All Blacks: Keeping it simple pays dividends (+ photos, video)

By Gregor Paul

New Zealand 39
Australia 10

If ever anyone needed reminding that rugby is a simple business, they got it last night. The All Blacks went back to basics, took care of the core skills, played the game in Australia's half and levelled the series.

They did much more than that, though. The All Blacks administered an old style belting - the kind where the receiver feels the humiliation more than the pain.

They restored some pride, showed there is a depth of emotion with regard to what the jersey means, and that Robbie Deans, for all his ability and tactical knowledge, can't work any magic when faced with the fury of an All Black side wanting revenge.

Coming off as bad a performance as any All Black side has delivered in the last decade, it took character to lift the intensity.

Having Richie McCaw back was a major, and not just for his outrageous ability. His very presence was enough to galvanise the troops and the All Blacks carried that little hint of superiority in their body language that goes a long way towards winning tests.

It was McCaw's thunderous hit on Luke Burgess that led to the halfback coughing the ball up just after halftime. It was a critical hit, as the pill came flying back to the All Blacks inside the Wallaby 22 and they were sharp enough, eventually, to work Ma'a Nonu in at the corner.

The real consequence, though, of this emphatic victory was to lift a fair bit of pressure off the shoulders of a beleaguered coaching staff.

This was as much a return to form for Graham Henry as it was for the All Blacks. There was no mucking about. No trying to second-guess Robbie Deans.

Where they tried to run in Sydney, they kicked in Auckland. Dan Carter nudged the ball deep into corners and the chasers shook off their lethargy of last week.

Eden Park is a cruel experience for visitors and the Wallabies were asked to play from deep and come up with something special to break the game open.

Nor was it just Carter making yardage with the boot - everyone got in on the act. Ali Williams, McCaw, Mils Muliaina and Richard Kahui all pushed the ball behind the Australians, forcing them to deal with the slippery surface on the retreat.

In Sydney the All Blacks stood back from the aerial challenge. Last night they attacked the Wallabies in the air. What was supposedly the key Wallaby strength became an area of vulnerability, with the All Blacks heaping the pressure on with competing jumpers.

The All Blacks were also inventive in the lineout, and it was a clever catch and pass by Ali Williams in one movement that set up the low-driving Tony Woodcock for his second try.

But the biggest improvement was at the collision, where the All Blacks had the numbers, the technique and the physicality to blow the Australians away. They were solid retrieving their own ball and immense when hitting the ruck.

Much of that improvement has to be attributed to the restoration of a traditional loose-forward shape.

Rodney So'oialo played like a man whose enjoyment and relief had been compounded by the twin factors of being relieved of the captaincy and returned to his preferred No 8 berth.

Even the nomadic Jerome Kaino set up semi-permanent residence in the heart of the battle.

The final triumph for the All Blacks was Jimmy Cowan, who barked out orders, kicked cleverly at times and scrambled well.

It was kind of neat as Cowan was as much in need of redemption as the All Blacks.

- Herald on Sunday

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