Monday, September 13, 2010

Captain McCaw inspires stirring comeback - (11/09/2010)

All Blacks captain Richie McCaw provided the spark for his side to come back from 6-19 down by scoring the try which allowed it to complete a clean sweep of the Investec Tri Nations by claiming a 23-22 victory at Telstra Stadium in Sydney on Saturday.

It was another bruising encounter between the sides but the All Blacks wore down the Australians by turning to a power game in the final quarter and it paid dividends.

The effort also marked a winning celebration for McCaw as he became the most capped All Blacks captain with 52 Test matches when passing Sean Fitzpatrick's record. It wasn't only his try which stirred the side, he led the way in defensive play as well.

New Zealand almost foundered on their own errors, many unforced. Lack of accuracy in lineout throwing, failure to find touches several times in field play and an absence of the control earlier in the series all contributed to a disappointing performance during the first three-quarters of the game.

Handling and passing errors in potential scoring situations looked like they would add up to deny the All Blacks their shot at the world record for successive victories but their fightback kept their quest alive at 15 unbeaten games.

A 68th minute try to McCaw revived New Zealand hopes as halfback Piri Weepu landed the conversion to make the deficit 16-22.

Then five minutes later, the All Blacks opted to play for position rather than take a penalty goal and it paid off with some more strength-sapping drives at the line with No.8 Kieran read powering his way over by the posts, which was just reward for an outstanding game, for Weepu's conversion to claim the lead.

New Zealand's sensible use of the bench resulted in flanker Jerome Kaino having a significant effect after he came on to take Victor Vito's place. He was prominent in some of the most demanding power plays which made the difference in the final outcome, and confirmed how much his game has grown this year.

The All Blacks' problems started in the 17th minute after a superb scrum break by No.8 Ben McCalman opened up the blindside track. He sped past weak defence and fed flying wing James O'Connor and there was no cover to haul him for Australia to gain the lead.

It was reward after opposite wing Lachie Turner was denied a try in the first five minutes by a fraction of a millimetre as his foot slid into the touchline in wing Cory Jane's tackle.

Moments later it was Australia scrambling to push second five-eighths Ma'a Nonu out in the corner at the other end after he chased through on a clever kick by first five-eighths Aaron Cruden. And All Blacks' fullback Mils Muliaina went within a stride of scoring after latching onto a centring kick from left wing Israel Dagg.

Second five-eighths Matt Giteau extended Australia's lead to 11-6 with his 31st-minute penalty goal, having landed his first in the sixth minute while Weepu landed third and 10th-minute penalty goals. Giteau's also added an injury-time penalty goal.

Centre Adam Ashley-Cooper gained a vital advantage for the side when scoring the opening try after halftime which took Australia to a 19-6 lead, the opportunity arising from two All Blacks mistakes. The first was a turnover from flanker Victor Vito which saw the ball kicked long by Australia and in attempting to run the ball back Muliaina was isolated and Australia turned the ball over again.

Australia 22 (James O'Connor, Adam Ashley-Cooper tries; Matt Giteau 3 pen; Kurtley Beale pen)
New Zealand 23 (Richie McCaw, Kieran Read tries; Piri Weepu 2 con, 3 pen). HT: 14-6

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