All Blacks vs Wallabies
TriNations 2004 / Bledisloe Cup
7:30pm, The cake Tin, Wellington
Referee: Some Picky Irish Git
Half-time: NZ 3 AUS 0
Full-time: NZ 16 AUS 7
Tri-Nations time and what a better way to start things off than with a Bledisloe match between two old foes.
Both teams come into this one in good form, having smashed the so-called World Champions and seen off some good challenges from Scotland, Argentina and the Pacific Island Barbarians in the first month of the 2004 southern hemisphere International season.
Injuries were a factor for both sides with normally key players Gregan and Mccaw being out, but given the stranglehold those two have on their jersies when healthy it's not like their replacements won't be motivated to show that can compete at this level.
The weather conditions in Wellington are absolutly shocking, reminiscent of the Bledisloe battle in Christchurch a couple of years back. Having been at that particular game I am more than happy to be sitting at home watching this one!
It's always a pity when the weather is such a big factor, (especially if you forgot to update your Rugbycomp score or your Fantasy Rugby team, doh!!) but it does generally mean that the match will be an armwrestle, and a nailbiter for the fans. This one was no exception.
As the scoreline suggests there wasn't a lot of scoring in this one. The only points in the first 40 came from a Carter penalty, with the Wallabies not looking likely to score at all in the first half but no doubt feeling pretty good about the fact that they restricted the ABs to only 3 points.
Carter slotted his second about 6 minutes into the second half as a result of a bit of biffo between the two hookers. This was one of the highlights of the match with Brendon Cannon landing a cracker right between Kevin Mealamu's eyes in response to something Mealamu said about his mother in the preceding scrum. Predictably Mealamu responded, and everyone and his father felt compelled to jump in and defend their team-mates honour.
In a fit of sensible reffing both guys were given 10 in the bin, and NZ were given the penalty as a result of the fact that Cannon threw the first one.
6-0 was obviously better than 3-0 but given the Wallaby propensity to find ways to score points at the most inopportune times (for the ABs at least) it was hardly a comfortable cushion.
Fortunately for the ABs they finally manage to stretch the scoreline out past the magic 7 point margin when the All Blacks finally managed to turn all their pressure on the Wallaby try line into points and Dougie Howlett finished off a back line move to score out wide.
Just as bloody well too because predictably the Wallabies managed to create a try out of nothing much when second-five Giteau put up a bomb into the AB 22 and Joe Rockstar capped a forgetable night (hell, he didn't score a try, it has to be forgetable by his standards!) by coffing it up and Special Agent Mortlock slide through and scooped it up to score under the posts and close the margin back to 6.
With 10 minutes to go I can guarentee that All Black fans everywhere were thinking "oh great, here we go again...", but fortunately it wasn't to be.
The All Blacks snuffed out a couple of promising Wallaby attacks and then forced play back into the Australian half for the remainder of the game, and when Mortlock was penalised for a high tackle (a bit harsh I thought, but we ain't giving the points back!) in the 79th minute Dan Carter graciously accepted the opportunity to push the margin back out to 9 and deny the Wallabies even a bonus point. Sweeeeet.... :D
If you didn't see the match then a quick look at some of the match stats should help you understand what a big factor the weather conditions were.
|Possession:||NZ 66% AUS 34%|
|Territory:||NZ 84% AUS 16%|
|Rucks and mauls:||NZ 125 AUS 39|
|Turnovers won:||NZ 14 AUS 26|
|Penalties conceded:||NZ 5 AUS 11|
|Handling errors:||NZ 18 AUS 9|
|Kicks in play:||NZ 52 AUS 43|
With 66% possession and 84% territory in dry conditions you would put money on this All Black back line to have run in 10 tries against any team, but the conditions just caused so many handling errors, and therefore turnovers, that the All Black backline really couldn't get anything going.
Not that the Wallaby defence doesn't deserve some credit to, but really who gives a toss if one team defends well when they are the losers? :D
As things should be in these conditions this was a forward battle, and for the first time in quite a while the AB forwards dominated the Wallaby pack, and it was a joy to watch. Thinking back about it virtually every disappointing dropped ball or crap pass from the All Blacks was from a back, the forward pack played like a machine and ground the Wallaby pack into the the mud.
The only All Black back that really stood out was Justin Marshall. For once you could forgive his inconsistant passing, because everyone was doing that, because in every other area of play he was just awesome, providing some great go forward ball.
For the Wallaby backs Marshall's opposite Chris 'Anthem' Whitaker played pretty well and never gave up on defense, but I'm sure Bernie Larkham won't be adding a copy of this one to his video collection. After the way he kicked the Pacific Islanders all over the park two weeks ago I don't think he would have expected to kick so poorly tonight.
It's really hard to pick a stand out in the forwards, but I would have to agree with the Sky commentary team (for once) and go with Chris Jack. He caused havoc in the Wallaby lineout, secured all the ball that was thrown to him on the AB throw and just got involved in everything around the park. I also have to give Xavier Rush some credit. He's a grafter who works hard and doesn't make many mistakes (much like Reuben Thorne) and this sort of game is exactly where you want that sort of player.
Not a classic match, but a great victory over our greatest foe. With the current Bledisloe cup format it's just so good as the holder to be able to win the first one and lock the trophy up another season and just focus on the TriNations from here on in.
Great start ABs, bring on the Boks!