What’s pleasing is that each week we’ve got better and we’ve got to keep that attitude. All Black captain, Richie McCaw
Plenty of classy play
By Roger Childs
Scoring five tries to one the All Blacks were very impressive in the third test against England. The team built on the improvement in Dunedin last week and produced a first half performance which was as good as it gets. Four excellent tries pushed the score line out to 29-6 and a rout was on the cards. There were also two near misses down the left hand flank in the first forty minutes. However the English were very competitive in the second spell and kept the home team scoreless until the last minute.
~ Ben Smith was superb once again and showed great skills in all phases of the game, especially providing the extra man in the backline to create overlaps.
~ Julian Savea was on fire and ran in three tries including one in which he picked up a low pass on the half volley, no easy task with the odd shaped rugby ball. He would have had a fourth try but for a forward pass.
~ Malakai Fekitoa stepped into the huge shoes of the injured Conrad Smith with plenty of speed and determination. However one skill he needs to cultivate is linking up with supporting players after he makes a break.
~ Corey Jane had socked plenty of criticism for indifferent performances in the first two tests. He had a busy game and his fancy footwork on the right flank allowed Savea to run in for his hat trick with time on the clock.
~ Aaron Smith made some mistakes early, but then settled in to play his usual speedy, bustling game and his support play netted him two tries.
The forwards had the better of the English in scrums and were unlucky to been penalised twice when the opposition deliberately wheeled the scrum. Kieran Read, back after time out with concussion issues, had a solid 40 minutes after an initial error being too slow passing from the back of the scrum. He will definitely improve.
Brody Retallick was his usual dynamic self and fellow lock Sam Whitelock picked up his game, as did Messam after he came on for Read. Dane Coles had a lively match at hooker and might have scored a try if he had backed himself on a rapid dart down the touch line instead of trying to pass infield.
Also stepping up were Tony Woodcock who was back to his best in the tight and the loose, and Jerome Kaino running powerfully and tackling with deadly efficiency.
Room for improvement
… we were quite greedy up in the box and we think we let a couple go. All Blacks coach Steve Hansen
In the second half a couple of players were guilty of being greedy themselves and failed to pass to unmarked players. Beauden Barrett was much better when he came on this week, but once cut inside when a long pass to Smith or Jane would have brought a second half try.
Coles throwing to the lineout was exemplary, but Keven Mealamu struggled. Twice he was too slow getting the ball in and attacking opportunities were lost as free kicks were awarded to the English.
The All Blacks need to decide where the throw is going before they form the lineout. The opposition is always going to try and drown out the calls to the hooker, so the message is sort it out before hand! Mealamu has been a great servant of the All Blacks, but it is now time to blood a new younger rake to back up Coles.
Moving on: a new record beckons
The record of 17 test wins on the trot has been equalled. Can the 2014 All Blacks go one better? It won’t be easy, as their opponents are the Australians who have just beaten the French 3-0 in their series. In the first and third tests the Wallaby backline was very impressive running in plenty of tries.
The match-up will be in Sydney with the Bledisloe Cup on the line. With their typical confidence, the Aussies will fancy their chances. It should be a great game, but unfortunately we have to wait eight weeks!