Wynne Gray on sport

Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

Wynne Gray: Accuracy missing in All Blacks victory

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There was a very similar pattern to the Edinburgh start of the tour when the All Blacks took their rugby roadshow to Italy today.

They misfired, mishandled and missed out on a number of opportunities to make inroads as their accuracy let them down.

Against Scotland, the All Blacks blasted Into some potency in the second quarter but there was little of that this time.

The All Black staff shifted the local media out from the row behind their computers but anyone looking for deep secrets on their screens would have found little from the opening half footage.

Match report: Messy All Blacks beat Italy

There was some expectation the alternate All Blacks would be a little frisky and even a little edgy waiting after this game. They were and the jittery play did not cease by halftime.

Italy took their chances to muscle up on their rivals, banging bodies, breaking tackles and competing vigorously at the breakdowns. They were inspired by the 74,000 crowd who packed into Stadio Olimpico and brought the sort of muscle they needed to upset the visitors.

It is a template opponents are seeing more and more as a way of cutting off the All Blacks desire to shift the ball across the park and stretch defences.

Whomever was keeping the missed tackle count from the All Backs would have been busy. There were too many repeat cuplrits and a general lack of bite to their play.

Aaron Smith suffered at the breakdowns with poor protection from his teammates and despite their extra week training, the All Blacks showed little cohesion.

For those seeking to get into the starting XV for next week's test against Wales, there would have been few positive notes in the coaches' books.

There were moments. Aaron Cruden busted some moves and made some incisions through the defences but then could not link with his support. They either overran him or took the wrong lines. Another time he passed the ball to no one, on another dropped the ball cold.

That sort of incident hinted at the All Blacks' calibre. The timing was off and then to add to the woes, just after halftime, hooker Keven Mealamu damaged his right leg and was replaced.

New captain Kieran Read claimed the only All Blacks try of the opening spell when he backed up vice captain Conrad Smith's snipe but after that there were too many fumbles.
Hosea Gear spilled the ball across the line as the lack of precision continued.

Forwards like Brodie Retallick, Sam Cane and Read were working hard but the headway and cohesion with their teammates was ragged.

The backline flow was the same as the Italians defensive line moved up quickly and with some sting. The revered Ma'a Nonu/ Smith mix was not allowed to prosper much, even as the game went deeper into the second half.

Nonu claimed a try from a Cruden cut and offload but it was a rare gem as the afternoon light faded at the stadium. Replacement Cory Jane sauntered across after a Julian Savea offload too but the late flurry could not disguise much of the earlier mediocrity.

- NZ Herald

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