Patrick McKendry

Patrick McKendry is a rugby writer for the Herald.

All Blacks: Pack 'went to a dark place'

Brodie Retallick's physical dominance together with Sam Whitelock and the rest of the team blew the Wallabies away. Photo / Greg Bowker
Brodie Retallick's physical dominance together with Sam Whitelock and the rest of the team blew the Wallabies away. Photo / Greg Bowker

After the Sydney stalemate, the All Blacks' forwards had to go to a dark place to see the light at Eden Park.

Challenged by the coaches and their own teammates, the pack responded like a wasps nest poked with a stick. Their physical dominance, with Brodie Retallick and Sam Whitelock to the fore and ably supported by the rest of the big men, blew the Wallabies away with an intensity probably not seen for 12 months - dating back to the last Rugby Championship.

It allowed Richie McCaw, Kieran Read and Liam Messam to operate on the front foot and provide a platform for the backs to make the most of their chances. By comparison, Michael Hooper, so influential in Sydney, found it hard to get into the match, late try apart. His loose forward colleagues Scott Fardy and Wycliff Palu were hardly sighted.

Hooker Dane Coles, who impressed with his carrying but certainly didn't shirk from the tough stuff, revealed afterwards head coach Steve Hansen and forwards coach Mike Cron had made it clear improvements were needed from the week before.

He stressed it was important the All Blacks got their intimidating edge back.

"They really put the acid on for the tight five to front," he said. "We didn't want to let him down or let ourselves down. It's all about personal pride in your performance and I think tonight the boys really did that, we really stepped up our performance and put a stake in the ground.

"There were little messages throughout the week. When coaches like Crono and Steve say that kind of stuff you really take that on board and go to that dark place to put in a dominant performance. The boys prepared well and really took their advice on board."

Asked about notoriously straight-shooter Hansen's approach, Coles said: "[He is] straight to the point, no beating around the bush. [There are] a couple of swear words. You know when he's in that mood you have to listen."

Lock Retallick, one of the best in the pack with his work at re-starts, lineouts, breakdown, defence, and with the ball in hand, said the pack had put a lot of work on the pushover scrum - rewarded with a penalty try - and driving maul which reaped two tries for skipper McCaw.

"There was a bit of acid, but it was probably more humiliating for us as players to get dominated up front like we did last week," he said.

"We had a point to prove to others and to ourselves that we were up to the job."

McCaw said: "They set the standard, the big boys up front. We put the acid on those boys and they fronted up this week."

- APNZ

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