Errors creep in but it was a winning start
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.