Gregor Paul is the Herald on Sunday's rugby writer

Rugby: All Blacks put on basics masterclass

All Blacks lock Brodie Retallick charges forward against Australia. Photo / Brett Phibbs
All Blacks lock Brodie Retallick charges forward against Australia. Photo / Brett Phibbs

There's no side in world rugby that makes pass and catch work for them quite like the All Blacks.

There was so little trickery or complexity about their work in Sydney last night, yet they produced the largest winning margin on Australian soil in history. It was a performance built on overt physical dominance and polished by a stunning range of basic skills.

The rest of the world must look on and wonder what they can do to stop the All Blacks playing with such speed and flow. Their ability to build momentum is unrivalled and it's down to the fact they have 15 players on the park who can manufacture a way to get the ball away in contact.

Whatever the stats show, it felt like every All Black who had game time managed to offload at least once. And it was the variety of the passing and awareness of the ball carrier and support runner that stressed the Wallabies' defence so much.

They couldn't do much about what they were facing. They could have made stronger, better one-on-one tackles, perhaps. They could have generated more linespeed, perhaps, and they could have made better decisions about when to push up and out.

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But even if they had, it's doubtful it would have done that much good. The All Blacks would still have found a way to work the ball free from the collisions, it just would have taken them longer.

The All Blacks had too many ball players. It's not easy to contain a side that can use their props to create space or shut the space down when two big locks can reach over the top of tacklers and pass, basketball-style, to the next wave of runners.

Australia didn't play well by any means but they simply weren't allowed to.

"We really wanted to focus on our attitude and preparation we have come here the last couple of times it hasn't been great for us," said All Blacks coach Steve Hansen. "It wasn't perfect but it wasn't too bad. [I'm] proud of the way our boys arrived mentally. We were right on the button and, when you are like that and you have a bit if talent, it's good.

"I know the scoreboard was big, it was a tough a game. A lot of the Australian boys haven't played for a long time and that makes life difficult. We have been here before ourselves taken a bit of a pasting and then turned it around the next week."

It wasn't just pass and catch where the All Blacks were so much better. They had one of those nights at the lineout that will be hard to repeat - in terms of how much ball they stole at least.

The Wallabies lost all confidence because they knew they had to avoid Sam Whitelock, Brodie Retallick and Kieran Read. The All Blacks had too many targets and the Wallabies couldn't find a safe place to throw.

Again, basics done well brought big results.

"I think it has been building for us over a number of years," All Blacks captain Kieran Read said. "It's a facet of the game that if you put some effort in you get some reward for it. It's a way to stop the Australians getting their platforms."

- NZ Herald

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