Patrick McKendry

Patrick McKendry is a rugby writer for the Herald.

Rugby: Deans' head on the block

One of the more unusual news stories to surface over the weekend was the one about the New Zealand granny claiming to have in her possession the skull of Australian outlaw Ned Kelly.

The head of Robbie Deans could soon go the same way, figuratively of course, but rather than an Australian granny getting hold of his bonce, it could be Australia Rugby Union chief executive John O'Neill in possession after wielding the axe.

O'Neill was in Auckland for last night's match - wearing his customary lemon-yellow scarf draped casually about his neck - and he wouldn't have liked what he saw.

Simply put, the Wallabies, beaten 22-0, had no idea. Quade Cooper, recalled to offer some spark to a damp squib of an attack in Sydney, perhaps not surprisingly failed to fire given his past problems at Eden Park.

Too often the Australians kicked the ball away, having run out of all other options.

And, although they battled in the final half hour and refused to let the score mount to an embarrassing level, the All Blacks could have won by 40 points had two or three clear-cut tries been taken.

Former All Blacks coach Deans, asked about whether his job was on the line following another defeat to his former side - his 14th in 17 matches since he took over in 2008 - refused to be sidetracked.

"Let's give credit to the All Blacks performance. That was an outstanding performance tonight,'' he began. "They're a side which is playing with the confidence of being world champions and I don't think there's any side in the world which could have footed it with them tonight, including ourselves, obviously.''

Asked again about the pressure which will inevitably begin to build, Deans added: "Like I said, it's not about me. It's about the team and what we do. We're at the front end of the Rugby Championship, we've played the All Blacks back to back, we now re-set our sights for Africa and Argentina. It's the last thing on my mind right now. It's about the team and we'll pick it up and carry it on.''

Deans said the All Blacks were playing better than last year when they won the World Cup, and skipper Will Genia, sinbinned for a professional foul, concurred.

"That's one of the toughest games I've ever played,'' he said. "I don't think anyone could have stayed with them. It was a great performance from them.''

Cooper accepted that his night was "difficult'', but the blame couldn't be laid at his feet. His team must accept a collective responsibility for allowing the All Blacks to set the tempo.

Deans was left to count positives in the performance of the scrum and powerful lock Sitaleki Timani. And then, yet more praise for the All Blacks.

"They're a side that's relentless. They're fit, so well conditioned. No matter which channel you go down, they're at you. And you've got to be able to do it for 80 [minutes].

"They gave a masterclass in rugby today.

"To give credit to our group I thought it was remarkable that we only leaked one try.''

- APNZ

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