the one scoring movement that emboldened the team’s momentum.
With a surge into the home sides territory, young Rory Arnold scored the try.
Up to the 60th minute mark, it was close-quarter rugby.
Any long-range run was stopped by either by loose handling from the Wallabies, or good defence from the boys in Black that caused a turnover.
But in the last 20 minutes, All Blacks were more prominent, with New Zealand coming to the fore.
The Turning point in the game seemed to be the 45th-minute try for Australian Henry Speight, whose ramifications were felt across the Tasman.
Nigel Owens, considered the world’s best Referee, made his presence felt as he first awarded the try, then called for the TMO after consultation from his assistants, looking at the big screen. The replay showed that after Speight received a pass, his fellow-winger Dane Haylett-Petty changed his line and took out Julian Savea.
With Bernard Foley lining up the kick to bring the scores closer, Owens ruled that it was no try. The cries were heard from out of Sydney, a crucial call, which then aided New Zealand when their hitman Jerome Kaino decided to start ‘smashing bodies’ as he says.
After 65 minutes, the All Blacks raised their intensity. They began to play more freely–not that they couldn’t in the first half–but the risk and reward of Rugby requires a solid base. On that, men like Julian Savea and Dane Coles can then prosper.
It happened in small increments. First a big effort, from Kaino to start ‘breaking bodies’ as he so loves to do. He cracked the Australian teams metal, and it creaked more. The smaller spaces widened, players using the gap more–with none better than Savea as he scored his 45th try as he crossed for a second time when he broke three tackles later in the game.
In the build-up, and now in the outcome of the game, the Tier One record of wins was achieved. Only Cypress hold a better team record, of 24 wins over Tier Two nations. And while the Australian team did push hard, they came-up ultimately short.
The gap is still visible, especially in the last quarter of the game. If the home side had to play ‘catch-up football’ it might bring more pressures–but until that day, they must be considered one of the best teams to represent their country.
Pride and heritage are two strong values in the All Blacks. Even with match-winner Beauden Barrett carrying an ear infection, his 44th minute substitute Aaron Cruden is world-class. It is that depth that can allow a solid performance from the All Blacks, and bring smiles to the faces of all 47,000 rugby fans who attended.
New Zealand 37- Australia 10