All Blacks more stupid than courageous (+photos, videos)

By Gregor Paul

Australia 34
New Zealand 19

>>Tri-Nations standings

The All Blacks straddled that fine line between bravery and stupidity last night and ended up putting the emphasis too heavily on the latter.

As a consequence, New Zealanders really will wake up this morning and wonder if they let the wrong coach go at the end of last year.

This was a victory for the roundhead in Robbie Deans as much as it was a failing of the cavalier in Graham Henry.

There were times when the All Blacks were thrilling, when their skills were absorbing and their ambition admirable.

But too often it felt like this whole run from everywhere policy was misguided - an attempt by Henry to outfox Deans when really, the All Blacks should have just stuck to their knitting and worked the flair in and around the territorial stuff.

The All Blacks' skills weren't good enough for long enough to live with their ambition.

And the Wallabies didn't roll over and play dead the way they needed to for such an expansive game to work.

When Henry comes to look back on this game, he might just wonder why on earth he didn't get the message on to the field for Dan Carter to hoof the blessed ball down the park.

He might just regret not persevering with Chris Masoe because, for 40 minutes, Daniel Braid was off the pace.

That was hardly surprising, as he's barely played in the last five weeks and it hurt the All Blacks.

Such an expansive game plan needed a No 7 at the peak of his craft to make it work and it wasn't fair on Braid to ask so much on such limited preparation.

And once Braid made way for Sione Lauaki, again Henry might ask why the All Blacks didn't tighten up, as Jerome Kaino and Lauaki couldn't give Rodney So'oialo the support he needed at the breakdown.

What Henry might argue is that the longer the game went on and the longer the All Blacks refused to kick the ball, the more they became committed to persevering.

It had to be that way because they forced the Wallabies into making an extraordinary number of tackles and the more they made, the more likely it was the Australians would be on their knees come the closing 10 minutes.

That was the theory but the Wallabies didn't crack and what had potential to be brave ended up being stupid.

With the Wallabies thunderous in the opening 10 minutes, it certainly didn't seem brave that the All Blacks were trying to run the ball out of their own 22.

Nor did it seem a good idea when Dan Carter did kick, to keep it in play so Lote Tuqiri could rip into his work.

Making it unquestionably more stupid than brave was the fact Brad Thorn was sent to the sin bin after six minutes for taking Matt Giteau high.

When a ropey cross kick by Mils Muliaina was picked up by Tuqiri, who then went on to waltz past three defenders and set up a ruck that saw Giteau go blind and pass to the unmarked Ryan Cross, it felt like the All Blacks needed to take stock.

It felt like the sensible thing to do would be to slow the game down, take the sting out of the Wallabies and play for territory. The All Blacks had an entirely different view on that.

They played with enterprise and ambition - Carter always looking to see what was on and every time he looked, he saw an opportunity to pass.

And so it went. The ball zipped around between the runners with some effective use of the inside pass.

But no matter how much the All Blacks moved the point of contact, the Wallabies kept knocking them down.

When they did break the line, the All Blacks were too often guilty of not seeing the support runners.

So'oialo was in the clear midway through the first half, with Carter ranging up on his left but the pass never came. It took a storming break by Muliaina from inside his own half for the All Blacks to finally break their drought.

With the cover closing in, the All Black fullback chipped ahead, it was regathered and after a scrappy exchange, somehow, Muliaina was over the line and the score had been given.

The All Blacks needed it. They had dominated possession after being blitzed in the opening 10 minutes.

They were chipping away, passing, passing, passing but not really threatening in the strike zone.

That ended up being the story of the night. The All Blacks pounded away - they had 71 per cent of possession in the first half but couldn't make it count.

- Herald on Sunday

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