Sunday, September 30, 2012
Filling up the trophy cabinet
The Webb Ellis Cup and the Bledisloe Cup are already secure in the NZRU's trophy cabinet. They will now be joined by the trophy for the inaugural Rugby Championship after the All Blacks have thrashed Argentina by 54 to 15 this afternoon.
This was far and away the best All Black performance of the season. Even after conceding an early try, the All Black machine was unstoppable. The four-try bonus point had been secured before halftime, and three tries were added in the second half.
Argentina did not play badly. But no team in the world would have stayed with the All Blacks today when they flicked the switch. The interplay between forwards and backs was as good as it has been for several seasons, and the finishing was first class.
Cory Jane helped himself to a hat-trick, with the last coming in the dying moments of the match. Intercepting a loose Argentine pass well on his own side of halfway he sprinted down the right-wing touchline, then fended off the last defender to score in the corner. Julian Savea had a terrific match on the other wing scoring twice, and being prominent in general play as he went looking for work. And Ma'a Nonu had far and away his best match of the season both on attack and defence.
In the forwards Kieran Read had a huge game, but none of the forwards played poorly. The dominance was based on a strong forward effort, and an ability to use the ball with ruthless efficiency. It was a most enjoyable match to watch, and we are already thinking that a trip to South America might be in our future, now that Argentina is a fixture in the Rugby Championship.
Lastly, we got a glimpse of things to come when both Daniel Carter and Richie McCaw were rested for the last twenty minutes of the match. Sam Cane and Aaron Cruden both fitted in, with Cruden making an immediate impact, splitting the defence and putting Nonu away. And Aaron Smith is the find of the season; he has a huge All Black future ahead of him.
So now it's on to South Africa. Here's hoping that the All Blacks can get up for what is now a dead rubber. And the wounded Wallabies go the other way, for a date with Argentina at Rosario where we suspect they will struggle in what seems likely to be Robbie Deans' last match as coach.
But it was the All Blacks' night. The world champions are the Rugby Championship champions as well, and they've done it in style. From the spine-tingling haka at the start to a try at the end, it has been a most memorable rugby occasion.