Saturday, September 10, 2011
There was also some rugby...
Amidst all the excitement last night, it would be easy to forget that there was a rugby match last night as well. The All Blacks are on their way in RWC2011 with a solid if unspectacular 41-10 victory over a competitive Tonga.
It was a classic match of two halves. New Zealand had the match won by half-time when they led 29-3. In the second half they had to absorb a lot of pressure as the Tongan forwards stepped up their work-rate. There was an air of inevitability about the late try that Tonga scored after a period of sustained pressure.
The All Black forwards were generally efficient. Jerome Kaino had a collosal match, and was our player of the night. Kaino's work-rate was huge, both with ball in hand and on defence. The scrum was solid, although it weakened a little once Brad Thorn left the game, and the lineout functioned well, apart from one overthrow by Andrew Hore.
The New Zealand backline looked good in the first half. Daniel Carter was predominantly a link man. Sonny Bill Williams and Ma'a Nonu rotated positions with frequency, and Williams' ability to keep the ball alive was impressive. Israel Dagg and Richard Kahui were the best of the backs, and Kahui looked right at home on the wing.
We wonder whether there was some method in the All Blacks' second half performance. They were tested on defence for long periods, and we wonder if there may have actually been some intent in that. The best way to practice defence is in match conditions, and the All Black defence got a great 20-minute work-out last night with the five match points already in the bank. Is that a possibility?
Graham Henry described the performance as a 5/10 one. We're charitable folk, and we'd give them a six. It was still a six-try-to-one margin, and there were some promising touches in the first half from a backline that had never played together before. But there's no doubt that Henry and co have work to do this week, and then in the build-up to the big pool match, against France. Then we'll find out just how good this All Black team is.