Wynne Gray

Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

All Blacks: No 10s star in disjointed test

Will Genia (right) of the Wallabies in action last night. Photo / Getty Images
Will Genia (right) of the Wallabies in action last night. Photo / Getty Images

The spine of any rugby team, the No 8, halfback and five eighths, is usually a key to their results.

Those men are the computers who run the game, they are the minds who sniff the game and feel its pulse. Their instincts about how to change a plan, alter the pace and rhythm of their tactics or persevere with their strategies, are crucial to international outcomes.

For the All Blacks last night, that group was Kieran Read, Aaron Smith and Daniel Carter, while the Wallabies fronted with Scott Higginbotham, Will Genia and Berrick Barnes.

There's no question Genia is the best halfback in world rugby, a gifted ball player and decision-maker whose influence runs heavily though the Wallabies. He waited until after the first quarter to have a snipe and made a sizzling incision towards the All Black line.

The Wallabies won a penalty but strangely ignored the shot at goal in favour of seeking a try and succeeded only in conceding a penalty themselves.

It was all part of a sloppy beginning, with Genia throwing one poor pass in his 22 which turned the heat up in his side.

The rest were not exempt. Smith was penalised several times for indiscipline, Read knocked on when he was put in the clear, while Higginbotham blew an even better chance when he shelled a pass from Kurtley Beale. Barnes was steady but nothing more than tradesmanlike, while Carter was his usual solid effective self.

He kicked a couple of glorious sideline goals and when he did miss touch from one penalty, he followed up very quickly to make sure he put Digby Ioane into the dirt.

Carter called the play which drew the opening try for Dagg, when dummy switches allowed the fullback into space to beat a feeble Beale tackle. And when the Wallaby fullback knocked on a gift pass in his 22, Carter led the scrum move to give Cory Jane half a metre of space and a second valuable try.

The stuffing was getting knocked out of the Wallabies but Genia found another little piece of magic. He scuttled sideways, searching for a gap and trying to pull defenders out of the line. He achieved his goal and sent a sympathetic pass to Nathan Sharpe on an angled run for the try.

As the teams went to the interval, it seemed this test would come down to Genia and Carter and which man could make more impact. Neither let their side down. Genia was all across the Sydney stadium, passing, covering, showing his amazing strength in the air as he tried to drive his troops on.

Carter was similar, calling the plays and trying one penalty from inside his own half as both teams looked to get a precious break on the scoreboard.

Eventually the All Blacks achieved that when Carter knocked over a close range penalty.

- Herald on Sunday

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