Wynne Gray

Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

All Blacks: Dagg rediscovers his magic

Israel Dagg has the measure of his opposite, Wallaby fullback Kurtley Beale, in Sydney. Dagg said Beale would be out to make amends in Auckland next weekend. Photo / Getty Images
Israel Dagg has the measure of his opposite, Wallaby fullback Kurtley Beale, in Sydney. Dagg said Beale would be out to make amends in Auckland next weekend. Photo / Getty Images

His confidence is returning and so are the instincts.

While Israel Dagg made mistakes he usually avoids, his dash and vision from the back field were key weapons for the All Blacks in their opening Bledisloe Cup win against the Wallabies.

The shimmy, the stutter step, the outstanding acceleration - they were all there on Saturday as Dagg created some of the magic which had been missing from much of his play this season.

His catch and shift of a difficult pass also put Corey Jane into a half metre of space for the All Blacks' second try.

Dagg helped himself to the first when an intricate dummy crossover move from the backs gave the fullback room to skirt the first line of defenders.

He then simply skinned Kurtley Beale, who looked as comfortable all evening as a live duck on a roasting plate.

Tries from set phase are a rarity in international rugby, and while the decoy work was done in the inside channels, they needed Dagg's elan to finish them.

"I just had to back myself, which is something I haven't been doing much," Dagg confessed about his touchdown.

He was not sure why his confidence had dipped but on Saturday in Sydney he was determined to reignite his attacking mojo.

"The boys are satisfied but they can't get too comfortable, we had a few opportunities ... which we let go."

Kieran Read, Jane, and Hosea Gear all had chances to challenge the chalk but their mistakes or wrong choices lost those opportunities.

Dagg was not exempt. After making a sizzling counter attack from deep he hand-balled an awkward pass which Gear had no chance of retrieving.

While the All Blacks knew they had not played well, they have their eyes firmly set on retaining the Bledisloe Cup on Saturday at Eden Park.

That was one bonus of the opening match in a series which doubles as the Rugby Championship, while the All Blacks also denied the Wallabies any bonus points.

Dagg promised there would be a better sizzle at training this week, and while the Wallabies would be after redemption, the All Blacks also had many areas to improve.

"We don't get too many chances against a team like Australia so we have to make the most of those things this week in our finishing," said Dagg.

New backs coach Ian Foster engineered the move for Dagg's try which opened the scoring.

Initially Dagg and Daniel Carter wanted to change the plan but eventually the coach got his way and the players acknowledged that input.

Dagg defended his opposite, Beale, after his poor performance.

The Wallaby fullback was world-class, Dagg said, and he would be out to make amends.

Dagg had little recall of the way he beat Beale so comprehensively. "It all happened so fast and I just had to try and back myself."

- NZ Herald

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