2013 Bledisloe Cup – Match 2 @ Wellington, New Zealand

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All Blacks win 27-16 vs the Wallabies.

Tom Taylor is rated 4th in the Number 10 jersey in New Zealand and had to step up to make his debut as our starter when successive injuries ruled out our top 3 first-five eighths: Dan Carter, Aaron Cruden and Beauden Barrett.  It was almost silly.  A high pressure entry into international rugby, but Tom did a great job and we came away with a “W”.

Once again, Aaron Smith outshone Australia’s Will Genia, someone who he rates as the best scrum-half in the world. That’s two games in a row Aaron!  And Ben Smith scored two more tries.  That’s twenty five points in two games!  Kieran Read also had a really impressive game. Amazing how much talent the All Blacks have.

Steven-Luatua-NZ-v-Aus-RC-2013_2992198Steven Luatua, making only his second start as an All Black (his third game), plays with authority and punches holes in the Walllabies’ defense. Impressive. But not as impressive as his charge through multiple defenders and almost reaching the try line. In doing so, he was isolated from support from the rest of the team. Steven released the ball as the Wallabies wrestled with him so that he could legally get to his feet and buy precious seconds by picking up the ball again and forcing the Wallabies to tackle him a second time. By that time, Steven’s team mates had arrived in position to launch a fresh assault.

Ma’a Nonu didn’t have his greatest game. He was playing with an injured ankle. He did, however, continue a trend of stupid actions like shoulder charging a Wallaby (and getting away with it) and kicking the ball at times when he should have run with it.  I like to think I have some objectivity and I know not all the All Blacks are angels on and off the field.  Players like Andrew Hore, Julian Savea, Izzy Dagg and Nonu have had lapses in the standards that, in my book, being national heroes and role models requires of them. Dagg had a great night except for this awful slip up which allowed Israel (popular name all of a sudden?) Folau to take his intercepted ball all the way over the try line, gifting the Wallabies their only try. That’s how crappy Australia’s offense was. They could not engineer any tries of their own making. It just came down to luck in the end.

James Horwill, captain of the Wallabies tries hard, but once again will have to front to the media why Australia lost to New Zealand. He has more experience brooding in front of the media than anything else lately. I almost feel for him.

The losing team. Australia need to play some lower tier teams to get their confidence back. The All Blacks have something like a 85% win ratio against them in the last 3-4 years, maybe higher!

NZ-celebrates-Bledisloe-Cup-RC-2013_2992228Tony Woodcock played his 100th game for the All Blacks, joining Richie McCaw, Mils Mulianna and Keven Mealamu as All Black centurions. Woody was instrumental in the 2011 world cup final when he scored the All Blacks’ only try.

Richie once again raised Rugby Union’s biggest trophy, the Bledisloe Cup above his head. That’s 11 consecutive years now. Liam Messam and understudy Steven Luatua filled the cup with beer (it can hold 46 cans worth).

Richie McCaw was in a great mood after the All Blacks thumped the Wallabies yet again. Cruden, however, couldn’t hide his disappointment as he moped sadly in the background, injured and unable to be a part of the night’s victory.

2013 Bledisloe Cup – Match 1 @ ANZ Statium, Australia

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All Blacks win 47-29 over the Wallabies.

It was supposed to be the start of a new era for the Wallabies.  Not content with second or third place in the world, the Australian Rugby Union had booted Robbie Deans out and given the coaching job to Ewen McKenzie.  As usual, the Aussies talked themselves up.  Unfortunately for them, they gave up the biggest ever New Zealand win on Australian soil.  What can I say? Ben Smith is absolutely incredible! He scored a hat trick of tries and was dominant on the field.  Smith contributed 15 individual points, but in truth it was a game where the entire All Blacks team shone.

176674502_620x413Kieran Read, Richie McCaw, Aaron Smith, Aaron Cruden, Steven Luatua and Conrad Smith all delivered outstanding moments in the game.

McCaw, one of the greatest Rugby players of all time, was supposed to be washed up and over the hill following his return from 6 month sabbatical and battery recharge. Turned out Riche was as good as ever, even scoring a try, no less!

Conrad Smith, another of our “over the hill” stars, scores a try and reminds the world why he’s nothing to sneeze at.

Aaron Smith was also in top form and managed to stand out against the Wallabies’ one true star, Will Genia.  The Wallaby was not in good form while his opposite number lit up the park.  Any debate over Smith’s claims to being the new number 1 half back in the world should now be settled.

176674553_620x413Cruden, in black, charged down a clearance kick and went on to recover the ball and score 7 points for the All Blacks.  Aaron Cruden may be small, but he plays like a giant.  This is the sort of game Crudes has been bringing to the Chiefs in Super Rugby all season.  Head-to-head against Dan Carter during the Chiefs v Crusaders, Cruden pulled a similar stunt with matching success.  How far apart are Carter and Cruden?  Considering the unending injuries to Carter, I think Cruden is our incumbent in the 10 jersey.

Steven Luatua’s first start in the number 8 jersey. Liam Messam’s injury pre-game was thought to be a huge loss for the All Blacks. Sorry media, we have depth on our bench.

I hate to say it, but the new scrum laws are awful.  All they are doing is eating up time and running down the clock.  Aside from this one small qualm, this game was one of my favorite performances in a long time.

Farewell, Craig Clarke

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Now two-time Super Rugby title winner, Craig Clarke, is New Zealand Rugby’s Aaron Eckhart lookalike (according to Leanne). He is leaving the Chiefs for three seasons playing for Irish club Connacht. Funnily enough, right after Leanne called it, the reporter mentioned the Hollywood likeness as well!

58468_10151342915153992_1713187988_nThe Chiefs have now won back to back Super Rugby titles, beating the Australian Brumbies 27-22 last night. A fitting farewell to Clarke, a true leader and work horse. He never made the All Black selection, even if he deserved it. He is likely to retire after his stint in Irish Rugby. As his last game, it was the one down note about the win for the Chiefs.  They have built a new power base in New Zealand rugby and we can only wait and see whether it will be a lasting dynasty.