Monday, July 02, 2007

After Saturday's test on (the guys were just tired!)

Lessons will be learnt from loss: Henry

All Blacks coach Graham Henry was prepared to concede that losing to Australia on Saturday in Melbourne would be bearable if it meant the lessons were absorbed to strengthen New Zealand's quest to win the Rugby World Cup in October.

Henry said it was disappointing to lose nonetheless but he was hopeful the All Blacks could learn a lot from it.

"It's better to lose now than in October," he said.

"This side hasn't lost often, and you learn a lot from losing," he added.

The side's previous loss was to South Africa in Rustenburg last year in the dead match of the Philips Tri Nations and the lessons from that had been sufficient to see the All Blacks win two Tests over France, and achieve wins over England and Wales.

The disappointment stemmed from the number of chances created in the first half which the side didn't take, mainly due to handling lapses.

However, he admitted Australia played well in the last 20 minutes of the game and deserved its win.

"The All Blacks gave their guts. We've got no excuses, we came here to play rugby. We didn't take our opportunities and we got opened up.

"Hopefully we can look back on this game as being very important for us," he said.

Captain Richie McCaw, who was dynamic for much of the match but who missed tackles in both of Australia's tries, said the main problem for the All Blacks was they weren't getting across the advantage line.

The All Blacks had let Australia off the hook.

"We had them on the ropes but after halftime they got a sniff," he said.

Henry said his decision to replace hooker Anton Oliver, prop Tony Woodcock and lock Troy Flavell so early in the second half was because they looked to be struggling physically and he wanted to get fresh legs onto the field.

Forwards coach Steve Hansen said both teams, the crowd and the coaches were frustrated by the scrummaging decisions. He said the scrums didn't really flow and the All Blacks would be looking to see what they could do to improve that for the next Test against South Africa.

Backs coach Wayne Smith said there were several things that created a domino effect in the loss. He praised centre Luke McAlister, who also missed a crucial tackle on opposite Stirling Mortlock when the match-winning try was scored, for putting his heart into filling in the role so late in the piece and added that he felt it could have a good gain for New Zealand in a couple of weeks.

Beaten All Blacks still red-hot with World Cup punters

A World Cup year hiccup against the Wallabies has barely altered the microscopic odds on the All Blacks winning rugby's biggest prize in October.
The Wallabies' 20-15 win over the All Blacks at the Melbourne Cricket Ground gave the home side a massive confidence boost and showed the rugby world their opponents weren't invincible -- but try telling betting agencies that.
New South Wales' TAB Sportsbet hardly pushed the panic button, shifting the All Blacks from a skinny $1.45 to $1.50 to win October's World Cup final.
For the Philips Tri Nations, the All Blacks were $1.25 to retain their title, with the Wallabies at $4.25 and the second-string Springboks rated no-hopers at $15.
The All Blacks returned home yesterday to rest weary legs while hoping their Tri Nations rivals bash each other to oblivion at Telstra Stadium on Saturday night before the Springboks hit Christchurch next week.
Saturday night's Test at the MCG and the previous week's in Durban, won 26-21 by the All Blacks, followed very similar patterns.
The team coming off the torrid match the previous week started strongly, looked to have the match at their mercy by halftime but tired badly in the final 20 minutes as their opponents rattled off two quick tries to seal the win.
"That's what we're hoping the trend is," assistant coach Wayne Smith said. "We've had an away win and we've got a bonus point away from home. We're in the driving seat. We're more concerned about improving our performance."
The lineout, handling errors and some defensive blunders will be looked at, along with the backline attack as the All Blacks failed to score a point in the final 54 minutes. Pre-match drizzle contributed to errors from both sides but the coaches refused to lay blame.
"We prepared really well, we travelled really well and there were no excuses," Smith said. "On the day we got beaten by a team that played bloody well. We've learned from those things before."
The scrum remains the All Blacks main weapon and was demolishing the Wallabies' in the second half before tighthead prop Carl Hayman was sin-binned by South African referee Marius Jonker for a professional foul in the 62nd minute. Fullback Mils Muliaina was adamant that was the difference.
"It was quite surprising and I couldn't see (Jonker) had given out any warning he was going to do that. It's a massive blow, we were down 14 men and they scored," Muliaina said. "He's a big part of our team, a leader and there was definitely a big gap left behind."

