Gregor Paul is the Herald on Sunday's rugby writer

All Blacks run rampant

Ben Smith of the All Blacks beats Christian Lealiifano of the Wallabies to score a try during The Rugby Championship Bledisloe Cup match. Photo / Getty Images.
Ben Smith of the All Blacks beats Christian Lealiifano of the Wallabies to score a try during The Rugby Championship Bledisloe Cup match. Photo / Getty Images.


In a gesture of trans-Tasman kindness, no one should ask this morning how bad the Wallabies are and instead focus on just how good the All Blacks are.

Last night provided plenty of evidence to suggest the All Blacks certainly are good. Really good.

They put almost 50 on the board and yet their scrum and lineout were a shambles. One can only fear for the Wallabies as to what will happen if the All Blacks get that right in Wellington.

But maybe the Wallabies aren't actually that bad. Maybe they are on to something except last night wasn't the time to judge them because they encountered an All Black side that was frighteningly good with ball in hand.

The All Blacks were structured yet instinctive and expressive: they were ruthless at times, extraordinarily adept at moving the ball out of contact and into space.

It was almost guerilla-style rugby: the Wallabies had more time on the ball but it didn't matter a stuff - the All Blacks effectively jumped out of trees, conducting smash and grab raids.

Little Aaron Smith was the chief antagonist, delivering what would have to be his coming of age performance. Like a hermit crab frantically looking for a shell, Smith scurried away from breakdowns, pulling Wallabies this way and that.

He fired his bullet passes to his backs, popped the soft ones to his forwards, kicked high to create contests and ran the show in a way even Will Genia would have approved of.

No wonder the All Blacks dropped Piri Weepu _ he really couldn't have handled the speed at which the All Blacks played. And that's what they were all about last night _ speed, intensity and dynamism in loose play.

All those who worried about Richie McCaw wasted their time. He was still pulling off turnovers deep into the game. No Dan Carter - no problem.

Aaron Cruden was the official man of the match - he even nailed his goal-kicking and he masterminded the offensive onslaught.

There's been plenty of hints about a new All Black attacking game and finally there was evidence. When they flooded the runners down the Wallabies' left flank, the All Blacks surged like a tidal river.

James O'Connor, equipped with nothing more robust than a heavily gelled quiff, flapped like a gate with a loose hinge. It was an obviously pre-determined ploy to target his side of the field as there appeared to be certainty about what the All Blacks wanted to achieve down that channel.

The passing was crisp, the timing precise and the runners went straight. It wouldn't really have mattered who was trying to defend that _ when the All Blacks are that dynamic and accurate it's just a case of opponents hunkering down, getting in the way best they can and hoping.

What else could the Wallabies do? It's almost impossible to defend a side whose forwards are so comfortable on the ball. What could they do when Aaron Cruden, barely 85kg with a phonebook down his trousers, could stay on his feet in the tackle and flip the ball out the back of his hand in the contact?

In this age of hyper analysis, there's no need for anyone to work bizarre and abstract theories about where the divergence point between the two side was: it was in the natural ball skills and patience in possession.

The All Blacks do pass and catch better than anyone: they certainly did it better than the Wallabies last night. They ran smarter lines, supported the ball carrier better and had a better awareness and understanding of what they were trying to achieve.

That's the beauty of experience. That's the beauty of telling five-year-olds to get out in their bare feet and throw the ball around: those five-year-olds play the game for an age in New Zealand and never seem to lose that basic desire to do just that.

It was those basic skills that made such a big difference. The All Blacks were able to land two sucker blows in four minutes midway through the first half simply by being alert to opportunity.

Cruden didn't rush the touchdown after he'd made the chargedown - something that took extreme composure. McCaw's try that followed was a tribute to basic skills performed well under pressure.

Australia 29 (W. Genia, J. O'Connor tries; C. Leali'ifano 2 cons, 5 pens
New Zealand 47 (B. Smith (3), A. Cruden, R. McCaw, C. Smith tries; A. Cruden 4 cons, pen; B. Barrett con)

- Herald on Sunday

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