2013 Bledisloe Test 3: All Blacks vs Wallabies @ Carisbrook, New Zealand

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All Blacks win 41-33 v Wallabies

The All Black machine continues to plough on through opposing teams.  Among those with an unstoppable motor is Sam Cane who gave one of his greatest performances so far in the Number 7 jersey.  Israel Dagg also rediscovered his form, making some amazing breaks with that big grin he always seems to wear with ball in hand.  Aaron Cruden may have started with a botched kick, but the rest of his kicking game, both at the posts and into the hands of Julian Savea were outstanding.  Crudes even scored for a try, bringing his personal haul to 23 points in this match.

185342230_3021003A lot of All Blacks shone throughout the game, which is exactly what fans want to see.  From Brodie Retallick’s performance, coming in from the bench early in the second half, to Sam Whitelock, Kieran Read and Ma’a Nonu on defense.  Read scored yet another try, proving how dominant he has become.  Nonu lifted his game, saved a try and covered well for, an at times, struggling Ben Smith.

I was particularly thrilled to see Charles Piutau make such an impressive showing on his first start.  He tackled with authority and was a big part in snuffing out a Wallabies offense that tested the boys in black.  Piutau came in at the eleventh hour as replacement for injured Cory Jane and proved he deserves future starts.

While the Wallabies played really well, at least one of the tries was literally handed to them by an overconfident Savea.  Even so, this is the highest score the Wallabies have put on the board against us in New Zealand.  Fortunately, our own attack was sharper and we made fewer silly mistakes.  Quade Cooper even looks like he’s improved, though nothing will warm me to him given his past history.  However, good job to the Wallabies for being willing to play and produce an enjoyable 80 minutes of rugby.  Good luck on your Northern Tour!

 

 

2013 Rugby Championship: Springboks vs All Blacks @ Ellis Park, South Africa

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All Blacks win 27-38 v Springboks.

It was billed as an epic rematch, where the wrongs of Eden Park would be righted.  The controversial red carding of Bismark Du Plessis had almost become an excuse.  However, both sides wanted a good challenge and fortunately both sides turned up to play rugby.  Critics have said this game was played in a positive spirit of rugby that shows off the game at its best.  It has been called the greatest game in the modern era of professional rugby.  At the time, that was far from my own mind.  I witnessed, once again, the time sapping mess that continues via the scrum.  At the end of the Championship, the scrum is still something of a shambles with few moments of vindication.

A-plane-flies-over-the-Ellis-Park-Stadium-Sou_3014594But I did, of course, enjoy the game.  It was certainly an exception with a combined total of 9 tries and 65 points.   Bryan Habana’s injury curtailed what might have turned into a hat trick, but the All Blacks found multiple opportunities across the park to rack up their own impressive tally.   Once again, Keiran Read stood out like a giant.  But I also want to put in a good word about Springbok captain Jean De Villiers.  His sportsmanship and conduct stands out among his team mates.  Nothing summed this up better than his insistence that the ref drop the dispute over the All Blacks roster in the middle of the match so that the game could continue.  He also scored an impressive try from a break that contributed to the thrilling points duel between the two teams.

Flying in to South Africa from their win in Argentina last weekend, the All Blacks had one more match to go to win the Rugby Championship with a clean sweep for a second year in a row. Since 1928, the All Blacks have toured and played at Ellis Park 11 times and managed to win only 3. But this is a special team.  5,751 ft above sea level, where the air is hard on the lungs, the All Blacks defeated the Springboks 38-27.

183156184_3014658All the talk was about the South Africans needing to not only win, but score 4 tries in doing so, or else New Zealand, with more competition points, would take the championship. The Springboks did score 4 tries. So, what did the All Blacks do? They scored 5!

The game was indeed a high scoring classic. It had an interesting story line, gave fans a roller coaster ride, contained moments of chivalry and magic and even had three fly overs by a massive passenger plane that gave this a world cup final feeling. Some scrum resets and some suspect refereeing couldn’t ruin the win for the All Blacks though. Any excuse the Springboks had for their loss in New Zealand was wiped off the board when, down to 14 men on two occasions (twenty minutes!), the All Blacks still came out on top. This team is more than a machine, it’s a work of art. The opportunities we create on the field and seize are phenomenal.