Sunday August 08, 2010
All Blacks captain Richie McCaw praised his side's defensive effort in their 20-10 victory over Australia last night, which helped them retain the Bledisloe Cup and all but seal the Tri-Nations title.
The All Blacks seized their opportunities in a match that had sharply contrasting halves, with converted tries to Mils Muliaina and Conrad Smith and two penalties to Daniel Carter negating Kurtley Beale's try and a conversion and penalty to Matt Giteau.
Unlike last week's 49-28 All Blacks victory in Melbourne where both sides combined to score 10 tries, last night's match degenerated, after a scintillating beginning, into a bruising defensive encounter.
The All Blacks were forced to make 110 tackles on Saturday, and only missed five, as the Wallabies continuously recycled ball but failed to penetrate the swarming black defensive line.
"It was right up there," McCaw said when he was asked of how he rated his team's defensive performance.
"It shows the character in the team.
"In the past few games we've won them by scoring tries, whereas tonight it was the defence that won us the game. We took our opportunities in the first half then had to defend.
"There were some big hits in there, but... boys kept getting up."
McCaw said the effort had taken its toll on the team, with the Wallabies having to make just 75 tackles while they held onto the ball for sustained periods. They also won 110 rucks and mauls to the All Blacks' 70.
"It does take a fair bit out of you and I know the guys, with 10 minutes to go, didn't have a lot of gas left in the tank," McCaw said.
"There were some fairly big hits out there (and) ... there will certainly be some sore bodies tomorrow in both teams."
Australia coach Robbie Deans, who was making his first return with the Wallabies to his hometown of Christchurch, also said the All Blacks defence had been a major difference in the match.
"They were able to deny us momentum at the breakdown. They're a very (good) defensive side, that's probably the one thing they do best, they slow ball, which allows them to bring their organisation and athleticism into play."
Deans, who was disappointed at his side's effort last week, said they had played a lot better on Saturday but must learn to seize their opportunities if they were able to end what is now a nine-game losing streak to the All Blacks.
"At this level if you aspire to beat the All Blacks you have to play your hand when it presents itself, and take most of those moments and we weren't able to do that," Deans added.
"That's something they were able to do. They scored a couple of time but we weren't able to do it.
"That finishing was the point of difference in the game."