All Blacks: Close shave plenty to chew over

By Wynne Gray

All Blacks 18 Munster 16

The history books will record a narrow win for the visitors. But there was enough rugby material for the locals to chew over as they sip their Guinness for the next 30 years.

It was a case of what-ifs for the Munstermen, a match when they led 16-10 at halftime and then watched as Stephen Donald kicked a penalty, then missed a couple before Joe Rokocoko pulled out his escape try for the All Blacks win.

The tourists only had the lead twice in this match - which served a variety of commercial interests including the official opening of the new Thomond Park - but, most crucially, the second came within the shadow of referee Roman Poite's fulltime burst on the whistle.

Given a rare overlap space, Rokocoko sized up the last Munster defender and former teammate Doug Howlett, chopped inside him and beat the cover to allow the All Blacks to escape the notoriety which claimed them 30 years ago at the same venue.

It was a tough watch for all. The Munster supporters in the 26,000 crowd could not quite believe their side was on the cusp of another upset, while those who watched the All Blacks more must have been puzzled by their repeated mistakes, tactics and dizzying style.

Munster looked a well-drilled team, an accomplished outfit even without their test players, while the All Blacks looked like a collection of players who had rarely trained together. The less flamboyant but accurate Munster side played to their strengths, made their tackles and showed great cohesion.

There was some impressive work from All Blacks such as No 8 Liam Messam, but too often their work was individual while tactics like short kicks and some sloppy passing left them open to hits behind the advantage line.

They seemed intent on more frivolous rugby than punching the corners and applying pressure that way to Munster.

Errors like Jamie Mackintosh losing the ball in the tackle close to the line, Isaia Toeava's poor pass with an overlap waiting, weak scrums, Piri Weepu being hounded off the ball and Rico Gear losing possession when he was through a gap were all too frequent but summed up much of the All Black play.

They escaped but it was a near thing.

There was little to recommend any of the starters bar Rokocoko and it was the late injection of senior wise heads like Mils Muliaina and Brad Thorn which seemed to just make the vital difference as the nerves and minds jangled in a frantic final quarter.

The atmosphere was something else from the thunderous noise to the deathly quiet when kickers from both sides tried goal shots.

Coach Graham Henry mentioned many of the issues around the game - the support of the fans, the visit to Limerick and this commemorative match - but battled to offer many positive comments about his side.

"The win, well, it was nice to have a win but I think the occasion was more important," he said. "It was very special and I think the Munster boys should feel very proud of what they did out there today."

Henry did not think his side had got out of jail though he did modify his response as he went on.

"I don't think so," he started. "I think we played most of the rugby, a lot of the rugby, some of the rugby, 50 per cent of the rugby. We tried to be constructive most of the time."

The experience would help the development of many of the All Blacks who were young and inexperienced and might not have felt the sort of heat Munster and their crowd were able to generate.

- NZ Herald

Your views

Stats provided by

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production apcf03 at 29 Dec 2014 10:15:09 Processing Time: 1221ms