Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Blame game begins as All Blacks lose mental edge
Greg Growden
November 1, 2010

HONG KONG: The Wallabies won the Test and also the battle of the body language. Determined to show they do not suffer an inferiority complex around the All Blacks, they refused to be intimidated.

So when All Blacks captain Richie McCaw lashed out with his boot at his opposite David Pocock as the scrum was being packed down, the Wallabies openside did not laugh it off and instead grappled with him. All game, Wallabies five-eighth Quade Cooper mouthed off at the All Blacks skipper.

Wallabies skipper Rocky Elsom also made certain he had as big a presence on the field as McCaw.

These were important signals that the Wallabies finally believed in themselves. Or as Wallabies coach Robbie Deans put it: ''It is a sign of the fact they are respecting what they are doing.''
As for the All Blacks, they knew they wasted a critical psychological moment. All Blacks coach Graham Henry explained it succinctly: ''You always like to keep your foot on the throat and we didn't do that.''

And it was clear they looked upon replacement five-eighth Stephen Donald as the man to blame. After replacing Daniel Carter in the 60th minute, Donald messed up a clearing kick that allowed Wallabies fullback Kurtley Beale to counter-attack. From there came James O'Connor's last-minute try.

Asked about Donald's performance, Henry said: ''I think it was a test of character for the team and individuals. Some of the individuals won't be happy with the way they played and they will be disappointed they didn't close it down. Stephen would be one of those guys. Stephen is a very experienced footballer and he will handle it. We will assist as time goes on.''

It seems the All Blacks' self-questioning has begun.

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