Beach beckons as All Blacks celebrate history

EDINBURGH - Music blared and there were embraces, elation, and relief all round as the All Blacks eyed the beach to reflect on their repeat of rugby history today.

Coach Graham Henry hailed his class of 2005, which topped 40 players in all, as the 29-10 win over Scotland at Murrayfield sealed the coveted Grand Slam to go with the Tri-Nations, Bledisloe Cup and 3-0 Lions series clean sweep.

While it was hardly achieved in style as the razzle dazzle, over-excitement and greasy ball weren't a happy combination, the All Blacks weren't in danger and earned the plaudits from their coach as Jerry Collins mixed the dressing room tunes.

"There's full-on celebration in the dressing shed," Henry said.

"Also relief, it's been a long year with 10 months of rugby.

"I'm sure they're looking forward to relaxing, getting a bit of sun and forgetting about rugby for as long as possible."

It was no small achievement, with plenty of reminders of All Blacks teams in the past century who didn't get there.

Selector Sir Brian Lochore and New Zealand Rugby Union president John Graham were both part of the 47,678 crowd today, having been in the 1964 side who drew 0-0 all here and blew their chance at a Grand Slam.

The 1905 side lost 0-3 to Wales, Lochore's 1967 side were denied by a foot and mouth disease outbreak in Ireland, while the 1972-73 tourists slipped up with a 10-10 draw with Ireland.

Only in 1978 under Graham Mourie had it previously been achieved, with today's becoming the All Blacks' second Grand Slam from seven attempts.

Captain Tana Umaga couldn't wipe the smile off his face although he soon tired of speculation about his possible test retirement.

Henry marvelled at the contribution of his inspirational captain.

"I think he's outstanding. He's been a very special leader for this team and to lead them to what they've achieved this year is quite remarkable.

"Him and his fellow leaders have done a superb job."

The All Blacks had things parcelled up at halftime when leading 22-3, but a rash of handling errors and some stout Scotland defence kept the margin from blowing out.

Wing Rico Gear capped a tryfest in 2005 with a double - his first in the eighth minute from a Piri Weepu grubber and the second six minutes from fulltime from a Jason Eaton in-pass.

"It's certainly been an enjoyable year and it's almost a shame it has to end," said Gear, who set a Super 12 tryscoring record of 15 for the Crusaders and bagged a hat-trick in the tour opener against Wales.

Scotland deserved credit for disrupting the All Blacks attacks and applying pressure through their rock solid lineout and clever kicks in behind.

A grubber right on fulltime caused the only breach when replacement Simon Webster touched down.

Otherwise the All Blacks' wall was as solid as ever as Scotland mounted second half raids -- Chris Jack and Angus Macdonald in the heart of the action.

They conceded just three tries from four matches on tour.

Scotland coach Frank Hadden said his team blew their chance in the first half with a sleepy start, and saw it as an opportunity missed.

They were well led up front by captain Jason White and veteran lock Scott Murray.

Hadden said there was no doubting the team in black's ability.

"At the moment they are undoubtedly the strongest side in the world, they undoubtedly have the greatest depth and they will almost certainly go into the World Cup as favourites.

"But it doesn't mean to say people think they're invincible and unbeatable."

Henry, Umaga, Daniel Carter and fullback Isaia Toeava now fly to Paris for the International Rugby Board awards (Monday morning NZT) while Joe Rokocoko, Lauaki, Ma'a Nonu, Gear and Nick Evans head to Ukraine to film a Super 14 commercial.

- NZPA

 

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