Friday, August 31, 2012

Red faces on a black day
August 25, 2012 New Zealand 22 Australia 0

At Eden Park, a capacity crowd - loving every minute of the Wallabies being brutally carved up by the All Blacks butchers - were involved in a red-nose day for charity. But for the Wallabies, the Test degenerated into a dreadful episode of Red Faces.

On a hideous night when the Wallabies discovered they are rudderless without their captain David Pocock, they suffered the indignity of being the first Australian team in 50 years not to score a point in a Bledisloe Cup Test.

You have to go way back to September 8, 1962, to find the last time the Wallabies finished with a big fat zero, when beaten by New Zealand 3-0 in Dunedin.

So there goes the Bledisloe Cup for another year, and the defeat intensifies the serious doubts over whether Wallabies coach Robbie Deans will last much longer in his position - because his long run of losses against the All Blacks is becoming overwhelming.

Making it much more infuriating was the Wallabies never looked as if they were going to break their duck. They could not get the ball, and on the few occasions they did, nothing eventuated because they were so rattled by spending endless minutes trying to stop wave after wave of All Blacks' chargers.

The All Blacks were only average last week, and picked up their act last night. So the Wallabies, shackled by injuries and indecision, were soon looking for mercy. And without Pocock, their breakdown work became even more pedestrian.
One early consolation was the Wallabies' first-half effort was considerably better than a week ago. That is hardly startling, though, considering what bumbling fools they were in Sydney.

But this time, the Wallabies kept their error rate to a minimum before the break, and showed greater application in midfield.

There was also a welcome dollop of aggression, with Scott Higginbotham wanting to rip the head off any All Blacks forward who came near him, and Sitaleki Timani carrying on from where he left off last weekend by showing he, at least, was not intimidated by his opposites.

There were still enough glaring signs early on to prove that the divide between the two teams was considerable. After cleverly using Sonny Bill Williams and Ma'a Nonu as decoys in Sydney, the All Blacks' centre pairing was far more involved this time.

Williams in particular was used as the ''take-the-ball-up'' merchant, succeeding several times in offloading in the tackle, to ensure the All Blacks were able to enjoy the territorial battle by constantly playing on the front foot.

And that's why the All Blacks took a 9-0 lead at half-time. The Wallabies scrambled well but, eventually, perching too long on their own line was going to pay, prompting three relatively comfortable penalty goal attempts by Dan Carter before the break.

Other Wallabies problems included an over-persistence in kicking. Again they were completely outclassed in the aerial battle, struggling with any high balls that went their way, and finding it near impossible to gather possession from restarts.

Then ill-discipline got them into trouble, with skipper Will Genia sent to the sin bin in the 28th minute for a silly slap-down of an All Blacks ball. Not exactly the greatest example to be set by the new Wallabies skipper.
With it came more leakage of points. Then, straight after the break, the Wallabies fell apart.

Even on the other side of the Tasman, you could hear all the television sets back in Australia being switched off in disgust when the All Blacks, relishing that the Wallabies simply could not get the ball off them, breezed away to a 22-0 lead by the 50th minute. It was sometimes horrible to watch.

The Wallabies' frustrations were there for all to see when, after the All Blacks scored their only try of the match, they made a terrible hash of the restart. The Australian forwards forgot to chase the kick by Berrick Barnes, and it floated across the sideline. Barnes looked at his forwards in disbelief, and then screamed in disgust.

Here was a team that suddenly realised they had again lost the plot, and they were simply inferior to their ruthless opponents.

NEW ZEALAND 22 (Israel Dagg try Daniel Carter con 5 pens) bt AUSTRALIA 0 at Eden Park. Referee: Nigel Owens.


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