Sunday, December 06, 2009

McCaw looking big picture after Baabaas loss

Captain Richie McCaw insists the shock 18-25 defeat to the Barbarians hasn't taken the gloss off a successful All Blacks rugby tour.

The Nick Mallett-coached Barbarians celebrated wildly at the final whistle at Twickenham, high-fiving and embracing after the invitation side secured just their second win over the All Blacks - 36 years since their famous Cardiff Arms Park victory.

Flying Springbok Bryan Habana's hat-trick was the difference as the South Africa/Australia dominated side scored three tries to two and had a clear edge in experience against the second-string All Blacks.

It robbed the All Blacks of an unbeaten finish to their six-match tour and saw them end 2009 with a 10 win, five loss record.McCaw, who led the side but was subbed at halftime to allow Tanerau Latimer his chance at openside flanker, said it was a glum mood in the sheds but the bigger picture was more important.

"Sitting here straight after the game it is a bit disappointing, but once we get back and reflect, there's been a lot of good things happen," McCaw said."In the tests, which are the most important, we built pretty well over those five tests and last week (the 39-12 win over France), the things we did there were pretty good."

After seven weeks on the road, McCaw said the players would be happy the tour was over and they could have a well-earned summer break.

The match was tagged to the end of their tour as a revenue-gatherer for the New Zealand Rugby Union, but was also a chance for fringe players to have one final say.

It drew 63,551 spectators to Twickenham, and afterwards the official merchandise shop was innundated as huge crowds queued in the drizzle to purchase their Barbarians souvenirs.

Coach Graham Henry said the players were looking forward to tomorrow's plane trip home but had definitely been up for the match.

"The guys prepared well and they were against high-quality players who are leaders in their particular national side," Henry said."That lack of experience probably told a wee bit and they'll be better players for that."

The coach said some players had taken their chances and others missed an opportunity as the All Blacks dominated the first half but trailed 10-14 at the break.Halfback Brendon Leonard had his best game in a frustrating year in the black jersey and played much of the second half with a broken nose, while second five-eighth Luke McAlister and tryscoring lock Anthony Boric also finished their tours strongly.

First five-eighth Stephen Donald offered a mixed bag and was unlucky to throw the intercept pass which saw Habana score his second try on the stroke of halftime. Replacement Mike Delany also found it tough to impose himself in the second half.

Tamati Ellison and Zac Guildford both departed with hamstring strains, which saw flanker Liam Messam posted to the wing.

The Barbarians were a tough outfit, with Victor Matfield leading the way and the loose trio of Schalk Burger and Wallabies George Smith and Rocky Elsom a handful.

The midfield of Jamie Roberts and Jaque Fourie found holes while Wallabies five-eighth Matt Giteau laid on Habana's crucial third try with 11 minutes left.

Said a proud coach Mallett:
"Once they put their mind to it, they looked like a test side that had played together for a couple of months. It was absolutely incredible and I was so proud of the way the guys defended, because that more than anything else shows the character of a team.
"It felt to me like a test team going out to play a test match. It's just fantastic to beat the All Blacks.
"There are some South African players who've beaten the All Blacks four times this year and I don't think that's happened all that often. A lot of history was made today."

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