Monday, 10 October 2011

Quarter Final 4: New Zealand v Argentina

That was edge of the seat stuff for a bit last night - not only did the Pumas stop us scoring, then score themselves ... but they had the lead on us and created some very nervous moments for All Black fans last night. Were we going to be knocked out again?!

The people who did not panic were the 15 very composed blokes on the park in black polyester, and that now gives me great confidence going forward. Players were dropping like flies with injuries at times, but we never got rattled, and simply kept plugging away, safe in the knowledge that we'd end up with more points after the 80 minutes, even if they all had to come from Piri Weepu’s laser-guided boot.

Great team performance, right across the park. And Brad Thorn a try! He deserves one.

That was my buzz word from the win: composure. It manifested itself stoically last night at Eden Park, where four years ago in Cardiff it slunk off into the shadows like Kwade Kupa facing a try-saving tackle on Ma’a Nonu.

At 7-6 to the Pumas I was a nervous wreck, and when Kaino threw that no-look pass in the second half, down towards Argentina’s line, it hung in the night sky for what felt like an eternity as the Pumas player reached for what looked to be a dead set intercept. Four more years? Not today.

Our forwards had to battle through set after set of multiple phases to gain any ground for the first 40, as Argentina’s defence threw everything at us. They are a very good team, and after a few seasons settling in to the newly expanded Tri-Nations, just may well have that X factor to go to the last four again in 2015. Its cliché to bang on about the passion of the players and their fans ... but it there for all to see, its tangible. When they exit RWC, and the tournament loses something.

I hope Slade and Mils are okay. Colin Slade again started nervously, maybe this is just his schtick? He does grow into things though, but his injury bought Aaron Cruden on, Manawatu’s stellar No. 10, fresh from the travel agents where he had to cancel his Fijian holiday to save our World Cup campaign!

The kid has confidence to burn, he has had everything to prove and nothing to lose this year since being dropped from the All Blacks ... after taking the can for a poor forwards performance. He has a love for hitting the line and popping passes that make SBW look on in wonder. I think he showed enough to warrant a start even if Slade is okay.

I think we saw that these games are going to be very tight - no way is Nonu going to carve easily through Australia, it will be a pressure cooker game, that chances taken will win (or mistakes made will lose). I think we can do it, but we have to be prepared that we don’t.

I feel for all the Bok fans out there, having had their champion team knocked out in the quarters. If it is any consolation ... All Black fans completely understand how it feels because of 2007. It hurts, it does not seem fair, but in four years time (a lifetime away it may seem now) ... the optimism and fever of the next World Cup will completely heal the scar. After older players exit behind P Divvy ... you’ll look to your depth in Currie Cup and Super, and you have the makings of a hell of a team for the next few seasons.

I was not impressed with the way Sky TV cut away from Mils Muliaina’s 100th Test Cap presentation - we missed both Jock Hobbs’ introduction and Mils’ response. That was an embarrassing mistake - Mils not worthy Sky? I think it was a bit insulting.

Not the prettiest game, but we rolled on, completed all our set pieces, got good ball, and converte chances. For four years English fans have been telling us ‘that’s all you have to do to win RWC’.

Well, we did it ... and where are yous?

Time to cast this Eden Park Hoodoo over the Wallabies in concrete ... in gold! pass it to Cooper!

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