Sunday, 1 July 2007

all blacks lose and the 2007 rugby world cup is wide open

After a one sided first half between the Wallabies and All Blacks - in the stadium of 'broken NZ dreams' - the MCG stadium (if you don't know what I mean, check out the underarm bowl of 1983), the mighty All Blacks fell well short of a talented and determined Wallabies side (with the old heart breakers of 2003: Mortlock, Gregan, Smith etc) wrecking havoc once again over a slightly undercooked and arrogant All Black side who maybe thought they had the game at half time.

After a pulsating first half where the New Zealanders ruled supreme and the game was more or less in the bag - this famed side fell to pieces (hmm, reminds me of a particular world cup semi final in 1999) in the face of persistent Australian defence and scrappiness (20 - 15 final score in case you didn't know it already) in the second half.

To all intents and purposes - the All Blacks were dominant in the first 40 minutes, with strong scrums and (even!) defensive lineouts. But if the forwards shone, the backline faltered with Mauger and Gear in particular, letting the side down through messy knock-ons and missed tackles, buckling under the pressure of the outstanding defensive organisation of Mortlock, Giteau, Larkham and co.

After half time talks the Wallabies came out rejuvenated and plucky (where have we seen that before?) and managed to claw back a nine point deficit through disciplined defending against a messy and arrogant All Black side that didn't quite know how to react in the face of true pressure.

The Wallabies never really looked like winning the test until the dying minutes of this match when penalty after penalty was given away by a desperate and slightly bewildered All Black outfit that thought that they had the game in the bag (particularly after beating the cocky Springboks at home in Durban the week before).

So what lessons can the world take from this sloppy test in the build up to the World Cup? Firstly - the All Blacks are fallible (but we always knew that anyway - they do seem to lose a match every year). Secondly - if Henry chooses to use his subs in the early stages of the second half - the All Blacks may not be able utilise their potency to advantage and thirdly, if anyone writes off the Wallabies - whether they lose every match for a straight year of not, it is done at peril of the strong, competitive and proud Australian spirit.

The Australians played the game they wanted to play. With the old and wise heads of Gregan, Larkham and Mortlock, they were able to run this game to their advantage, even when the All Blacks had ascendancy in their forwards. Daniel Carter had a subdued game (but not a bad game, he can't be superhuman every moment of his life). The big fault of the New Zealanders were that they chose not to play for territory. Rarely did we see an All Black throw in the opposition 22. Instead we saw committed and tenacious Australian defence; an All Black team devoid of ideas when the clock started to run out; and a gleam in the eyes of those who thought the World Cup was the All Blacks and theirs alone. Two months out and the competition is wide open. If an aging Wallaby backline can beat this famed New Zealand side - what does it mean for the French, the English and the O'Driscoll's of Ireland?

Game on. France Rugby World Cup 2007. Let the games begin.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

gees, what a doom and gloomer. Ya need to take a chill pill. the WC hasn't been won or lost yet.