All Blacks: Shock and awe

By Gregor Paul

Australia 28 New Zealand 49

Richie McCaw scored a try down the blindside while the All Blacks were reduced to 14 men. Photo / Getty Images
Richie McCaw scored a try down the blindside while the All Blacks were reduced to 14 men. Photo / Getty Images

Wallaby legend John Eales reckons the All Blacks are on the verge of a great era. He needs to revise that view - the All Blacks are not on the verge, they are in the midst.

This was their 12th consecutive win and just about the most convincing of the run; they took just 44 minutes to score 39 points. They took just 35 minutes to secure the bonus point and leave the Wallabies seriously contemplating not coming out for the second half.

The attacking power, defensive clout, tactical awareness and set-piece stability was all there again last night.

There is also an increasingly effective captain in Richie McCaw, who was everywhere, taking kickoffs, scoring tries, smashing bodies, cajoling, urging, questioning and setting a stunning example.

This was shock and awe rugby; the Wallabies, organised, gifted and tenacious as they were, didn't stand a chance. This was the Russian tanks rolling into Prague - a procession of intent and brutality all underpinned by a certainty of the desired outcome.

It's hard to recall an All Black side, any side, that has possessed the same clinical accuracy as the current crew. The Wallabies can cling to the theory that they were scuppered by the red card to Drew Mitchell three minutes into the second half.

They surely must know that is a road for fools. They were already in the coffin by then. Maybe the lid hadn't shut but no one was expecting the corpse to miraculously revive.

How could it? The All Blacks only needed a sniff, a half metre, and they had the Wallabies split and panicking. Their ability to create openings was staggering.

The composure and patience was critical. So too was the speed at which the ball was moved away from the breakdown and the skill with which it was slipped out of the contact.

It can't be ignored that the scrum was rock steady, or that Tom Donnelly sucked in just about every kickoff or that the lineout, the odd wobble here and there, was reliable. Gone are the bad old days of last year where those basic skills couldn't be taken for granted.

But the key to their performance was continuity - perpetual motion, awareness and understanding.

Keven Mealamu grafted a serious number of hard yards. So did Brad Thorn and unlike many thumping ball carriers, these two were always looking for space; always alive to the opportunities that existed.

That's what killed the Wallabies. They could put the first man down but the ball would always be transferred to the next.

The Dutch once played what became known as Total Football - this was close to rugby's equivalent.

It was Dan Carter who effected the turnover in the build-up to Mils Muliaina's first try and it was Thorn and Mealamu who pulled off the neatest and slickest of interchanges to get the ball to the wing.

There was even a freakish quality about the All Blacks.

The way Cory Jane managed to dink a kick off his toe to the onrushing, but offside Muliaina; the way Jane again squeezed in at the corner to claim the bonus point on 35 minutes - he's not a big man, he's not racing-car quick, yet there he was dancing and bumping past bigger men.

Even with 14 men - a result of a yellow card to Owen Franks for not using his arms when he pulled off a jumbo hit on Richard Brown - the All Blacks could score.

The fact Mitchell was binned a few minutes later created more bizarre symmetry. In the opening 10 minutes, Mitchell charged down a Dan Carter clearance straight from a kickoff to score in the corner.

Carter then crossed one minute later when he charged down a Berrick Barnes clearance straight from a kickoff.

How the Wallabies must have wished there was more facets where they mirrored the All Blacks. They just didn't have the same speed of thought, the same movement or the same focus and execution.

They were endearingly brave after they lost Mitchell for good. Other sides, like Ireland, would have run up the white flag in the same situation.

Yet none of that will be of much consolation. This was their eighth consecutive loss to the All Blacks and for a nation that only appreciates winners, they know there is little point in cracking open the Champagne when the horse is long gone.

Australia 28 (D. Mitchell, A. Ashley-Cooper, R. Elsom tries; M. Giteau 2 cons, 3 pens) New Zealand 49 (D. Carter, M. Muliaina 2, R. McCaw, C. Jane, J Rokocoko, C. Flynn tries; Carter 4 cons, 2 pens). HT: 14-32.

- Herald on Sunday

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