Gregor Paul is the Herald on Sunday's rugby writer

All Blacks: Big win sealed with a kiss

Richie McCaw was the toast of Eden Park, although he had another stint in the sinbin. Photo / Getty Images
Richie McCaw was the toast of Eden Park, although he had another stint in the sinbin. Photo / Getty Images

Good result, great performance, OK referee, terrible discipline — the All Blacks have so much to be pleased about and one niggly thing that will be bugging them.

They won't dwell on their two yellow cards until they get back into camp next week, but they will have to spend a bit of time looking at their propensity to do daft things and needlessly get themselves into trouble.

They put 50 points on Australia, even though they had Richie McCaw in the sinbin for 10 minutes and Ben Franks off for the last six minutes. Imagine what damage they could have done had they played with all 15 for the full 80 minutes.

But it's only a niggle. They caused more than enough damage as it was to be satisfied and confident about where they can be by the end of the tournament.

The forwards were superb. They barely made a mistake in either the set-piece or loose and the pace was relentless.

There was power and crunch and also some genuine skill.

Brodie Retallick pulled off the impossible of thundering into everything and yet also slipping offloads and throwing long passes.

Sam Whitelock was much the same and no one should underestimate their skill at the cleanout — it was dynamic and ruthless and technically excellent.

"You are going to enjoy a performance when your team plays as well and it was a special performance," All Black coach Steve Hansen said. "I am very pleased and very proud of the team.

"I sensed we were going to play a lot better than we did the week before. You will hear me harp on about that all the time — Sunday to Friday is the key."

McCaw, after taking full responsibility for his own silliness in instinctively reacting to pick up his yellow card ("I felt a bit stupid sitting in the seat there ... I don't know why I did that. It was a reflex and I was sorry as soon as I did it," he said), paid tribute to the tight five for being the foundation of the performance.

To his mind, the big men owned the contest at the collision and destroyed Australia in the first two scrums. That was critical because it rattled Australia and left them wondering whether they had the steel to compete.

"We put the acid on those guys to front up this week," McCaw said of the tight five. "We looked at last week and a lot of that game, we were getting beaten in the contact areas. They knew that — and rugby is a hell of an easier game when you're winning the game and going forward."

Despite the performance, Hansen was keen to acknowledge the importance of the victory but to also make clear they have more to come.

"There were parts of that game that were not great," he said. "We let in soft tries and dropped a lot of balls. We will sit down and allow ourselves a wee moment of satisfaction, then it's back to work. That's what I love about this team — the desire to keep improving and get better."

- Herald on Sunday

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