Sunday, 7 November 2010
Zero to hero
NZ 26 - England 16
Toeava makes up for Hong Kong sins
A composed debut from a league superstar who happens to like the odd boxing match. A crap game by an aging wing who singlehandedly let the English back into a game which should have been in the can at half time. A good turn out from an England team wanting to add some more strings to their bow. A heroic save and a few scintillating runs from a man that last week was enemy number two with the New Zealand public. Oh, and a bunch of English rugby supporters reaching for the superlatives after their team lost to the All Blacks by 10 points.
But go figure!
For the All Blacks, the opening minutes of this match had all the signals of a walk over where a Hosea Gear try off the back of an inspired Dan Carter move and Sonny Bill Williams offload had New Zealand rugby supporters high fiving. Moments later, it looked like a walkover would ensue when Kieran Reid powerfully surged over the English line, leaving the puffed up white roses scratching their heads in the wake of the fighting test buildup talk they couldn't stop doing in the papers this week.
Like Hong Kong, The All Blacks looked smooth and ready to click into a white moment, playing some irresistable rugby. And maybe they would have if it hadn't been for Joe Rokocoko. Of course, the poor guy can't singlehandedly take the blame for letting the English back into the game, but he gave them a rather good helping hand with a series of stupid mistakes before halftime. Was that Joe's swansong I wonder?
New Zealand also weren't helped by some poor decision making from some of their allegedly more astute backs. It always pains me when they decide to run the ball from their own try line, and little chip kicks to the opposition when you're in your own 22? You've got to be having a laugh - right Muliaina?
The English, to pay them their dues, did come out with the intent to play positive rugby. And as the mistakes began to mount for the men in in black, the partisan crowd at Twickenham sniffed an upset. Even down to 14 men however, the rattled New Zealanders managed to hang on.
Highlights? Toeava's cameo - he more than attoned for his mistakes of Hong Kong, and the try saving tackle on Shontanye Hape was what the doctor ordered, if not completely bound. Sonny Bill was rather good too I thought. Am I buying into all the hype? Probably. But he has definitely added a sense of extra possibility to the backline. Dan was back to his slick best and Richie, quite naturally, was in the thick of it. Even telling tales to the ref on Dylan Heartley.
The English had some exciting new caps on the field that will grow in time and they played the scrums well with the ref - so of course they can take a lot of positives from the game. But I'd hardly call them a world threat yet. For a start, playing at Twickenham is a little bit different to playing in Christchurch. And it is now nine years since they've turned the All Blacks over. Time ticks on then.
Oh, and all the tries were scored by New Zealanders...but now I"m just wumming right?