Er­rors creep in but it was a win­ning start

Matamata Chronicle - - Sport - By STEVEN SA­MUELS,

The new Rugby Cham­pi­onship fi­nally got un­der way on Satur­day night with the All Blacks tak­ing on the Wal­la­bies at ANZ Sta­dium in Sydney in front of a crowd of 70,000. Aus­tralia’s coach Rob­bie Deans named a team em­pha­sis­ing de­fence over at­tack with play­ers such as An­thony Fain­gaa, Scott Hig­gin­botham and first five Ber­rick Barnes.

In­ter­est­ingly, Quade Cooper was left out of the start­ing 22 al­to­gether, which I found sur­pris­ing con­sid­er­ing how Deans has favoured Cooper as the Wal­la­bies’ start­ing first five for the past cou­ple of sea­sons.

Steve Hansen named a strong side with a great mix­ture of youth and ex­pe­ri­ence.

Tony Wood­cock, Keven Mealamu and Owen Franks made up the front row play­ing their first game to­gether since the World Cup fi­nal. Sam White­lock was named as one of the locks. The other po­si­tion, how­ever, was up in the air as to who would be named.

In the end the se­lec­tors went for Luke Ro­mano over Brodie Re­tal­lick.

I would have gone for Re­tal­lick but per­haps that is just my bias com­ing through!

Richie McCaw and Kieran Read were named at No 7 and No 8 re­spec­tively, with Chiefs player Liam Mes­sam named as blind­side flanker for his first test against Aussie.

The back line con­sisted of Aaron Smith, Dan Carter, Hosea Gear, Sonny Bill Wil­liams, Ma’a Nonu, Cory Jane and Is­rael Dagg.

Aus­tralia went one up when the an­thems were be­ing “sung” as I thought their singer was much bet­ter than ours. Any­way, on to the game.

For the first three or four min­utes, Aus­tralia had all the pos­ses­sion and man­aged to score a penalty to lead 3-nil.

The All Blacks, once they re­cy­cled pos­ses­sion, started to dom­i­nate and Aus­tralia’s de­fence be­gan to look brit­tle.

The Wal­la­bies were not help­ing them­selves by mak­ing silly mis­takes and giv­ing away nu­mer­ous penal­ties.

Even­tu­ally, the All Blacks earned a scrum on the op­po­si­tion’s 10 me­tre line. Aaron Smith spun the ball left to Dan Carter, who in turn passed on the out­side to Is­rael Dagg putting him into the clear be­fore Dagg wrong-footed Kurt­ley Beale and scored in the cor­ner.

What made the try was the de­coy of SBW who drew two or three play­ers in to­wards him open­ing up the space on the out­side for Dagg.

Throughout the first half, Aus­tralia seemed to em­ploy strange tac­tics where they were throw­ing the ball around like head­less chick­ens in front of their own goal line and on one amaz­ing oc­ca­sion, be­hind their goal line.

Rob­bie Deans would have been pulling his hair out wit­ness­ing such in­ept play, es­pe­cially when Kurt­ley Beale dropped an ab­so­lute sit­ter 5m from his goal line. The All Blacks had an­other scrum in the 22.

This time some slick pass­ing put Cory Jane on the out­side of Beale to score our sec­ond try – 18-3.

Cen­tu­rion Nathan Sharpe crashed over for Aus­tralia just be­fore the in­ter­val to end the half All Blacks 18, Aus­tralia 10.

There wasn’t much to say about the sec­ond half with both teams com­mit­ting many sim­ple er­rors and the game be­com­ing scrappy with only penal­ties be­ing scored.

Fi­nal score New Zealand 27 – Aus­tralia 16.

Ref­eree Alain Rol­land blew the whis­tle far too much, in­ter­rupt­ing the flow of the game.

These penal­ties, in my opin­ion, were pedan­tic and had no bear­ing on the play, mak­ing the game a stop-start af­fair which was not a great spec­ta­cle to watch. The main thing was that we got off to a win­ning start.

The All Blacks have a lot to im­prove on be­fore next week, and hope­fully they will be able to put on a great per­for­mance for the home fans at Eden Park.

In the other game in the cham­pi­onship, South Africa played Ar­gentina at New­lands in Cape Town. This was the South Amer­i­can’s first game in the new Four Nations com­pe­ti­tion. South Africa were too strong, run­ning out 27-6 win­ners.

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