What a splendid occasion, and what a splendid performance from the
All Blacks in La Plata yesterday as their backs finally joined the party
and helped produce the most complete display of the inaugural Rugby
It was really pleasing to see the backline respond. The pack in
general has been very good all season. The backs have had their moments
but they've been inconsistent.
They were very, very good yesterday as they scored all seven tries
in a record-breaking win. They used the ball with width and played with a
real attitude. They took on the advantage line, their workrate was
outstanding and the skill level just brilliant. The work they did at the
breakdowns and gain-line was very impressive.
Ma'a Nonu had one of his best games, Dan Carter was outstanding,
Aaron Smith was sharp and Julian Savea and Cory Jane were brilliant at
finishing the opportunities they were given. Conrad Smith and Israel
Dagg weren't quite as prominent, but it didn't matter. It was good to
see some of the players who hadn't been dominant previously step up and
play so well. The forwards also played their parts, but this time their
hard work and platform possession was not wasted. It was good to see.
From the moment Nonu made his break after Richie McCaw secured a
kickoff, the All Blacks never looked back. They finally gelled and their
At last you could see the game plan they've been hammering away at
finally materialising. You've got to credit the coaching staff and
players for sticking at it. They've worked hard, they've persevered and
it paid off. We saw how well it can work when they get it right.
I liked the way they executed off set piece, their kickoff work was
great, the lineout functioned very well and the scrum, against a good
scrummaging side, was superb all night. Defensively they were sound too,
even though they conceded tries at the start of each half.
The link play and passing of the forwards was also impressive, and
some of the offloads were quite special to watch. It all worked well as
the fluency finally came into the All Blacks' game.
Maybe it needs to be put into context. When you run up a big score
like this sometimes the quality of the opposition has got to be
questioned. But in this case I think the quality of the opposition was
good - just not at the level of the All Blacks.
I think it's important we pay credit to what Argentina has brought
to this Rugby Championship. It's easy to overlook their contribution
because of the way they were dismantled in this game, but I would urge
The reason the All Blacks were at their very best was because the
occasion, the stadium and atmosphere were so good, and also because the
opposition had played really well previously.
The All Blacks were on edge for this game. You could see it when
they arrived on the bus as they were walking to the changing-room - they
knew they were in an environment where they were going to be tested.
In many ways, the performance we saw was all due to the introduction
of Argentina to the championship. Though they got hammered, they have
something vital to offer this competition.
So now we move on to the Springboks in Soweto, and what a finale it could be.
What impressed me most about their big win over the Wallabies in
Pretoria was the performance of their loose trio. They outplayed a
pretty competent Wallaby unit, with Francois Louw outstanding.
The Boks looked so much better with Johan Goosen at 10. When the
game started, he was playing too deep, but once he got confidence, he
flattened out and the outside backs got the ball with time to do
something with it.
Even though the All Blacks have got the championship in the bag, the
challenge has definitely not gone. They're on a 15-test winning streak
and won't want to have that snapped . They also won't want to give South
Africa confidence and will want to stay on top of them.
This game will still be a huge occasion. It holds a lot of
importance for the All Blacks, in a lot of different ways. Even though
the championship is wrapped up, I still think we'll see a pretty special
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