Discipline vital for All Blacks

Discipline and the need to avoid allowing sides like Australia back into matches when one man down was the big lesson to come out of Saturday's 15-20 loss to Australia in Melbourne for the All Blacks.
When prop Carl Hayman, the strong man of the All Blacks pack, was sin-binned for playing the ball in a tackle situation, it came after referee Marius Jonker had earlier warned captain Richie McCaw that he would send the next person off.
That was despite the fact that Jonker made a glaring error in penalising McCaw for also infringing at the tackle when he had all the rights as the tackler.
However, in the time Hayman was off the Australians scored two tries to steal the game from the All Blacks and to leave the Tri Nations alive with three games still to be played. Two of those will be at home and if the All Blacks are to claim the title they will need to win both, against South Africa in Christchurch on July 14 and Australia in Auckland a week later.
Fullback Mils Muliaina said Hayman's loss had a big impact on the side.
"It was a massive blow. He's a big part of our team, a leader, and he demands a lot of space. It was definitely a big gap he left behind," he said.
That point was backed by wing Rico Gear who said: "Obviously it is not nice to lose anybody and in the last few games we have been losing someone every game. We talk about that, and the need for discipline.
"We can't really afford that, it is something we are trying hard to rectify," he said.

All Blacks silenced by resurgent Wallabies

New Zealand paid dearly for the loss of prop Carl Hayman in the middle stages of the second half of a torrid Bledisloe Cup/Philips Tri Nations contest against Australia in Melbourne and suffered its first defeat of the season 20-15.

Hayman was sin-binned for playing the ball in the tackle and the Australians pounced to score two tries and snatch the lead from the All Blacks.

Earlier, Australia had seemed bereft of ideas of how to breach solid All Blacks defence.

But suddenly it found the loss of Hayman created the space it needed and it scored through wing Adam Ashley-Cooper and replacement back Scott Staniforth to take the lead with 10 minutes left in the match.

At that point Hayman returned and New Zealand tried to regain the control it had lost at his departure. But it had given the Australians too much leeway and was unable to find the openings that had been more available earlier.

Skipper Stirling Mortlock gave an outstanding display for the Wallabies and set the crowd of 79,322 alight with his decisive line breaks.

The first try, to Ashley-Cooper, was the result of intense movement of the ball from the penalty that saw Hayman dispatched, but the second came from centre Mortlock's second backline bust of the evening.

He beat makeshift centre Luke McAlister with disarming ease and kept racing toward the goal-line, finally unleashing the try-making pass to Staniforth.

New Zealand could look back at numerous lost opportunities due to handling chances in the first 60 minutes of the game that should have seen it well in front.

The play, in the first half especially, was frenetic at times with several of the New Zealanders making powerful surges with the ball in hand. Captain Richie McCaw and prop Tony Woodcock were outstanding, with McCaw giving his best display of the season to date.

At the first lineout, moments into the game, No 8 Rodney So'oialo secured clean ball to flanker Jerry Collins, who then set up skipper McCaw for two powerful surges at the line.

Fullback Mils Muliaina set up the maul when fed an inpass and then it was Woodcock who drove over to convince the television match official that he had grounded the ball.

From the re-start Australian lock Nathan Sharpe took Troy Flavell out and the penalty was awarded. However, Australia secured the lineout ball and mounted a series of assaults at the New Zealand line, but fine All Blacks defence saw the Australians fail to get past the advantage line.

Australia came back with some well-directed play from first five-eighths Stephen Larkham. He fired a well-placed kick to the corner and flanker George Smith did well to follow up and secure.

While no try was forthcoming, the All Blacks backs were penalised and Mortlock made no mistake with his second attempt.

Moments later, however, the Wallabies on their own 22m line interfered with halfback Byron Kelleher as he attempted to clear the ball. Carter made no mistake with the goal after 16 minutes.

Mortlock kicked a second penalty after 19 minutes when the All Blacks were penalised at the scrum.

The Australian scrum came under pressure, twice conceding penalties and on the second occasion after 25 minutes, Kelleher took a quick tap and the ball was moved quickly with Woodcock prominent again charging ahead.

Then with the quick turnover, McAlister, who had set the whole momentum with his superb intercept and run into the Wallabies 22m, took the tackle and fed right wing Rico Gear in for the second try.

The situation might have been even worse for the Australians had the All Blacks not left the ball exposed at the back of a ruck which allowed the Wallabies to clear out, but then when the All Blacks recovered, a superb build-up created by Muliaina broke down when So'oialo dropped the ball.

But at the resulting scrum, the All Blacks powerhouse destroyed the Wallabies scrum and turned the ball over.

Mortlock made a superb break, went through Muliaina's tackle and set up the chance but the opportunity was lost as prop Guy Sheperdson drove to the line, but was ruled to have made a double movement.

New Zealand then replaced Woodcock, hooker Anton Oliver and lock Flavell with Neemia Tialata, Keven Mealamu and Ross Filipo.

Clearly the coaching staff were looking to counter the possible effects of the travel associated with the return from South Africa but ultimately, the New Zealanders were unable to finish at the pace they achieved to come from behind in South Africa last week.

Australia 20 (Adam Ashley-Cooper try; Matt Giteau con; Stirling Mortlock 2 pen)
New Zealand 15 (Tony Woodcock, Rico Gear tries; Daniel Carter con, pen)
HT: 15-6

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