ABs’ text­book tri­umph: Read it and weep

Sunday Star-Times - - FRONT PAGE - Richard Knowler richard.knowler@stuff.co.nz

Coach­ing teams against the All Blacks must be a mis­er­able way to earn a liv­ing. Ask Wal­la­bies coach Michael Cheika. This Bledis­loe Cup dead rub­ber at Nis­san Sta­dium in Yoko­hama was a chance for the Aus­tralians to is­sue a re­minder to the All Blacks that while they al­ready had the ‘‘Bled­die’’ in their trea­sure chest, they still should be wary of their trans-Tas­man foe ahead of next year’s World Cup in Ja­pan. Nope, sorry. Life isn’t fair. The All Blacks didn’t pro­duce a dy­na­mite per­for­mance dur­ing this 37-20 vic­tory, but, then again, there was no need to. By the 60th minute the con­test was es­sen­tially over, with the men in black ahead 27-13 in front of around 46,000 fans in a cav­ernous sta­dium that caters for around 72,000 pun­ters. First five-eighth Beau­den Bar­rett didn’t have his Rolls-Royce en­gine gun­ning at full throt­tle, but it was close enough as he took 17 points from a try, three con­ver­sions and two penal­ties. Now, back to Cheika who, if some re­ports are to be be­lieved, is fight­ing for his job af­ter a mis­er­able Rugby Cham­pi­onship cam­paign and 2-1 se­ries loss to Ire­land. He cer­tainly be­haved like a man who is un­der con­sid­er­able pres­sure dur­ing this match. Un­like many sta­di­ums around the world, the coach’s box in Yoko­hama is an open-air model and, hence, any­one sit­ting within a 20-me­tre ra­dius of Cheika got some first-rate en­ter­tain­ment as he slapped his desk­top in frus­tra­tion and shouted in­struc­tions to, pre­sum­ably, one of his co­horts on the side­line or at ref­eree Ro­main Poite. Not that the reg­u­lar erup­tions helped the Wal­la­bies in any way, but at least Cheika prob­a­bly felt he was get­ting his point across to any­one who cared to lis­ten. To his credit, he kept his cool when re­place­ment hooker Si­la­tolu Latu was yel­low-carded for a silly slap to the face of his op­po­site Codie Taylor, but maybe Cheika knew the game was over with 13 min­utes re­main­ing. It cer­tainly was a few heart­beats later when All Blacks wing Ben Smith scored a run­away try. The Wal­la­bies had their chances, wing Sefa Naivalu scored a try dur­ing the first spell and of­fers pace and power down the wide lanes, but ul­ti­mately they were not any­where near good enough even with their break­down scrap­per David Po­cock giv­ing it ev­ery­thing. The All Blacks’ scrum was dom­i­nant, and, too of­ten, their backs found space. Lit­tle won­der, then, that All Blacks coach Steve Hansen looked as calm as a bloke sit­ting on a royal flush in a poker game. Lock Brodie Re­tal­lick made a wel­come re­turn from in­jury when off­loaded from the bench dur­ing the sec­ond spell, as did tight­head prop Nepo Laulala, in his first test ap­pear­ance of the year af­ter a se­ri­ous arm in­jury. The first half must have been murder on Cheika’s nerves; the Wal­la­bies coach was forced to

Cheika was ex­tremely vo­cal in the min­utes be­fore All Blacks skip­per Kieran Read scored a ridicu­lously easy try.

watch his side mis­cal­cu­late passes, ei­ther fir­ing them too low or at sup­port run­ners’ hips, and that al­lowed the All Blacks easy op­por­tu­ni­ties to heave in the big ones, re­group and sharpen their bay­o­nets. Cheika was ex­tremely vo­cal in the min­utes be­fore All Blacks skip­per Kieran Read scored a ridicu­lously easy try off a 5m scrum, strid­ing with ease through a pas­sive tackle by blind­side flanker Ned Hani­gan. At least Naivalu did his best to ice his gaffer’s fury, barg­ing through a Bar­rett tackle a few min­utes be­fore the break to re­duce the deficit to seven points. French club Pau is re­ported to have se­cured Smith’s ser­vices af­ter the World Cup; if so, they will have en­joyed watch­ing the thor­ough­bred’s ef­fort in Yoko­hama. Now Smith, along with 21 other key mem­bers of the squad, will be shipped to Lon­don to pre­pare to face Eng­land in a fort­night. Next week Ja­pan will meet a sec­ond-string All Blacks side in Tokyo. Then for the big ones against Eng­land, and then the Ir­ish in Dublin.

GETTY IM­AGES

First five-eighth Beau­den Bar­rett didn’t have his Rolls-Royce en­gine gun­ning at full throt­tle, but it was close enough as he took 17 points from a try, three con­ver­sions and two penal­ties.

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