Michael Brown: Sorry France, these All Blacks are unstoppable

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Keven Mealamu in action against Australia. Photo / Richard Robinson
Keven Mealamu in action against Australia. Photo / Richard Robinson

Eden Park has been a happy home for the All Blacks for some time but they will given anything for just one more win.

Hoodoo or not, they haven't been beaten at the ground since 1994 - coincidentally against France - and it doesn't look like that will change in 2011.

Tonight's match with Australia was effectively the World Cup final. It was a match between the world's two best sides and France don't look capable of living with this All Blacks side. They don't have the skill, temperament, ability or will that Graham Henry's men do but history has shown France have little respect for the form book.

The All Blacks were better than Australia in almost every department tonight from the moment Quade Cooper kicked out on the full from the start of the game. Their goalkicking let them down but they otherwise controlled the match with some intelligent rugby that was a good balance of enterprise and clinical execution.

But for all of their attacking endeavor, it was their defence that stood out tonight. They refused to yield. They would not be beaten. They would turn it into an attacking part of their game as they hit, hurt and harried the Wallabies.

Three Australian players went to the blood bin in the first 40 minute but none were caused by dirty or late shots. They brought attitude to the encounter and Australia left with battle scars.

The All Blacks' commitment to defence was no better illustrated than by Jerome Kaino. The blindside flanker is one of the strongest defenders in world rugby and displayed this with his ability to repel Digby Ioane with Australia's first attacking foray in the 15th minute.

It seemed the Australia wing would rumble over with a couple of teammates helping him forward until he ran into Kaino. He was stopped immediately and driven back. That Australian attack was repelled, like many afterwards.

Defence wins World Cup but it also helps if your discipline is good and the All Blacks were excellent in this regard except for one silly rugby league-like shoulder tackle from Sonny Bill Williams that earned a late yellow card. Until that point they conceded only five penalties and one was from a debatable scrum penalty. Even when they came under pressure, they largely trusted their systems and defence. It made Australia work even harder for their points.

The All Blacks might have missed more tackles than Australia (19 to 17) but they made the important ones in the right parts on the field and created a lot of turnover ball from their aggressive defence.

Now they just need to do it one more time.

- APNZ

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