Rugby: Returning All Blacks to the fore

All Black wing Sitiveni Sivivatu (L) repaid the selectors' faith by scoring the opening try against the Wallabies last night. Photo / Getty Images
All Black wing Sitiveni Sivivatu (L) repaid the selectors' faith by scoring the opening try against the Wallabies last night. Photo / Getty Images

There were more than a few eyebrows raised when Sitiveni Sivivatu's name was read out for the All Blacks tour.

After all, the 27-year-old hadn't played in a number of weeks because of a shoulder injury.

He was picked more on reputation than form, clearly, but was a leading figure against Australia last night. The flying Fijian repaid some of the faith shown in him by scoring the first try of the match in the 22nd minute.

He finished off a brilliant move, which featured a quick interchange of passes involving Jimmy Cowan, Richie McCaw (twice), Tom Donnelly and Mils Muliaina before McCaw's well-timed pop pass to Sivivatu.

It took Sivivatu's personal tally to 26 tries in his 40th test and he now stands alone in eighth place on the All Blacks try-scoring tally. If he looks at the list, he will find some of the best finishers in history - John Kirwan (35), Tana Umaga (36), Jonah Lomu (37), Jeff Wilson (44), Josevata Rokocoko (45), Christian Cullen (46) and Doug Howlett (49).

But Sivivatu undid his good work with a mindless and dangerous tackle on Adam Ashley-Cooper when the Wallabies second five was high in the air fielding a 33rd-minute bomb.

The referee had little option but to show a yellow card to the wing. Just two minutes later, Peter Hynes took advantage of the space down the flank and scored in the corner.

It was Australia's first try against the All Blacks in 260 minutes and just their second against them this season. Add in a wonderful sideline conversion by Matt Giteau and the All Blacks paid a high price for Sivivatu's indiscretion. A 13-9 lead quickly became a 13-16 halftime deficit.

Sivivatu immediately tried to atone for his mistake on his return and went searching for the ball. He thumped a kick upfield that rolled inches inside the corner flag and a couple of plays later, Conrad Smith dummied over for New Zealand's second try six minutes after the restart.

Smith is a curious case. He made his debut five years ago but last night was just his 30th test.

In an era when as many as 15 tests are played a year, as there were in 2008, the centre has been a part-time All Black.

Injury has been a constant companion for the 28-year-old, none worse than a broken leg in 2006 and the interrupted 2007. He would be approaching a half century of tests by now if he had remained fit.

He is an intelligent player and that's why he is usually charged as the organiser of the All Blacks' defence, which was brilliant last night.

He is also an elusive runner, as he highlighted with the ghosting run for his try, his first in seven games against Australia.

Dan Carter did the rest, adding 22 points, but two returning All Blacks were to the fore.

- Herald on Sunday

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